The area that includes Point Pleasant Beach was first occupied by the Lenape Native Americans. On September 2, 1609, Henry Hudson and the crew of his ship, Half Moon, noticed the area on their way north to explore the Hudson River. Crew member Robert Juet noted in his journal, “This is a very good Land to fall with and a pleasant Land to see.” The first European settlers were fisherman and farmers who first arrived in the 18th century. Summer tourism began in the early 19th century when Quaker Thomas Cook Jr. opened his farmhouse on the site of the current Antrim Elementary School to boarders, which began the trend that transformed the area into an oceanfront haven for visitors, a trend further established in the 1870 by Captain John Arnold, who built a roadway to the ocean, now known as Arnold Avenue. In 1875, he built the first bridge over the Manasquan River, linking the town to Brielle. He later convinced the Central Jersey Railroad to extend its service to Point Pleasant Beach, which it did beginning on July 3, 1880.
The Borough of Point Pleasant Beach was established on June 2, 1886.
The 1870s was an era of major tourism expansion, driven by developers who subdivided old farms for vacation home lots. Captain Arnold devised Arnold City between Central and what was to become Arnold Avenue. In 1877, the Point Pleasant Land Company bought the old Forman Farm, 250 acres (1.0 km2) on what is now Route 35 South, between Forman and Elizabeth Avenues and began selling lots. In 1878, it built the four-story, 200-guest Resort House, the largest building in town. It also began a horse-drawn trolley service to attract tourists. Other hotels were built before the turn-of-the-20th century, including the largest, the Leighton, as well as the Beacon, and Zimmerman’s, though many of these, including the Resort House, burnt down, succumbed to changing tastes, or were dismantled for wood during World War II. Initially, visitors focused their attention on the Manasquan River, cedar groves and farmhouses, but their interest in the ocean led to development on the waterfront, beginning with the first beachfront pavilion on Atlantic Avenue in 1880. Ten years later, the first flimsy, portable boardwalk was built, but it washed away within two years.
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