Historical African-American Landmarks of Monmouth County, New Jersey (part 1)

During a trip to Red Bank, NJ, we were compelled to visit two landmarks with deep-rooted history within the area. While these visits were quick and limited in terms of photography, the information we learned was profoundly enlightening. This is the very first of what will be several trips to Monmouth County’s historical African-American landmarks.

T. Thomas Fortune House and Cultural Center

The historical T. Thomas Fortune House and Cultural Center is a preserved property in Red Bank, New Jersey. Once owned by Timothy Thomas Fortune (1856-1928); a speaker, civil rights figure, writer, journalist, and editor; well known for being the editor of The New York Age – one of the leading black newspaper publications in the United States.

Fortune founded the National Afro-American League in 1890; later the National Afro-American Council, with the goals of providing advocacy and support for African-Americans and the socio-cultural injustices that they faced in the late Nineteenth Century and beyond. These organizations became a predecessor for the NAACP. Later, Fortune famously served as an editor for the highly influential Negro World, a publication that reached a circulation total of 200,000.

Fortune moved into the historic house, named Maple Hall, in 1901. Despite the family’s brief tenure in the house (1901 – 1911), the structure still served as a popular destination for local, cultural, social, and political events among the African-American community. Fortune also entertained famous guests, including Booker T. Washington. In 2019, the house was restored and donated to a local non-profit by a developing plan which included a housing complex on the physical property. As the historical structure was facing demolition, this new business development saved the house and all the history associated with it. To that end, the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation and Cultural Center was formed.

We visited the house on a Saturday afternoon after a visit to the downtown Boro of Red Bank. On the ground floor, there are two display rooms featured. First, in the main room to the left is an exhibit detailing the life and work of another famous Red Bank resident, legendary jazz pianist and bandleader “Count” Basie. In the other room to the right is a showcasing of pictures and documentation of Fortune and his family, including some of his most famous publications.

Upstairs leads us to a room converted into an open floor with a podium and chairs for speaking engagements and public events; a common activity at the Cultural Center, and also an exhibit on Drs. James W. Parker; Sr. and Jr., and the Parker family legacy of being among the pioneering African-American doctors in Monmouth County. A truly educational experience of which we should all be so grateful to still have with us – restored, and preserved.

For more information, please consider visiting

https://www.tthomasfortuneculturalcenter.org/

http://redbankmensclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Drs-James-Parker-1.pdf

Cedar View Cemetery, Lincroft, New Jersey

The Cedar View Cemetery at Lincroft is a historic resting place for black veterans and their families. Acquired in 1850 to 14 black men in a land deal from a wealthy farmer and slaveowner, the cemetery is situated along a quiet stretch of land within what is now a residential area within the unincorporated section of Lincroft in Middletown Township, NJ.

The first reporting of the Cedar View Cemetery was in 1900, when former slave Charles Reeves died at the age of 80. The article acknowledging his passing was the first publicized reference for the Cedar View Cemetery, despite being in existence for 50 years.

Over the latter half of the Twentieth Century, Cedar View Cemetery at Lincroft was largely forgotten as development happened around the space, and the decades moved along into the new century. However, some of the local residents and descendants of the former slaves and war heroes buried at the site would continue to uphold the historical integrity of the location.

In present day, thanks to the dedicated efforts of the Friends of Cedar View Cemetery, the site is now known among locals and historical travelers alike. The Friends have done their part to raise awareness and education for the importance of this location. Every Memorial Day, a ceremony is held at the cemetery, acknowledging the sacrifices made from the veterans and citizens buried there.

Day Trips, July-August 2021

After a few trips, a broken couch, ongoing full-time work, and a brand new air purifier, we are back and ready to continue presenting our daily adventures. Since it’s been a while and we have so much ground to cover, we decided to showcase two locations and one event for this post– going against our ideal format of diving deep into just one location. We’ll be back at it next time around when we cover the Green at West Haven, CT.

For now… enjoy these pictures and blurbs from our grab bag of day trips over the past two months.

Calgo Gardens – Freehold, NJ

Along Adelphia Road in Monmouth County, NJ sits Calgo Gardens, an expansive display of floral arrangements, exotic landscape design, and unique gardening architecture. We took the trip one Saturday in July to take in the sights and check out the outdoor vendors. Despite the intermittent rain, we were able to walk the perimeter and take a few good snaps of the grounds. We also visited our friend Brian; the Driftwood Buddha of Wood Vibrations, showcasing his amazing art that he creates primarily out of driftwood. We also stopped by the table at Edgar Allan Joe coffee. The team saw quite a few travelers, eager to try some of their top notch coffee. We went home with a scented candle. 

Calgo Gardens is a great destination to help find the perfect arrangement for your ideal backyard. The floral displays and gardening inspired architectural designs can transform your outdoors. 

Please consider visiting

Calgo Gardens (@calgogardens) 

Wood Vibrations Restorations LLC | Facebook  

Brian Sienkiewicz (@wood_vibrations_driftwood) 

Edgar Allan Joe Coffee (edgarallanjoenj.com)

Edgar Allan Joe NJ • Coffee (@edgarallanjoecoffee) 

 

The Rose Garden – Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

This place deserves its own full character profile post– something we intend to get to very soon. Morris Arboretum is located in the beautiful, affluent section of Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia. A beautiful property with a rich history, Morris Arboretum is worth a visit. There are many paths, biking trails, and unique bridges where you can get around to explore the many different exhibited displays on the grounds. The Victorian property has many different plants from around the world, and the presentation is such that while you are walking around, you feel as though you have entered several ecological environments. We attended Morris Arboretum in July to watch our good friends get married, which was a truly special occasion at the perfect ideal location. Prior to those festivities, we got to spend just a little bit of time exploring the Arboretum and were together blown away at the Rose Garden, pictured below.

This will not be the last report from Morris Arboretum. In the meantime, please consider checking them out at Morris Arboretum , and on Instagram, Morris Arboretum (@morrisarboretum) •  

The Brigantine Food Truck Festival, Brigantine Beach, NJ

Visiting family in Brigantine is always a good time during the summer, and in early August we got to check out the vendors and grubs on their long, wide beachfront for the food truck festival. Latoya and family checked out the gyros, cheesesteaks, fries, pizzas, lemonade, and ice cream, while Jason went for the street tacos. A convenient and quick fun summer afternoon experience down the Jersey Shore.

We should be all caught up to speed now. Thanks for sticking around and for all of the positive feedback on Instagram. As stated above, we will return with another shot this week detailing our visit to the historic Green in West Haven, CT. We have a big Fall season planned — stay tuned.