Sewaren, NJ sits on the eastern shore of Middlesex County, facing Staten Island across the Arthur Kill. The landscape at the southern end of Cliff Road is dominated by the sight of dozens of hulking oil tanks operated by Hess Oil. But just outside the gate to this facility, this intriguing sign can be found:
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Sewaren was a popular destination for people in nearby towns seeking the chance to swim and breathe the fresh ocean air. (Read more here.) Trains, ferries, and later cars brought visitors from as far away as New York to summer at Boynton Beach. There were bungalow houses, a stately hotel, concessions, and attractions, even a ferris wheel, making it a precursor to towns such as Asbury Park, Point Pleasant, and Seaside that grew by providing these kinds of entertainments.
As automobiles made it possible to travel to oceanfront towns farther down the coast, however, people lost interest in Boynton Beach, and the property was sold to Shell Oil in 1929. Since then the landscape has been dramatically transformed, with the structures of heavy industry hovering over a quiet working class neighborhood. The Woodbridge Township boat launch, several dilapidated marinas, a fishing pier, and a playground continue to testify to the history of the area as a space for leisure and amusement, but the juxtaposition is unsettling.