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The Spring Lake Memorial Community House Today 

"I delight to think that in years to come, perhaps 100 years or more from now, when this building is covered with ivy and surrounded by beautiful trees, flowers and shrubs, all within the sound of the old ocean's roar, great towns will exist. For in my opinion, this whole Jersey coast will be one vast city population in winter as well as in summer with Spring Lake, perhaps, as the garden spot of it all."

These prophetic words spoken in 1923 by Spring Lake mayor and generous benefactor, Oliver Huff Brown, better known as O.H,. came true in less than a hundred years. O.H. was referring to the Spring Lake Memorial Community House, a combination theater, library and community center. Dedicated to the 58 World War I veterans from Spring Lake, the Community House was always intended to be a living memorial.

   

 

       Oliver H. Brown, born in Farmingdale, Monmouth County in 1852, led a life of devoted service to Spring Lake – and New Jersey – throughout his life. Elected in 1896 as a member of the New Jersey State House of Assembly, he was selected to be one of only 20 delegates to the 1900 Republican National Convention that nominated William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt for the Republican presidential ticket. His dedication to Spring Lake is best demonstrated by his simultaneous holding of the offices of Mayor of Spring Lake, and a member of the New Jersey State Senate.

   Oliver Brown's service to Spring Lake was not limited to his political career. His early career began in the retail industry. After a trip to Europe, he returned to New Jersey to begin his own retail establishment in 1882. He "wanted to cater to people of refinement and culture" (Spring Lake Gazette, July 6, 1923) and purchased three lots on Third Avenue for his own store, O.H. Brown's Furniture. He also owned several houses in town. In 1919, he surprised parade goers by announcing his plans to donate the triangular piece of land on Third Avenue between Brighton and Madison Avenues and an additional $100,000 for a building, but only if the town would raise matching funds. Led by the Women's Club, which needed a permanent meeting place, residents raised another $100,000 to help ensure the institution would be self- sustaining.

      After relocating two houses on the property to another part of town, a cornerstone was laid on March 18, 1922. With Spring Lake builder, H. Horace Moore, and New York City architect, Frank Eaton Newman, the Community House was designed and completed by the Fourth of July the following year. Brown added to his gift by donating theater seats and other furnishings.

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    Ground-Breaking Ceremony for the Spring Lake Memorial Community House

    Local papers reported the next day that Brown spoke of the " deep satisfaction" the day brought him, of the "desire and dream of his life" that had come true while he could yet witness it, and his hope that its fullest benefits could be realized. Although he died in 1924, the Community House fulfilled his wish, attracting local people as well as visitors from northern New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The Community House offered regular group meetings, weddings, dances, movies, plays, annual flower shows and story hours for children in its building. The first librarian- her name recorded in history as simply Miss Miller- was paid 50 cents an hour through a $100 donation from a friend of the Women's Club.

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During Construction of Building

  When the Depression nearly wiped out the trust fund, a small number of people working through the Women's Club made sure the building was heated and open, although activities were suspended. It began to recover financially only after World War II.

 

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 Today the Spring Lake Memorial Community House is swarming with activities for everyone. The Tudor style design  celebrates its heritage and provides the charm of an old English manor house. The library features a working fireplace flanked by wingback chairs that remind visitors of a time long gone while less than three feet away, nestled among the old wooden bookshelves, are two computers with internet access and wi-fi signal.

 

 The Spring Lake Memorial Community House thrives as a living memorial, blending old with new, preserving history with a nod to the future.

 

The Spring Lake Memorial Community House Today