The History of Cape Breton
Cape Breton began as Camp Eagle, run by Joseph M. Child, presumably in the 1920's. The campers lived in pyramidal tents and there was a pavilion by the river bank. The camp's dining hall, which also housed counselors is our present day clubhouse.
The camp was purchased by the Van Ness Corporation and
developed as a beach front community in the mid 1930’s.
Early advertisements offered rustic cabins for $25 monthly,
after a small down payment. Included in the advertisements
was a special note to the ladies - "No cosmetic ever sold will
so effectively retain your youth and beauty as life at Cape
Breton. The air - the exercise - the relaxation - the rest - all
combine to give you a 'beauty treatment' that no money
could buy!" I recall a former resident telling me, as a sickly
youth, that his family purchased a home in Cape Breton
because of the healing powers of the cedar water in the
The residents of Cape Breton formed an association in the 30's named the Cape Breton Country Club. The president of the club was Paul E. Schweizer. The history is sketchy, but presumably the purpose of the association was to conduct activities and events for the residents of the community.
In the late 1930's, the club was approached by the Van Ness Corporation for the sale of the common areas including the beach, pier, clubhouse, riparian rights, roads & parkways and shower & fountain. The original asking price for these assets was $7,940. In 1942, a committee was formed to negotiate with the Van Ness Corporation. It consisted of the officers of the club and five other members. During negotiations it was determined that Cape Breton Country Club was "an incorporation not for pecuniary profit" and therefore could not issue stock. It was decided to form a new corporation for this purpose and Cape Breton Holding Company was born and incorporated in June of 1943.
The final negotiated price with Van Ness was $5,000 in cash and 25 shares of stock in the new corporation at $60 per share. The latter, Van Ness would sell with properties yet to be developed. Having no assets at the time, the mortgage for the acquired assets was carried by Mrs. Susie M. Durham, the Club's Secretary. It was gradually repaid as membership grew in the association and shares of stock were purchased.
The first meeting of the stockholders was held on July 4, 1943. Nine directors were elected to staggered three year terms. At a subsequent meeting, James Hoffmeier was elected as the associations first president.
During the 40's and 50's, the association was also charged with the maintenance of the roads, community security and was responsible for arranging for trash collection for its members. The initial services fees charged to the members was $10 annually. In August of 1944, there was 84 fully paid members and 8 partially paid members out of a possible 113 cabin owners.
The total operating budget for the 1945 fiscal year was as follows:
Maintenance of roads and streets $133.99
Maintenance of clubhouse $300.00
Maintenance of beach. $400.00
Garbage collection $400.00
Street lights $216.00
Bond on officers $12.00
Clubhouse insurance reserve $12.00
Liability insurance reserve $25.00
Clubhouse insurance $125.00
Miscellaneous, including postage. $100.00
Secretary's salary $50.00
Treasurer's salary $50.00
Total cost of operations $2,167.26
Anticipated rev from entertainment $830.00
Amount to be raised by service charges $1,337.26
As a result of the budget, the service fees for 1945 were set at $15.00 per member.
In 1939 a home could go for $2,205. Homes at that time were about 400 square feet Most of the current homes, if they weren’t built on knocked down lots, bare little resemblance to the houses of the past. You can find some homes that match the floor plan of the original offering in the Cape today a few of them on Bretonian Drive or Van Ness Drive.
A landmark of the area was Cloninger's Deli at the corner of Bretonian Drive and Mantoloking Road - now the Brick Convenience Store II. Outside the deli was a payphone to call home, since most of the homes being summer rentals, they did not have phones. It was either the comic books, beach toys, post cards (many depicted in this article), the ability to get the Philadelphia Inquirer, Newark Star Ledger, Newark Evening News or Home News newspaper that vacationers could not live without. Many of the post cards referenced above, were commissioned by Cloninger's and sold at the store.
Many activities revolved around the youth, children
were offered swimming lessons in the morning and
evening games at the clubhouse. Over the years
some of the parents taught craft classes during
the week or played softball games at Ocean County
Park with the kids games on Sunday. Other activities
offered to the youth of the community included
beach parties, a talent show and semi-formal dance
at the clubhouse. Many of you may not be aware
that Maria Pilipski, our secretary, was a life guard at
the beach during the 60's and taught swimming
lessons. The picture at left depicts sail boat races at
Cape Breton sailing lessons were provided as part
of the activities during the 40's and 50's. One of the prominent families in the community in the 30's and 40's was the Peevers. Evans, a carpenter, built many of the fixtures at the beach and clubhouse. He built a life guard stand for the beach that remained until it was swept away in super storm Sandy. His wife Violet was very active with the Junior Club during the 40's and 50's and served on the Community First Aid squad well into the 1980's.
Most of the homes in Cape Breton in the 40's, 50's and 60's were only summer residences. With the growth of Brick, the 70's saw the transition of homes from summer and full year residences. The addition of city water, sewage and gas lines, prior to that home had well water, cesspools, and propane gas tanks, many of the homes became year round homes. More remarkable, is that many of the homes in the Cape have become multi-generational, passing from parent to child.
The glue that has holds the community together is the Board of Directors, and the many volunteers that have labored to maintain the facilities, plan and execute the many events and activities the association has provided over the years. If you have spent time at any of the Board members or volunteers, it is easy to see the hard work and dedication of its members. The number of individuals that have served on the Board over the years is too numerous to mention but they gladly give their time over the entire year.
A review of the minutes from the Board of Directors meeting during the early years of the association show that the adage about history repeating itself is true for this community as well. Some of the same issues that were being discussed in the 40's have the same relevance today. Everything from property maintenance, property disputes, security to delinquent members was discussed at length at the meetings.
If you have any questions about the Cape's history, please feel welcome to call or send an email to email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org. Contributions to the history are also welcome - being either pictures of events in the Capes history or personal accounts of past events.
A special thanks to Doug Cummings whose father was involved in the early days of Cape Breton and who did the research for this article.