By Katie Schrader-Editor
The Ocean House was built in 1878 and has been in continuous operation since, making it the oldest privately owned hotel in Spring Lake. The land was originally part of Forman Osborne’s 285 acres, which was purchased in 1873 by The Spring Lake Beach Improvement Company for the purpose of forming a seaside resort. Four years later, Mr. Joseph Faniera, Jr. purchased the land where the Ocean House now sits. After only a year, he sold it to Ms. Margaret Devine who had the boarding house built in 1878. The Asbury Park Journal reported at the time, “Margaret Devine of Philadelphia is building a large cottage boarding house on the north side of the Lake.” The boarding cottage was to be known as the Ocean House.
By the turn of the century, Ms. Devine changed The Ocean House’s name to the Baltimore. Around this time in September of 1900, a fire broke out in the early morning hours on Hastings Square, where the current Essex & Sussex stands, directly catty corner to the Baltimore. I often wonder what Margeret Devine must have been going through as she stood on her porch watching the fires threaten her community and hotel. It would have been terrifying enough being that close to the inferno. However, her son Richard, an original Charter Member of the first Spring Lake Fire Company, was the fire chief. It would be another year before a team of horses was donated to pull the fire equipment and another fifteen years before the department had its first motorized horse wagon. At the time, their equipment was pulled by the men in the department.
As the fire spread from block to block, Fire Chief Devine called for assistance from neighboring towns. When it was extinguished, the destruction was immense. More than half a dozen blocks of hotels, stores, and other prominent buildings in the original downtown area were damaged or destroyed. Ultimately, the First Avenue business district never fully recovered, changing the footprint of downtown Spring Lake forever.
Remarkably, the Baltimore was one of the few buildings spared due to seasonal winds blowing southwest. Times were difficult in the years following the devastating fire for many. The president of The First National Bank of Spring Lake, O.H. Brown recognized that businesses were suffering and started buying dozens of cottages in an effort to save the town. He purchased The Baltimore, updated its facade, and renamed it The Colonial. In 1914, he extended the property by adding “The Annex.”
In 1928, the Taylor Family purchased The Colonial through a loan provided by O.H. Brown, but an old Spring Lake legend has it being won by Mr. Taylor in a card game. If only the walls of The Ocean House could talk. In 1937, the Taylor’s son, Harold, and daughter-in-law, Dorothy got married and moved into The Colonial to help run the business. The Taylor Family ran the hotel until the 1980s when Dorothy sold it to the Mitchells, who renamed it the Colonial Ocean House.
In 1998, the Kaloostians purchased the hotel, renamed it with its original name, Ocean House, and renovated the property’s 30 guestrooms and common areas. It is still currently owned and operated by the Kaloostians, and they continue to work tirelessly to maintain its original beauty and preserve its 145 years of providing hospitality to the patrons of Spring Lake .
The Ocean House has salvaged many timeless pieces of history including chandeliers from the Monmouth Hotel and stained glass from Gloria Swansen’s estate. Most notably, however, is the spiraling staircase in the lobby that was purchased from the 1876 Centennial in Philadelphia and transported in one piece for installation at the property. The hotel was built around this beautiful artifact, which continues to be a breathtaking feature a century and a half later.
The Ocean House is happily celebrating its 145th year of operation this summer, and are excited to share it with their neighbors.