The Ocean County Historical Society is conveniently situated at 26 Hadley Avenue in the heart of Toms River. The museum/research center and the County Parking Garage, located next to the Elizabeth Sculthorp Force House, provide accessible parking.
Where the unique history of Ocean County is told
The Society has spent more than 70 years gathering, conserving, and interpreting tales, artifacts, and historical materials that honor Ocean County’s distinctive past.
A pioneering educator and social reformer lived at the Elizabeth Sculthorp Force House, a vernacular Victorian house constructed in the middle of the 1800s before a sea captain had called it home. Native American relics, antique furniture, local enterprises from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, works of art, photos, and other archive materials are among the highlights. The House is included on the New Jersey Women’s Heritage Trail, the State Additionally, there is the National Register of Historic Places.
Stages of development
Historically significant Elizabeth Sculthorp Force Houseconstructed over many years starting in 1820 now houses the museum and administrative offices of the Ocean County Historical Society. The Richard L. Strickler Research Center was included in the last development phase, which was finished in 1990. Go here to learn more about the Society’s past, current goals, and Elizabeth Sculthorp Force.
The Ocean County Historical Society was established in 1950 during the county’s centennial celebration by Dr. Joshua Hilliard and other committed Ocean County citizens who shared a solid dedication to gathering and preserving the county’s history. The club conducted meetings in members’ houses for a long time before purchasing a historic vernacular Gothic Revival style Victorian property in the heart of Toms River.
The house was purchased in 1971, and since then, it has undergone relocation to a vacant lot nearby, renovations, and the addition of a finished basement and a sizable two-story attached building for a Research Center with a library, exhibit space, and desperately needed storage space for artifacts and archival materials. The Elizabeth Sculthorp Force-named home was included in the National and New Jersey Registers of Historic Places in 2019. The New Jersey Women’s Heritage Trail includes it as well. It has rooms with furnishings from the 19th century and a historical timeline exhibit in the Birdsall Room that provides audio and video exhibits on Ocean County from its Lenape ancestors to the present.
Between 1820 and 1867, the original building’s construction was completed in phases. According to the records, either Garret Irons or his son, Garret Longstreet Irons, had this initial part constructed for them. It was built next to the Ocean County Administration Building at 131 Hooper Avenue. It was situated north of Washington Street on the east side of Hooper Avenue. The one-and-a-half-storey wood frame structure has an upper loft bedroom area and a below-family recreational space. The downstairs room was partitioned into two rooms, a typical 19th-century country kitchen and an office. In contrast, the upper room was used to store historical clothes when the Society purchased the property in the early 1970s.
To provide the tenants of the residence more space, two rooms were constructed in the 1840s, both on the first and second floors. The chamber on the first level is set out as a typical Victorian dining room. The Society’s collection of historical clothes and other textile objects, such as quilts, are repaired and stored in the room on the second level. It was most likely a bedroom at first.
The home was bought in 1867 by wealthy schooner captain and businessman Samuel V. Pierson. He ordered the building of a sizable two-story extension with three bedrooms above, an attic, two parlors below, a fireplace, and a lobby connecting to the upper level. Dr. Rem Lefferts Disbrow, a well-known local physician who rose to become an Ocean County freeholder in 1907, purchased the home from the Pierson family in 1885. Willis Sculthorpe and his wife Sophie bought the house for their expanding brood of seven girls. One of the bedrooms has been outfitted by the Society to seem like a classroom, much like the many one-room schoolhouses that have dotted the landscape of Ocean County for more than 125 years.
The Sculthorpe sisters resided in the home for over 50 years until selling it to the County of Ocean in 1965 for much-needed office space. Six years later, the County realized it needed more space and chose to demolish it along with two other neighboring Victorian homes on Hooper Avenue so that a contemporary, three-story County Administration Building could be built in its stead. The Ocean County Historical Society was looking for a structure at the same time to house its expanding artifact and archive collections, which were formerly kept in member houses and a tiny space at the county courthouse. If a lot could be purchased and the house relocated to the new site, the County kindly offered to sell the Sculthorpe family’s previous home to the Society for $1. Thankfully, the family of Birdsall graciously donated land on Hadley Avenue, a few blocks from its last Hooper Avenue home. The home had to be moved and placed on the given property, so the Society funded $5,000. A completed basement was created for the Birdsall family and given that name. This home has served as the Ocean County Historical Society’s museum since 1971.
You are cordially invited to see our spectacular ongoing new exhibition, which includes a chronology spanning Ocean County’s history, in the Society’s freshly restored Birdsall Room, situated on the lower floor. (Those who need assistance with the stairs may use the chair lift.) A group of volunteers experienced graphic designers, and exhibit designer Stan Cain worked on remodeling the exhibition area for over a year. Lenape, who were the earliest inhabitants of Ocean County, are highlighted at the beginning of the room before moving on to exhibits about the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, natural resources, the World Wars, lighter-than-air aircraft (such as blimps and zeppelins), the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, and the Jersey Shore, which draws both tourists and county residents.
LIBRARY AND ARCHIVAL HOLDINGS
The Research Center provides a wealth of knowledge on the history and ancestry of Ocean County. In addition to media artifacts including movies, DVDs, and audio recordings, holdings include books, vertical files, maps, surveys, pictures, postcards, tavern licenses, road returns, ledgers, newspapers, magazines, telephone books, and school yearbooks. Many holdings have been digitalized for on-site usage, and computer stations containing summary information, references to original documents, and scans of original records may be used to access them.
You may phone them at (732) 341-1880 or visit their website for additional details.