Current Dwell Space: Red Bank, NJ

My wife and I recently moved to a small second-floor apartment near the center of Red Bank, a town on the Navesink River in Monmouth County, NJ. According to the May 2004 Smithsonian magazine this New Jersey river town has transformed itself into one of the hippest enclaves on the East Coast.

I’m not sure what this means, but a few people let their hair down here once in a while. I see this as good. (I should add, if you want to experience this hip town this summer, then you’d better not delay. Summer’s about over.)

I see plenty of new stores at the center of town in which I cannot afford to shop and which offer nothing that seems to be of any use to me. (Decoratives were never my forte, anyway.) I prefer the older, established stores that carry the essential goods.

Red Bank, which is an hour or so southwest of Manhattan, is a place with a population of under 12,000. According to one source, the town boasts three music stores, a recording studio, a couple of nightclubs, 15 art galleries, 64 restaurants and the 1,400-seat Count Basie Theatre (see below). It’s also a hub for antique collectors, with a good number of antique shops.

Red Bank also attracts 150,000 visitors annually to its three-day riverfront jazz and blues festival (see below) and even more for the Independence Day celebration (see below).

Red Bank is a cultural hub for Monmouth County and the surrounding areas. There’s nothing else around here like it.

We lived here 10 years ago, too, for a few months. It was always a cool town, but now it has more corporate money. We’ll find out what this means.

Here are a few places/events I love in Red Bank:

Trinity Episcopal Church
Trinity has been a great source of Christian inspiration for me. Of course, I’m broke (and mostly broken) and I’m hardly of any use to them, but they welcome me and my wife and deliver the good Word and sacraments. I’m thankful for the gifts bestowed upon me by Trinity and I would one day like to return their charity and good will. If I live long enough and prosper, then I certainly will.

According to the Web site: “We at Trinity are eager to share with you the Bread of Life-Jesus Christ-and the peace and salvation He alone can afford. Please join us for worship where you will experience a hearty welcome, thoughtful preaching and inspired music.”

Red Bank Jazz & Blues Festival 2004
The annual free Red Bank Jazz & Blues festival is just supercool. It takes place in Marine Park, Red Bank, by the beautiful Navesink River. The festival is three full days and nights of jazz, blues, food and crafts. Nearly 100,000 people attend this event every year. It was June 4-6. I missed it this year, but it’s been excellent in the past.

Fireworks on the Navesink, Independence Day
A long-standing Red Bank tradition, the Fireworks on the Navesink Independence Day display was held July 3rd (the same people do the New York show, which is why we have ours bumped to the 3rd.) Funded entirely by private donations, the event draws as many as 170,000 people annually to the Navesink River and is a fine Independence Day celebration. It’s the best I’ve seen outside of NYC (it’s better than Aspen!) We watched from the curb just outside our house this year. In the past we’ve gone across the river up the golf course hill for the full view. Good show always!

The Count Basie Theatre
This Theatre was built in the 1920s as a vaudeville venue. It was renamed in 1984 in honor of jazz pianist, composer and band leader William “Count” Basie (1904-1984).

“Even though jazz historians most commonly associate Count Basie with Kansas City, where he formed his first band, Basie was in fact a Red Bank native, born in his parent’s house on Mechanic Street on August 21, 1904. … On June 30, 1999 the Count Basie Theatre, Inc. was established as an independent nonprofit corporation to maintain ownership of and to manage, program and preserve the theatre.” – from the Web site.

The Count Basie Theatre books many excellent acts for many different tastes. (I usually can’t afford to attend, but for those with the means, by all means…support this place.)

Two River Theatre Company
A new theatre for the arts in Red Bank is opening May 2005! “Located on the west side of Red Bank, across from The Galleria, the property is centrally placed within the region, easy to reach by car or train and large enough for us to build a spacious, unique and fully accessible production space. The world-renowned architectural firm of Hardy, Holzman and Pfeiffer has been hired to design the new theatre. Like their other well-known buildings, including the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia and the Harvey Theater at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Two River Theatre will be an instant landmark and a prestigious addition to the architecture of Monmouth County.” — from the Web site:

I wish this group well. Their new building looks impressive so far. (Anyway, I hope to love this place once it opens!)

Clearview Cinemas
This is a very cool venue to see alternative and art flicks. It’s nice to have this option in town. So few towns have this kind of movie theatre anymore.

Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash
New Jersey-born-and-raised Hollywood director-actor Kevin Smith has built a very cool store in the center of town. If you’re into comic books and movie memorabilia and stuff, this is the place to go. I love to go in there and just look around. I really dig some of the knick-knacks, but they aren’t cheap (nothing good is). One day I’ll buy that Spiderman doll!

Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park
OK, it’s in Long Branch, and not Red Bank. Seven Presidents is an adequate North Jersey ocean beach run by Monmouth County. (Named for the seven US presidents that used to vacation nearby.) Nothing beats the sand of the South Jersey beaches, but Seven Presidents is a good day at the shore. And we can always get there without traffic problems in about 15 minutes.

From Seven Presidents you can travel south down the road to the original Windmill, for hotdogs and cheese fries. (Just wait a good hour before you go back in the water!)

There’s plenty of other stuff to do in town … public clay-court tennis, crabbing on the river, fishing … if you get bored, still, you can always take the train to New York City. The train station is only a few blocks away.

I’m not sure how long my wife and I will last here. It’s probably temporary, but we plan to have a good time until it’s time to go.

Leave a Reply