BRICK – In 1850, the population of the United States was 23,191,876, Millard Fillmore was sworn in as the 13th President, California became the 31st state, and the New Jersey Legislature created Brick Township from parts of Howell and Dover townships.
This year marks the 170th anniversary of Brick, which was named for Joseph W. Brick, an astute entrepreneur who established himself as a leader by taking a failing iron forge located in present-day Lakewood, and turning it into a successful business.
In 1850, the population of Brick was about 1,558, and the township was made up of small villages, including Adamston, Metedeconk, Herbertsville, Osbornville, Cedarbridge and part of Normandy Beach.
At the time, Bay Head was also part of Brick, and so was Mantoloking, Point Pleasant Beach, and Bricksburg, which later became Lakewood.
In the early years, residents made their living in the lumber industry, working in one of two iron forges, or cranberry, blueberry and poultry farming. They also fished and hunted in pristine forests, the Manasquan and Metedeconk Rivers, Barnegat Bay, Kettle Creek, and the Atlantic Ocean.
With 128.79 miles of waterfront property, Brick has more waterfront than any other municipality in the state, which can be attributed to much of its growth.
Brick was an ideal location for developers to set up vacation communities, so from the 1920s until the 1940s, developers set up subdivisions that included a cottage, clubhouse, beach and other amenities.
The population exploded after World War II when a housing shortage developed upon the return of soldiers who married, started families and looked for a place to live.
When the Garden State Parkway was completed in 1954, people from North Jersey and New York suddenly found it easy to travel to Ocean County for vacations and weekends, and many bought summer homes.
At the time, a three-bedroom ranch cost about $6,000. Businesses opened, tax ratables increased, and thousands took advantage of the affordable houses. There were no water or sewer lines, and most of the roads were dirt. Brick had no police department or high school, and shopping was mostly done at general stores that had post office boxes.
The NJ State Police performed rural patrol duties in the township until the early 1970s when the population grew too big and they said they could no longer provide police services. The township rented a building on Brick Boulevard to serve as police headquarters, and in 1972 five sergeants and one patrolman were hired to organize the department. In October 1973 the administration broke ground for a new town hall police department at 401 Chambers Bridge Road.
In 1976, the Brick Township Historical Society was founded, a non-profit organization that operates the Havens Homestead Museum at 521 Herbertsville Road.
The original part of the museum dates back to 1827, and has an addition that dates back to 1847. The Havens Homestead showcases what life was like in Brick Township during the time it was founded.
By 1980, Brick’s population had grown to about 48,000, and by 2010 the population had swelled to some 75,000.
Many of the resort communities have been slowly converted to year-round communities, which has brought in new businesses, municipal services such as sewer and city water, and about 256 miles of municipal roads.
The municipal budget for 2019 was $104,245,623, and now the police force has approximately 140 officers. In 2019, the average assessed home in the township was $294,000.
In 2020, Brick is the third most populous municipality in Ocean County – after Lakewood and Toms River – and it is the state’s 13th-largest municipality.
Enrollment in the district’s 12 public schools fluctuates, but the current student population is about 8,650.
Earlier this month, many of those students attended a birthday party celebrating the township’s 170th anniversary, which was held at the Civic Plaza.
The annual party had record attendance, which included entertainment by the School of Rock Band, a magician, a clown, party games and a cake from Walmart.
Mayor John G. Ducey commemorated the event saying “170 years old for Brick Township and celebrating with a great cross-section of the town in attendance meant a lot.
“We had great help from the Mayor’s Teen Advisory Council, and the library teen volunteers made the event successful, which it would not have been without them,” he said.
Information for this story was obtained from the archives of The Ocean County Historical Society; “The History of Brick Township,” by Eleanor Angott; “Brick Township,” by Gene Donatiello and John Leavey; and the U.S. Census Bureau.