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W♥V TOPIC: Part I of a Series on The Ventnor Fishing Pier:

An Historical Perspective

Whenever possible, this website will place current  topical Ventnor issues in an historical context, with a backward glance at information gleaned from published sources.  Visitors to our website who have personal recollections or old memorabilia are strongly encouraged to add to what our articles present by registering with our linked VENTNOR eVOICE Message Board, and posting contributions.

 

The costly reconstruction of the town’s municipal pier became a hot topic during the summer of 2007 as a public hearing was held on an Ordinance which sought to issue millions of dollars in long-term debt for reconstruction of the pier.  After hearing from numerous citizens with ideas asking Ventnor to make a better search for grants and/or private revenue-generation methods which might finance the pier’s reconstruction, Ventnor Commissioners voted 3-0 in favor of debt financing. The Commissioners cited the pier as an “icon” of not only the City of Ventnor, but also the entire State of New Jersey.  This last-cited reason arose from the fact that it is the last such pier still in public ownership.  Before plunging into the myriad details associated with the 2007 debate about the Pier, this Overview will place the Ventnor Fishing Pier in its historic context.  What the Ordinance now authorizes for new construction is at least the fourth, and possibly the fifth,  pier to occupy the site in the span of 93 years.

In November 19, 1994, the now inactive Ventnor Taxpayers Association, Inc. and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation published their co-sponsored document A VISION FOR VENTNOR CITY: Preserving Its Natural Resources.  With technical assistance provided by a Professional Planner named Peter P. Karabashian, that study provided the following, somewhat confusing, history of the Pier:   The Ventnor Pier was one of the most prestigious piers on the island.  Three [sic] piers have occupied the site.  The first was completed in 1914, but was replaced by a larger pavilion. This second pier was destroyed by fire on August 1, 1940.  A third pier was then built and it was destroyed by a storm in March of 1963 [sic].

If the Pavilion’s construction was in fact the occasion of the first pier’s demolition and later reconstruction, then the pier in place at the site – both at the time of the 1994 study quoted above and today -- would be the fourth pier.  The first would have lasted from 1914 until the Pavilion caused a second to be built. The second would have lasted until 1940, when destroyed by a fire. The third would have lasted from 1940 until the destruction by a storm.  And the fourth would be the present-day pier, the reconstruction of which occurred after the storm.

One other inaccurate piece of information in the 1994 study’s brief historical recapitulation  is the date of the destructive storm. In fact, the storm was not in March of 1963, but a year earlier.  Lasting over a period from March 6 to March 9, it has been referred to as The Great Nor’easter of 1962 and the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962.

By one account, its destructive path from New Jersey down to North Carolina caused 30 deaths, 1,252 injuries, and $200 Million (in 1962 dollars) of property damages as 1,793 buildings were destroyed.  Winds of 76mph with gusts of 84mph were clocked, and wave heights of 20 to 30 feet along the coast and 40 feet close to shore were measured. Weather.com offers this history: http://www.weather.com/newscenter/specialreports/sotc/storm9/page1.html

In 1964, the Ventnor Municipal Fishing Pier provided raw data which was used in a report authored by Walter J. Tudor for the Naval Civil Engineering Lab at Port Hueneme, CA and published through the Defense Technical Information Center.  It was an attempt to use empirical data to forecast the kind of live loading forces – from wind, waves, currents, and water-born debris  -- which might cause destruction of timber-built piers in the future.  That report is summarized online at http://stinet.dtic.mil/oai/oai?&verb=getRecord&metadataPrefix=html&identifier=AD0611408

As Ventnor homeowners embark upon a 30-year period during which the bonded indebtedness authorized by Ordinance will be paid off by their property taxes, this website will address the Ventnor Municipal Pier Issue in the following further installments.