Saturday, August 13, 2016
An Evening at Ross-Fenton Farm
Friday, November 18, 2016, at 4 PM - 9 PM
The English Manor, One English Land, Ocean, NJ 07712
Dinner-dance inspired by legendary nightclub
Mark your calendar for “An Evening at Ross Fenton Farm,” a dinner-dance at the English Manor, November, 13, inspired by Wanamassa’s storied nightclub. We’re recreating the excitement of the Farm in the Roaring Twenties. A full dinner, swinging music (from the Dorian Parreott band), flapper touches, and an $80 ticket price promise good value and a great time.
Who were Ross and Fenton?
Mabel Fenton and Charles Ross (born Ada Towne and Charles Kelly) were a married couple and perhaps the country’s top vaudeville comedy team of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1898, Mabel and Charlie bought a “roadhouse” on the lake in Wanamassa and a year later, they opened Ross Fenton Farm. Their popularity and show business connections proved a winning combination. The biggest names in vaudeville performed at and frequented their new establishment.
Mabel and Charlie continued to tour and turned the operation of the Farm over to professional managers. But for years, they spent each summer there, hosting the celebrities and power brokers of their day.
Charlie died at Ross Fenton Farm in June 1918, shortly after his 31st wedding anniversary. Mabel returned to Wanamassa for several summers after his death before moving to California, where she died in 1931.
A mecca for thirsty vacationers
When Ross Fenton Farm opened, a NJ law was in effect banning alcohol within one mile of any religious camp—legislation that kept Asbury Park (sitting next to Ocean Grove), dry. Thirsty locals and vacationers flocked to the Farm, situated just beyond the one-mile limit. This beyond-the-limit appeal continued. For its almost 50 years—through Prohibition and beyond—Ross Fenton was famous for its gambling and free-flowing drink. Headlines splashed news of federal agents raiding its gaming tables and seizing illegal stashes of alcohol. Mabel herself was arrested in one raid!
A favorite rendezvous for half a century
Ross Fenton Farm operated on the banks of Deal Lake from 1899 to 1947. At its height, its 14 acres housed 32 structures, including a hotel, guest houses, greenhouses, training facilities, and casinos.
From the stars of burlesque to headliners like Fanny Brice, Danny Kaye, and Jackie Gleason, Ross Fenton Farm offered top-notch entertainment and world-class dance bands. For decades, it was the fashionable watering hole of society and show business elite.
Trains and trolleys carried patrons to the dock in Interlaken, where livery boats ran regularly to the Farm. On summer evenings, Deal Lake was dotted with rented canoes filled with locals enjoying the live music drifting across the water.
The Farm passed through a series of operators and owners. It defied Prohibition and flourished despite the Depression.
The final years
In the early 1940s, Ross Fenton Farm fell on hard times. Ocean Township foreclosed on the property. It was bought, remodeled, and re-opened in 1943 by theater executive Walter Reade who ran it until it closed for good in 1947.
The Farm burned in 1950. The Press put it well, “The brightest of the Shore’s bright spots died early today [Sept. 6, 1950] as it had lived, in a blaze of glory.”
Please join us at The English Manor November 13 for our own version of Ross Fenton fun. Contact the Museum to make your reservation (732-531-2136 or oceanmuseum.org).