Ruins always captivate. Derelict remnants confirm that at one time, people and activities thrived in a place. The deterioration becomes mythical – the marker of an era that was somehow better, or more abundant, or that offered more hope.
In these photos – taken over twelve years ago – the deteriorating walls of Asbury Park, New Jersey bear the marks of abandonment. Graffiti sprawls on decaying wood suggest that the ruins became a haven for nomads, the disenfranchised, the surly, the lost. Wandering around the deserted beach that day I marveled at the whiteness of the sand and the clarity of the water. Less than half a mile away, Ocean Grove beach was packed with tourists. At Asbury Park, I had the beach to myself with the exception of a grizzled curmudgeon prospecting for metal in the sand.
Skeletons of semi-completed luxury buildings littered the landscape – more remnants of a failed redevelopment scheme in the 1980s and another failed redevelopment scheme before that. That plunder decimated Asbury’s economy even further and recovery has been laborious.
In 2015, the tide has turned – somewhat. Oyster and Jazz fests, beach cafes, and a string of funky businesses have sprung up. A new developer claims that 29 “fresh, contemporary” townhouses have sold out. The planning board has approved “Boutique hotels”. Soon the blight will be forgotten – overrun by condos featuring oak floors, granite kitchens, and private decks in $250,000 studios. The artists will eventually leave, be priced out, unable to survive on Starbucks coffee.
Still, over thirty years of decay has not been easily erased from the beachfront property. Landscapes insinuate themselves on populations. They hold decades of stories and tumult and the aspirations of all those who traversed their boarders. For me, the ruins harbor myths and legends that can never be recovered once lost.
Content originally appeared at “Quail Bell Magazine” September, 2