Sheldon Wolpin Lakewood Heritage Museu

My father was born on April 6, 1923 in Lakewood, N.J., a small town with a big history. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was known as one of the New York City region's major winter resorts. The "Romantic Laurel House" was host to the Vanderbilts, Goulds, Rockefellers, Astors, Tilfords, Rhinelanders, Kipps, Arbuckles and scores of other families of social prominence. Oliver Wendell Holmes and Rudyard Kipling would sit on the floor by the fireplace and recite poems and tales to the children, who would gather around to listen.

Several magnificent hostelries were constructed during the ensuing decades. The Lakewood Hotel, built by a syndicate headed by Nathan Strauss, was once the winter headquarters of Tammany Hall, in the days of Richard Croker. Lakewood also saw the establishment of a large number of magnificent homes, including the John D. Rockefeller Estate, now Ocean County Park; the Grover Cleveland Cottage, and the Gould Estate, now Georgian Court University.

Many famous figures in the world of entertainment, sports, and politics, visited, worked, or trained in the Township of Lakewood. Richard Dix starred in a motion picture set in Lakewood, and the Laurel-in-the-Pines Hotel was the scene of Charles Evans Hughes' discovery that he had lost the presidential election. In addition, James J. Corbett, Kid McCoy, Benny Leonard, Max Schmeling and Joe Louis all trained in Lakewood, and the New York Giants baseball team used Lakewood as their training base during World War II.

My father's unofficial title "Mr. Lakewood" was for good reason. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of everything and everyone in his beloved town, and he dedicated his life to serving it. After serving in the Navy during WWII, he had the opportunity to complete his college education at Harvard, but chose to return home to help his father run the family furniture business. He lived an exemplary life (don't depend on the opinion of a loving daughter, ask ANYONE), dignified, honorable, a gentle spirit of quiet grace - he never used a word that could remotely be construed as bad and never had a bad word to say about anyone, ever. He did not seek the limelight, but went quietly about his life, leaving a huge footprint behind him.

He was a member of Rotary for more than 60 years and was twice named a Paul Harris Fellow. He was a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the Ocean County Center for the Arts, the Lakewood High School Alumni Association, Congregation Sons of Israel, the Jewish Historical Society of the Jewish Federation of Ocean County, the Jewish War Veterans. Every Veterans' Day he personally placed flags on the graves of Jewish veterans and every Memorial Day marched in the parade alongside my brother, Richard, also a Navy veteran, until he was prevented by his illness. He spent twenty years as the chairman of the Lakewood Heritage Commission (LHC), and in 2004, he was honored with the establishment of the Sheldon Wolpin Lakewood Heritage Museum, located in the building where he attended high school! When the building was sold in 2009, the museum lost its space and all the wonderful artifacts and memorabilia went into storage.

After a 3 year search, the LHC acquired a lease for the use of Kuser Hall, a building with its own rich and distinguished history. It was constructed in 1927 as part of the elite Newman School for Boys. The building is a 13,000 square foot masonry edifice with early 20th century artistic design and architecture and many worthwhile period items which will be retained. Unfortunately, the building has been vacant and neglected for many years, and is in serious disrepair. While the LHC and Lakewood Historical Society have been working tirelessly to raise funds to complete and restore the building, it is a monumental task.

My father did not live to see his legacy come to fruition (he passed away December 17th, 2012 after a long battle with cancer). It is MY goal to see that it does, to fulfill his dream, honor his memory, and most importantly, share with the community the history of the town he held so dear. "A museum in storage impedes the goal of sharing with the community"

Please help make the Sheldon Wolpin Lakewood Heritage Museum a reality.

Thank you for your consideration and generosity

Ellen D. Wolpin


Ellen D Wolpin

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