A Brief History of Island Heights
Once a major waterway, the creek on the north side of Island Heights is what first made the island noteworthy to ships navigating into Toms River. In 1762 the Dillon family took ownership of the whole island, and the remains of their first house can be found within a much altered structure on the northeast section of the island. In later years it was divided into the Brinley, Hurry, and Westray farms.
In 1878 the Island Heights Association was formed by the Rev. Jacob Graw and 12 other ministers and 17 businessmen to purchase land from the Brinley farm to develop into one of the nine Methodist Camp Meeting communities in New Jersey. The Association quickly cleared a site at the peak of the 60 foot bluff overlooking the Toms River and constructed cottages and a tabernacle so that thousands of people would converge on Island Heights late in the summer of 1878 for the first religious camp meetings.
In addition to promoting the religious aspects of this new community, the incorporators were quite keen on real estate development potential for such a location. The land was carefully blocked into salable lots and promotions were run in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. Before long the community became known for its yachting activities and seashore pleasures, and many grand "cottages" were being built. However, because of its Methodist origins no liquor was (nor still is) allowed to be sold within the boundaries of the town.
As the development succeeded, the Westray and Hurry farms were annexed to Island Heights, which eventually became a borough in 1887. Because of the quality of the original architecture and the preservation of the remnants of that era, Island Heights is now on the State and National Registers of Historic Sites and the Victorian ambience of a bygone time flavors our lives.
Reprinted from the Island Heights self-guided Historical Walking Tour, 1995