BELMAR, NJ — “How Did 1876 Centennial Exhibition Buildings End Up in Belmar?” is the title of a Belmar Historical Society program to be presented today, June 12 by anthropologist Louise Krasniewicz.
During the 7 p.m. program, to be held at Taylor Pavilion on Ocean Avenue, Krasniewicz will share how her research on the history of the 19th and 20th century World’s Fairs brought her to Belmar, which she now calls home herself.
While trying to learn what happened to the buildings from the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition held in Philadelphia — the first official World's Fair in the United States — she discovered that six of these structures found their way to Belmar, becoming hotels that would grace Ocean Avenue.
“I came looking for the buildings from the fair and ended up finding a wonderful community that I now live in,” said Krasniewicz, an adjunct associate professor of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania who studies American popular culture and media.
“The connections between Belmar and the Centennial Exhibition were more extensive than I first suspected. I am excited to share those findings in my talk,” she added.
Many people are surprised to discover that more than 17 hotels were situated along Belmar’s beachfront some 100 years ago, including those six from the Centennial Exhibition of 1876.
During America’s 100th birthday celebration, the Centennial Exposition organizers built five large exhibition spaces and 250 smaller buildings across 285 acres to house 60,000 exhibits. While most of the temporary structures were dismantled and sold at the end of the exposition, other buildings landed in communities along the Jersey Shore, including Ocean Beach (now Belmar) and Spring Lake.
The most fashionable was the “Columbia” located on the corner of Third and Ocean Avenues. The “Delaware House” was the old Delaware State Building and was located on the northwest corner of 13th and Ocean Avenues.
The “Kansas and the Colorado” building, a shared exhibition hall at the fair that contained several odd displays, became the 100-room Colorado Hotel on Ocean Avenue between 14th and 15th Avenues.
A miniature model of the Colorado Hotel, as well as one of the odd Centennial displays will be shown at Krasniewicz's richly illustrated talk.
And to see more hotels of the borough's past, the Belmar Historical Society’s current exhibit at the Belmar Municipal Building is a pictorial testament of Ocean Avenue from a long-ago era.
The “Fashionable Hotels of the Past” showcase underscores the popularity of Belmar dating back to the 1800s when summer visitors would arrive and fill the many oceanfront hotels. In fact, BHS’s digitized Coast Advertiser newspaper collection shows that many stories were written about the season opening of the hotels and even published the names of arriving guests.
The BHS exhibit can be seen during regular business hours in the Sixth Avenue lobby of the Belmar Municipal Building, 601 Main Street.
An all-volunteer, nonprofit organization, BHS welcomes donations of Belmar memorabilia to add to its historical archives at its museum, located at 900 E Street in the annex of the Union Firehouse. The museum is open to the public every Monday from 2 to 4 p.m., every Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon, and the second Saturday of each month from 1 to 3 p.m., or by appointment.
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