Cape Breton
"A Country Club Community"

 

History

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 Metedeconk river.

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, including my father, Albert Cummings. 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
Police
$200.00
Garbage collection
$400.00
Street lights
$216.00
Taxes
$68.38
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
 
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Total cost of operations
$2,167.26
Anticipated revenue from entertainment
$830.00
 
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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.

Much of the narrative to follow is colored by my experiences as a youth, having spent my summers at Cape Breton during the 1950's and 60's. I encourage others with a similar history to send me articles about their experiences that can be included directly or through reference.

My father purchased the home in which Sandy and I now reside in 1939 for $2,205. I recently found the original agreement of sale for the property and have included a link for those who are interested. It was originally 400 square feet and bares no resemblance to my house today. The only similar home that remains in the Cape today, is that owned by Gladys Edwards on Bretonian Drive. It was one of a few designs offered by Van Ness Corporation during the communities development. After a $305 down payment, my fathers monthly payments were only $27.98. If only our mortgages could be that low today. I imagine that the taxes were equally low, but I have not been able to ascertain the amount.

It is funny what one remembers about their youth. One of the more prominent memories is of Cloninger's Deli at the corner of Bretonian Drive and Mantoloking Road - now the Brick Convenience Store II. It was either the comic books, beach toys, post cards (many depicted in this article), my fathers ability to get the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper (something he could not live without), or maybe it was that my parents were a little more generous with their money during summer vacations. All these left Cloninger's as an indelible image in my mind. Many of the post cards referenced above, were commissioned by Cloninger's and sold at the store.

Other memories include the various activities that were offered to the youth of the community including beach parties, events at the clubhouse, swimming lessons and the many summer friends that I looked forward to seeing - season after season. I remember that the clubhouse always had a musty odor - probably due to its being closed up for much of the year. 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 right depicts sail boat races at Cape Breton and an article I read about the community indicated that 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 was a carpenter and built many of the fixtures at the beach and clubhouse. I have fond memories of watching him build a life guard stand for the beach. 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. The photograph at left shows the Junior Club in 1941. Violet Peever, its advisor, is on the first row, far right.

Most of the homes in Cape Breton in the 40's, 50's and 60's were only summer residences. The 70's saw a transition between summer and full year residences with many of the homes becoming the retirement homes of their owners - my parents included. Even more remarkable, is that many of the homes in the Cape have become multi-generational, passing from parent to child. The 70's also saw the installation of public utilities including gas, sewer and water. Prior to that, most homes used wells for water, cess pools for sewage and bottled gas for cooking.

The glue that has held the community together for all these years is the Board of Directors, the Women's Club, the Men's Club and the many volunteers that have labored to maintain the facilities and plan and execute the many events and activities the association has provided over the years. During my brief association with the Board, I can attest to 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. I hope to compile a list of past presidents and will include same in future revisions to this article.

During my research for this article, I reviewed some of the minutes from the Board of Directors during the early years of the association. The adage about history repeating itself is true for this community as well. Some of the same types of issues that were being discussed in the 40's have the same relevance today. Everything from road maintenance, poorly performing life guards, property disputes, security to delinquent members was discussed at length at the meetings.

As I continue my research, I will generate a timeline of significant events in the Cape during its 60 plus years in existence. I also intend to compile a list of presidents who served during our history. Check back soon for an update. If you have any questions about the Cape's history, please feel welcome to call me or send an email to info@capebretonnj.org. Contributions are also welcome - being either pictures of events in the Capes history or personal accounts of past events. All of the photographs in this article are clickable for a larger image.

Douglas W. Cummings
Corresponding Secretary & Treasurer

Cape Breton Time Line

Cape Breton Past Presidents

 

CAPE BRETON HOLDING COMPANY
P.O. BOX 944   •  BRICK, NJ 08723
EMAIL  info@capebretonnj.org