When the question of what were the most nostalgic places in Asbury Park, NJ is asked, the same response is often brought up - the West Side Community Center. Opened on November 2, 1922 at 115 Dewitt Avenue and later moved to 112 Dewitt Avenue in 1942, which was once the home of Dr. William J. Parks, the community center was the home of a multitude of activities, from playing board games and sewing to table tennis and cooking. However, arguably its most popular and memorable contribution was its hosting and endorsement of music.
Music was a big part of the West Side Community Center from the beginning - when the mayor gave his opening address at the opening meeting of the community center, it was followed by the playing of an orchestra made up of students in the local area, a violin soloist, and a community singing session. The building would host many more concerts, with an example of one of these being pianist and Juilliard graduate Manuel Caldwell's performance.
While many talented professional musicians would perform in the West Side Community Center, the recreational building would also help to foster music among the youth. As one Asbury Park resident reminisced, the community center would sponsor music groups like the Drum and Bugle Corps, which his son was a part of. Another resident explained how the civic center was a "catalyst" for the youth to get into music, and how one of their groups, the West Side Marching Band, would play all over Asbury Park and in its events. Many more people would bring up the talent shows hosted in the building, which would be a big inspiration for children to start playing music.
Overall, the West Side Community Center was an important location not only for children, but for people of all ages and interests. While it certainly had a large role in fostering an appreciation for music, it also provided a place to relax and have fun for many others. Whether you were an aspiring musician, or just wanted to hang out with your friends, there's no doubt that the West Side Community Center was the place to go.
More about the West Side Community Center here:
About the Author
Hi! I’m Ahan Iyer, a high school student from Holmdel, New Jersey. My interests include playing the oboe, jazz and chess. I’m a classically trained oboist, but have become interested in exploring various aspects of jazz, including jazz history and jazz composition for the oboe. Apart from exploring the jazz oboe, I play and teach chess. I’m currently working on a research project where I analyze data sets to find patterns that help us understand the wider influences that jazz has globally.