If you’re looking for a parable for the indomitable spirit of America, the story of Red Bank fits the bill. This now thriving New Jersey borough has a rich—but not always rosy—past.
Before the Red Bank International Film Festival and the luxury condos, before the upscale retailers and the designer boutiques, Red Bank endured a fairly recent period of debilitating hardship.
“The ‘face’ of Red Bank now is of a hard working, upwardly mobile, diverse community that attracts young, old, culture-savvy, folks,” says Margaret Mass, executive director of the Red Bank Visitor’s Center.
And for those in love with Red Bank, that’s just the beginning.
What’s in a Name
Located right in the middle of New Jersey, nestled toward the heart of Monmouth County, Red Bank was named in 1736 for the red soil at the southern bank of the Navesink River. The river that makes up one of its borders has always contributed a great deal to the area’s personality. Though it was settled in the 17th century, no one really started living in Red Bank until the early 1800s. True to the area’s character, when people did start to show up, they showed up in a big way. By the middle of the 19th century, Red Bank was a thriving commercial center with a population in the thousands. Businesses tanned hides, wove textiles and manufactured goods for the teeming metropolis of Manhattan. Sailing vessels and steamboats brought people in and goods out, and the Raritan and Delaware Bay railroads in the 1860s contributed to even further development.