Friday, September 14, 2012

Seaside Boarding House for Working Women (Sea Rest)

Booardwalk and beach - Asbury Park, New Jersey (1905)
Seaside Boarding House for Working Women (Sea Rest)

Location: Heck Street between First and Second Avenues, Asbury Park, New Jersey, USA

Opened: 1874

Closed: Eventually lost in fire; not certain of date but probably in early 1900s?

Occasionally I find myself pining away for a lost womyn's space. This is one of them. The Seaside Boarding House for Working Women sounds so dreamy and romantic. If only I had a time machine....

From the New York Times, August 4, 1874:


Victorian ladies on a seaside holiday
A Philadelphia paper of yesterday says:  "About three months ago a lot of ground in Ausbury Park [sic], N. J., was donated by Mr. Bradley, of New-York, to the Women's Christian Association of this city for the purpose of erecting a boarding-house for the use of the numerous overworked female employees of our city stores and manufactories, whose slender means will not admit of a sojourn by the sea at the high rates usually charged. The lot comprises 125 feet of ocean front, extending in depth 75 feet. Upon this has been erected a handsome house, capable of accommodating from twenty-five to thirty inmates. A fine verandah extends around two sides, affording both a lake and ocean view. The rooms are furnished with the good taste to be expected from the ladies in whose hands the matter was placed. White Swiss curtains, with blue trimmings, drape the windows of the cozy little bed-rooms, iron bedsteads, hair mattresses, covered with white counterpanes, toilet tables, mirrors, chairs, and matting, complete the cool Summer furniture. Situated on the edge of a grove, it has the uncommon advantages of well shaded grounds with the cool sea breezes, while the lake within two minutes walk affords fine opportunities for rowing or sailing. The rate of board has been fixed at $3 per week, thus affording an opportunity to many a weary seamstress or saleswoman of spending her two weeks' vacation where renewed health and many happy hours may be attained period. The formal opening of the institution will take place to-morrow.


However, according to the Manual for visitors among the poor (1879), this place accommodated "about 100,"  so it seems there was the temptation to jam more bodies in here than originally intended.

But never mind all that. I'm going back to my fantasy, thank you very much.... 

At some point, this place later became known as Sea Rest. According to the National Women's History  Museum,

In 1874, the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) started a camp for “ladies” in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Sea Rest, as it was called, was created specifically for “tired young women wearing out their lives in an almost endless drudgery for wages that admit no thought of rest or recreation.” This was marketed as a low-cost summer “resort” for a new class of women who worked outside the home. This camp predated the first Young Men’s Christian Associate (YMCA) camp by eleven years.

An extensive number of photographs can be seen of Sea Rest in the 2005 book Asbury Park. Here's one.

Sea Rest - Asbury Park, New Jersey (early 1900s)

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