OCEAN CITY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- While it is famous for its boardwalk and beach, Ocean City, New Jersey, has a storied past rooted in tradition, faith, and a tree.
"Ocean City was a barrier island," said John Loeper, President of the Ocean City Historical Museum. "It was hills and swamps and valleys. And the Lake brothers came here in 1879. They realized that this could be a tremendous resort."
The Lake brothers, along with Rev. William H. Burrell, sought to establish a religious resort community in southern New Jersey.
"And that leads us to the tree," said Loeper. "The tree that the Lake brothers prayed under for divine guidance on how to set up Ocean City in 1879."
The Methodist ministers' efforts to purchase land and establish a city were fruitful. Even their intentions to prohibit the sale of alcohol persist to this day.
But that cedar tree had its fair share of wear and tear over the years. Thus, it was preserved at the Ocean City Tabernacle. At one point, it stood outside. Later, it moved inside for further preservation. But upon the need for building renovations, the tree needed a new home.
A collaborative effort prompted the transfer of the tree to Ocean City Historical Museum, where it stands amidst photographs and literature depicting a timeline of the city's founding.
"When you see something, it's easier to learn and I think that's what's so great about this museum," said Mayor Jay Gillian. "And I'm so thankful that the Tabernacle, we're all working together to preserve this because something like this, something simple like this needs to be preserved."
The Ocean City Historical Museum is free to visit seven days per week from 10:00am to 4:00pm. Donations are encouraged to keep the doors open to an educational institution that celebrates the unique culture of this famous Jersey Shore destination.
"There's also a lot of history to learn, from World War I, there's royalty that visited here, truly an experience," said visitor Dominic Pastino from Sewell, New Jersey. "So, if anyone needs an opportunity like my friend here to come out and enjoy the museum, it's free. Just leave a donation, tell your friends to come back."
To learn more about the Ocean City Historical Museum, visit their website.