BELMAR, NJ — Just like politics, it can be said that all history is local. And that’s what Belmar Elementary School’s fourth-grade class discovered during a recent visit to the Belmar History Museum.
Nearly 60 students were welcomed to the museum on October 10 by Belmar Historical Society (BHS) members, who gave them a glimpse into the seashore community’s colorful past — and how the all-volunteer group is tasked with keeping that history alive.
In recent years, the much-anticipated class trip to the museum — located a short walking distance from the school — has been part of the fourth-grade curriculum.
“We give the students an introduction to Belmar history and show them how we preserve that history in our archives,” said BHS vice president Patricia O’Keefe. “The kids have fun and learn about Belmar, and we have fun, too.”
During the one-hour program, students were divided into groups that rotated through four stations. O’Keefe provided them with a brief overview of the borough’s early past — when the Lenni Lenapes came from New York and Pennsylvania to spend their summers fishing and hunting in what is now Belmar to bring back food to their homes.
BHS president Spencer Heulitt took them back to some top headlines of yesteryear — when Inlet Terrace was billed as “the largest swimming pool in the world” or when Belmar’s own heros gave their lives during the world’s major wars.
In the museum’s archives, BHS trustee Naomi Reissner gave them the opportunity to see a sampling of the memorabilia collected by the society — from scrapbooks of Belmar beach badges to a Belmar Braves baseball uniform from the 1920s.
The students also paid a visit to the building’s other occupant — the Union Firehouse, which sits on the corner of Ninth Avenue and E Street. By entering through the fire station’s rear garage, they passed through what used to be Belmar’s original jail, complete with four iron-barred cells.
Once inside, Union Fire Co. President Rick Henderson and firefighters MaryBeth Burr and Devin Auen led the tour of the main equipment bay, which houses the fire vehicles — two that are currently used and an original horse-drawn steam engine from 1889 that remains on display, minus the horses.
The BHS museum, located at 900 E Street in the annex of the Union Firehouse, 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.
In addition to offering museum tours and conducting research to further its mission to save and preserve Belmar’s history, BHS welcomes the public to joins its ranks, attend free Belmar history classes and learn to serve as a docent to give tours.
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