910 Oceanport Way
PO Box 370
Oceanport, NJ 07757
The land making up today’s Oceanport was settled as part of the Monmouth Patent, a purchase agreement approved by royal Governor Richard Nicholls in 1665. The agreement was contingent upon the patentees purchasing land from the native Indians. Since the buyers included a large number of Quakers who had been persecuted in the existing British settlements of New England and New York, religious toleration was practiced. One of the patentees, William Reape, was instrumental in promoting the settlement and arranging transportation for those moving to the newly acquired land. He died in 1670 and his land holdings were inherited by his wife, Sarah Reape. She moved her family to her lands located at “Pootapeck Neck” and built her home on the banks of the Shrewsbury River where Wardell Circle is today. Sarah purchased the rights to other properties and became the largest landowner in today’s Monmouth County. Her lands included all of Oceanport. She eventually sold off parcels including the land making up the western half of Oceanport. She retained ownership of the Port Au Peck sections which she left to two grandsons in 1716.
Agriculture was the principal occupation throughout the 1700’s. Shipping was also vital since the town, then known as Peggy’s Point, had access to the ocean through the channel that existed opposite Rumson’s Black Point. The town was the county’s principal port for sending charcoal to New York. Business increased in the 1800’s when James P. Allaire built a dock and ran steamboats to ship products from his iron works located in Howell Township. The town was then known as Eatontown Dock. The shipping business began to lessen due to silting and low water in the channel leading to the town’s dock. There was also competition from other docks on the river and from two railroad lines that were built in 1860 and 1875. By then, the town’s name had changed to Ocean Port and then Oceanport. The town’s fortunes improved when Monmouth Park Racetrack was opened in 1870 along the western side of town. Its success led to the construction of a newer, larger racecourse and hotel located along Oceanport Avenue. The town’s fortunes reversed when New Jersey outlawed wagering and Monmouth Park closed in 1893. Another racecourse, Elkwood Park was opened in 1888 in the southern side of town. That venue hosted trotting races, polo matches, automobile races, golf, baseball, and fairs. It was also briefly owned by the Ku Klux Klan. It too closed and eventually became the site of the current Monmouth Park Racetrack in 1946.
In 1917, the U.S. Army leased the old Monmouth Park Racetrack property on Oceanport Avenue and established Camp Vail as a training location for Signal Corps officers and enlisted men. A laboratory was also established to evaluate and design equipment for the Signal Corps. Later renamed Fort Monmouth, the installation would grow and become known as “The Home of the Signal Corps”. The laboratory would grow and become a major research center. Additional purchasing and logistics activities were added and the fort became the county’s major employer. The Signal School relocated to Fort Gordon, GA in 1974. In 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure Committee recommended the relocation of the laboratory and other activities to other locations and the fort was closed in 2011.
The opening of Camp Vail had a major impact on the town’s economic health. It provided employment opportunities, stimulated housing rentals, and was a market for locally grown produce and building supplies. Buoyed by that prosperity, the residents of Oceanport voted in May of 1920 to separate from Eatontown Township and become a separate borough. The borough continued its slow growth with its farms being converted to residential use. A major change to the entire area occurred with the completion of the nearby Garden State Parkway exit which accelerated residential and commercial growth. The impact on Oceanport was primarily residential. Residential building in the eastern part of the borough known as Port Au Peck dramatically increased. Oceanport’s old commercial downtown had become rundown and was demolished. Commercial activity relocated several hundred feet south. Oceanport’s centennial year will see the completion of a new municipal complex, the continuing effort to rebuild and refurbish its schools, and the assimilation of new residents and businesses located in the property that was formerly Fort Monmouth.