Belmar Fishing Club
The Belmar Fishing Club (Fig. 74), on the beach side of the boardwalk near Shark River Inlet, is a well-preserved example of an early twentieth-century clubhouse. Like the yacht clubs at Island Heights, Pine Beach, and Long Beach Island, the organization provided sportsmen with a place to socialize and recreate. The club was founded by forty-nine men who met in Charles Reimuller’s hardware store in September 1909. They set annual dues at $1 and within a week, had adopted a constitution and bylaws. The members made arrangements with the Ocean Pier Company, which owned a pier on Belmar’s beach, to use the pier and build a meeting room. The Belmar Fishing Club gradually gained control over the Ocean Pier Company, and in 1929, the club modified the original deed so that it could replace the smaller wood structure with a larger, more impressive building. On June 14, 1929, the Belmar Fishing Club Holding Company was incorporated to possess property, and construction began on a new clubhouse in September the same year. 
Although the Belmar Fishing Club agreed on the need for a larger clubhouse, members disagreed over the design of the structure. In August 1928, club president Benjamin Farrier sent members a photographed rendering of a proposed club to measure 30′ x 60′ and cost $20,000. Almost residential in appearance, the two-story rectangular building was entirely symmetrical except for a substantial chimney at the north end of the house. The front facade faced the street, where the first story had three sets of french doors and a porch that wrapped around the building. The design was hardly appropriate for a sportsmen’s facility. In response to this unsatisfactory proposal, member Paul Zizinia offered to donate a strip of land to the club under certain conditions, such as the use of fireproof materials. Although the club declined this plan for financial reasons, officials began to review more appropriate proposals. The mayor denied ever approving the first design and accepted a second plan better suited to the town’s progressive aspirations.
The publicity accompanying the clubhouse’s dedication reveals some of the issues concerning aspiring resort communities. Belmar’s small size did not diminish the municipal pride the city invested in its beachfront architecture. The town couldn’t help but compare itself to Spring Lake, the wealthier resort immediately to the south, which had recently constructed a grand oceanside saltwater bathing pavilion and was planning a second. In the late 1920s, Atlantic City, Asbury Park, and Ocean City all built major beachside public halls. Although private, the fishing clubhouse evoked a similar sense of civic pride.  A 1930 Coast Advertiser found that the organization generally supported Belmar affairs “not related to fishing, or to the club in any way,”  and the mayor associated it with funds he claimed to have invested during his administration in beach improvements.  The stuccoed Spanish Mission design must have looked solid and enduring, as well as fashionable. One article observed that “in design it is modernistic enough to be attractive in the future as well as it is now.”  The style roughly resembled the Ocean City Music Pier, where the Spanish style also established a firm hold in the 1920s, and the Flanders Hotel, other boardwalk buildings, and private homes.
The press admired certain design elements of the “palatial” building—the second-floor view, the breeze-catching porches, and the pier. External decorative details—such as the Head of King Neptune over the entry, the club insignia, and fish swimming on the walls in “realistic poses”—were noted as appropriate to their setting because, “while designed essentially as a headquarters for anglers, the new clubhouse is of an architectural style that blends admirably with its marine background.”  Although certain aspects of beachfront architecture remained constant—the views and the emphasis on porches—the Spanish Mission style met with the community’s firm approval. The beach required a distinctive style (partly explaining rejection of the first design) beyond old-fashioned Victorian wood pavilions. Belmar’s residents could feel that their fishing club competed honorably with Spring Lake’s pavilion just to the South.
At the time of the new building’s dedication, the Belmar Fishing Club numbered more than 500 members; its president, Benjamin Farmer, was also head of the Association of Surf Anglers Clubs of America and the Miami Beach Rod and Reel Club. Although the community “Welcomed a club composed of such prominence, wealth, and keen business conception,” the organization was open to “sportsmen from just about everywhere and from all walks of life.”  With its large membership, low fees, and inexpensive equipment, the fishing club was probably more egalitarian than most contemporary private yacht clubs. While its more exclusive neighbor, the Little Egg Harbor Yacht Club in Beach Haven, held some of its early meetings in the largest auto garage on the East Coast (Ostendorff’s), Belmar club organizers met in Reimuller’s hardware store. The Belmar Fishing Club’s ties with North Jersey, home to most of its members, implied a less prestigious background than those clubs with roots in New York and Philadelphia. However, the club clearly perceived itself as an elite organization; although he withdrew at the last minute, the governor was scheduled to speak at the dedication, and Herbert Hoover sent flowers honoring the occasion.