History of Townsends Inlet
For over 2000 years the Leni-Lenape Indians lived in the area that would later become New Jersey. They came to the coast to fish and gather quahog shells from the beach. They made beads from the shells called “wampum” which was used as currency.
In 1692 Joseph Ludlam bought the land from a Quaker group and named the island after himself. He then divided it into three sections and sold the southern section to John Townsend who named it Townsend’s Inlet in 1695. The rest of Ludlam’s Island to the north would later become Sea Isle, after purchase by Charles Landis in 1880, and Strathmere, after the original land called Corson’s Inlet was annexed to Upper Township and renamed in 1912.
Landis built water channels on Sea Isle’s bayside, similar to those found in Venice, Italy. Today, those water channels still exist, anked by bay front homes and condos, docks, fishing piers, two yacht clubs and two restaurants. Hundreds of commercial and personal boats are docked throughout the waterways behind Sea Isle, and it’s though Townsends Inlet that those vessels enter the Atlantic Ocean.
In 1882, Busch’s Hotel was built and later became a seafood restaurant. For decades it was a popular, beloved restaurant, featuring its specialty She Crab Soup and other seafood delicacies. In 2014, Busch’s ceased operating as a full-service restaurant and scaled down its operation to instead became a take-out location. The building was demolished later that year.
In 1883 railroad lines were constructed to bring visitors to Ludlam’s Island. One railway came in from Ocean City by way of Corson’s Inlet on the north end of the island, and the other came in by way of what is now 41st Street in Sea Isle City.
In 1887, a trolley system referred to as “horse cars” began operating along Pleasure Railroad and ran from Sea Isle to Townsends Inlet. As the name suggests, these cars were led by horses that would transport people between the train station and the island’s hotels. This route was later extended to Corson’s Inlet, allowing riders to go from the northern end of Ludlam Island to the south end.
A second trolley service, this one led by mules, was added along the route that is now Landis Avenue. While neither of these transport systems were traditional trolleys as we know them today, in 1904 an electric trolley replaced the animal-operated system along Landis Avenue.
In 1917 the trolley system was decommissioned, due to the growing popularity of motor cars and the decline in popularity and upkeep of the trolley system, thus ending an era. In 2010, during repaving of Landis Avenue, workers unearthed part of the trolley tracks that once existed. Today, a new Jitney service operates along Landis Avenue, providing riders with a safe way to visit bars and restaurants in Sea Isle, Townsends Inlet and Strathmere.
In 1849 a U.S. Life Saving Station was erected in Townsends Inlet.
A Civic Center was built circa 1888, and for over a century it was home to many dances, pageants, concerts and community events. Most notably, in December each year the Civic Center would be transformed into Santa’s Workshop, providing beautifully decorated window displays for the community to enjoy each night, and served as the location for an annual Holiday Show. In summer, it is where the popular King Neptune Festival was held. In 2017, the Civic Center faced possible foreclosure due to nonpayment of taxes – to date, this issue has not yet been resolved.
In 1904 a post office was built and it served the residents of this portion of the island until it closed in 1988. Today, residents of Townsends Inlet share the same zip code as and are served by the Sea Isle City post office. As the town developed, more homes and businesses were built, including the Trinity Community Church located at 85th and Landis which, today, continues to operate as a non-denominational church. Here are some views of the residential areas in Townsend’s Inlet history.
In the early 1940s the bridge connecting Townsends Inlet with Avalon was constructed. The bridge has a history of closures due to damage and structural concerns. Hurricane Sandy caused damage to the road from the bridge on the Avalon side, so it was shut down for months while the road was rebuilt. Another repair project occurred in 2015 which had it closed for months. And then, in the Spring of 2017, cracks and severe deterioration were found in the support piles during an underwater inspection. Some repairs were made to allow motorists, pedestrians and bike riders use the bridge in the summer of 2017. However, it is believed that the bridge needs to be rebuilt but it will cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars to do so.
In 2016, new construction was completed on The Dunes, an upscale, mixed-use commercial building that was built in the location where the former Busch’s Restaurant once stood. Housing 13 luxury condominium units of 3 and 4 bedrooms, the Dunes is also home to Beachwood, a new restaurant that opened in 2019. In 2018, The Cove and The Cape opened, providing two additional mixed-use buildings that host additional retail, dining and condominiums. The completion of this project promises to make Townsends Inlet a sought-after destination for dining and perhaps shopping unlike it has been in the past. Over the years, Townsends Inlet has served as a beautiful location to enjoy the beaches along the ocean and the inlet.
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Note: The information contained within this historical account has been gleaned from various resources. If you notice any inaccuracies, please do not hesitate to reach out to us so that we may correct the information.
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