Beautiful things exist in Asbury Park. And Honah Lee.

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I’m writing this blog post for a few reasons. First I need to be more diligently updating this thing, because I have SO much to post. I’ve been a crazy insane-o person this year, working more than I ever have in my life and doing fun rocknroll things that prevent me from posting as much as I would like. Because while a photoblog is mostly photos, I still have the need to explain the set and fill in the blanks with my commentary.

Anyway, while I’m still in the throws of editing SO many weddings, I have also done a lot of music work as of late. Those take a lot less time to edit and sort (whereas a wedding may be upwards of 2,000+ images to review and edit) and keep the blog rolling. They also keep my heart beating a little faster, because if you are reading this, you know that music is a major part of my life. Without it, I don’t know if I’d be able to breathe.

This post was inspired by the incredibly maddening news of another historic building in Asbury Park, NJ being flattened because of negligence. One of my favorite venues in Asbury, Asbury Lanes, stands on 4th Avenue, right next to the old Baronet theater. The Baronet, which was once a vaudeville theater that hosted among others The Three Stooges, endured a stint as a porn theater, and underwent a makeover and a bit of a renaissance in the early 2000’s. During its later years, it was known for hosting $2.00 movies and music shows, but in recent years (2007-on…) it had been quiet.

I noticed on Facebook that a friend posted a photo of some rubble and I was heartbroken to find out that that pile of rubble is all that remains of the 97-year-old Baronet theater. It was torn down, quickly and quietly, really, without much notice or fanfare. The story in the Asbury Park Press here claims that the roof had collapsed inward sometime over the winter, rendering the building as a loss and not worthy of repair. However I’ve been to the Lanes several times since the winter and I find that rather hard to believe. Some folks speculate it was quietly torn down as a ploy to make way for proposed condos, but I can’t say either way what the truth is since I don’t live in the town. I’m sure Asbury residents have the scoop on this.

Here’s a shot of the Honah Lee boys vintage-style outside the Baronet.

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Leaving my beliefs on the politics surrounding Asbury Park OUT of this posting… well, not totally out… (because I fear I’d make more enemies than friends with what I have to say), it seems rather suspect that a landmark would undergo such a tragic event and nobody would notice or care to speak up about potentially saving and restoring one of Asbury’s few remaining original historic structures. There are only a tiny handful that remain, and they need to be preserved if Asbury wishes to retain the old world charm that they are now using to market themselves. The destruction of the Palace in 2004 is the perfect example of this “heads-up-their-asses” thinking of the developers in charge of “revitalizing” (HA!) Asbury Park. If you don’t know what the Palace is, check out this website. It will piss you off, as it did me. The fact that the “icon” of the city is the painting of the grinning face, named “Tillie” that lived on the side of the Palace walls since its construction in the late 1800’s is further frustrating. So, that’s the symbol of Asbury, yet you decided it’s not worth keeping. Hello? Is this thing on? Recently I discovered that an organization named “Save Tillie” whose purpose was to rescue artifacts from the Palace was even kept out of the loop when a sizable portion of those artifacts were destroyed by city officials without the organization’s knowledge. It’s just disgusting.

The Lanes and the Paramount theater building (Convention Hall) are the most well-known historic venues there and if they become threatened, I think I’ll completely lose hope for Asbury.

If I had known about the Baronet, I definitely would have helped in any way I could. I am sure that if the Lanes was aware they would most likely have organized a show or benefit to save the Baronet. Not only was the theater a landmark, but it also was host to a beautiful building-wide mural done by a local Asbury artist. So down with the theater also went this amazing mural – part of what is helping to SAVE the struggling town now – the influx of the artist community – again, HELLO!?!?!? I now massively regret not photographing said mural I was there in April for my birthday festivities, because we were in a hurry and I thought “ah, I’ll get it next time.” 🙁 Next time you see something remarkable, snap the damn photo, don’t wait. It may be gone the next time you return. I could kick myself.

As this writer says in her article in the Asbury Park Press, “Funny, if it weren’t so sad: When landmarks are destroyed by terrorists, it’s called an act of war, but when we destroy them ourselves, it’s called progress.” I couldn’t agree more.

Old Asbury is rapidly slipping away because of various political and business agendas, and for those of us who believe in repurposing and restoring rather than razing, this was quite a blow. My heart hurt to see something so beautiful just be flattened without a thought. A friend saw my ranting on Facebook and suggested this organization to me: Preservation New Jersey. I’m joining. You should consider doing so, too, if you love our state and the rapidly dwindling collection of historic buildings and sites that define who we are, who we were, and things we should remember about our history.

While I was all fired up about the theater’s destruction, I thought back to November of 2009, when Honah Lee had just brought on Dim, their guitar player. It must have been his second or third show with the band and we decided to do a photo shoot on the fly at Asbury Lanes and in the area outside, including the Baronet. I just knew I had a few shots of the boys standing underneath the old-fashioned marquee. Sure enough, I did. With my stupidly busy schedule I never had the chance to finish or post these, but while some wedding photos are having actions run on them in photoshop (an automated process), I knew I’d have a few minutes to post these.

Hope you enjoy them. I was just glad to know in my small way I’ve preserved a tiny bit of the Baronet and the Lanes. Asbury Park holds a soft spot in my heart, always has, always will. If you’ve ever been there you know what I’m talking about. The Boss knows, too, and when hasn’t the Boss hit the nail on the head? I mean, seriously.

Enjoy the pics. Rest in Peace, Baronet, we will miss you. <3

One Response to “Beautiful things exist in Asbury Park. And Honah Lee.”

  1. Tanya says:

    Nice post, Michelle. I am always sad when the landmarks go. We don’t think about our past enough, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. So sad.

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