Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tucker's Island - A Prelude to the Present

From time to time, Inlets and Outlets will explore the history of the Jersey Shore in an attempt to bring the precariousness of life along the Atlantic Coast into perspective. This installment will briefly tell the story of Tucker's Island, which was located at the southern end of Long Beach Island until being completely submerged in 1950.

The prospect of replacing expensive beachfront structures every decade or less, depending on the whims of nature, can no longer be followed. It is vital that hereafter the possibility and even probability of devastating storms be taken in to account before capital is invested along the beachfront. But the only protection against this hazard is to plan now to erect all new structures far enough from the surf reasonably to insure them against destruction. - Asbury Park Press editorial, 1944.

Tucker's Island circa 1920s
Tuckerton Historical Society

"[I]t is supposed that Reuben Tucker's house on Short Beach was the very first and oldest house on the coast of New Jersey that was opened for the entertainment of health and pleasure seekers." [1] Tucker purchased the property at the southernmost part of Long Beach, known as Short Beach, around 1735. His  boardinghouse was described as "a one-story house with a hipped roof and front piazza, standing 500' from the shore" and "elevated on a heap of sand and shells." [2]

Sportsmen from Philadelphia took stagecoaches to Tuckerton and then sailed across Little Egg Harbor to this earliest of New Jersey resorts.

19th Century chart of  Short Beach. Tucker's Island had not
yet been formed by wave action cutting it off from the
rest of Long Beach Island.

In 1868, a lighthouse was built on the island (after wave action separated it from Long Beach Island, turning Short Beach into Tucker's Island in the early part of the 19th Century). The lighthouse operated for just under sixty years. In 1927 a coastal storm destroyed most every building on Tucker's Island, and by 1950, after a 25 year period of heavy coastal storms and erosion, the island completely disappeared.

The lighthouse at Tucker's Island falls into the sea
during a storm in 1927.

The period from around 1914 to 1933 was especially difficult for residents along the Jersey Shore:


A hurricane destroyed most of the homes in Sea Bright in what was then described by a local paper as a storm that "ended, for all practical purposes, a way of life."


A hurricane carried 1/3 of Longport's land (from 1st to 11th Avenue) south where it piled up in Ocean City. After the storm, Longport built a seawall at the cost of $1,100,000 ($22,390,000 in 2011 dollars).


The Pennsylvania Railroad bridge across Barnegat Bay was submerged with 18" of water and the carcasses of boats and vessels from north of the bridge that were ripped from their moorings and had drifted south in the storm tide and winds covered the bridge from one end to the other.

Point Pleasant's Leighton Hotel, the largest int town, was undermined and collapsed as "high seas, 1,000 feet in length, rolled through the inlet and back for two blocks." [3]


A storm described by a Philadelphia newspaper as "wreaking such monstrous damage as to exceed any similar catastrophe in the last half century" [3] slammed into the Jersey Shore.

National Guardsman in Morris County helped local residents pile up sandbags to prevent a dam from bursting and flooding the town of Denville.

In Hammonton, well inland, trees were denuded by the winds, and in Philadelphia the Schuykill river rose over twenty feet above flood stage.

* * *

While the resort on Tucker's Island was able to thrive for a time, it began to decline after the railroad was completed to Beach Haven. Even though the resort fell out of favor, the little town remained inhabited and the lighthouse operated until it finally fell into the sea.

The 1927 storm destroyed all of the structures on the island and in 1950 the island slipped beneath the waves for the final time. Today, Tucker's Island can be seen at times of low-tide. Prior to Hurricane Sandy it was believed that Tucker's Island would eventually emerge from the water and become a stable landmass again. In the aftermath of Sandy, that remains to be seen.

[1] H. C. Woolman and T. F. Rose, Historical and Biographical Atlas of the New Jersey Coast (Philadelphia: Woolman and Rose, 1878), 46.
[2] Harold F. Wilson, The Jersey Shore, 3 vols. (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1953), 425.
[3] Larry Savadove and Margaret Thomas Buchholz, Great Storms of the Jersey Shore, (Down the Shore Publishing, 1993), 39 

1 comment:

  1. Tuckers island is alive and well and has been for some time. if you look at old charts and current charts you will see that the southern part of LBI extends to where Tuckers island was stood. Due to beach replenishment programs sand has been washing south from Beach haven and north shoaling up on the southern tip of LBI for some time.