Portraits on Main Street in Long Branch, N.J, give visitors a glimpse of the rich history of the seaside town. On the wall next to one’s head is a watercolour of mill workers, marking the spot where one pictured mill founder guided his business from his home until his death in 1916.
Owned by the Reaves family, the only firm left from that era, Long Branch is the oldest continuously operating business in the state. “It’s so nice to be part of that,” said Joanne Schaffer, the mill’s owner. “My grandfather settled here, and now I am part of this.”
Even in the era of The Cosby Show, Long Branch was home to white families who resisted integrating their town, and residents, over time, have built a powerful, diverse community. The population is more than 70% white, about 24% Latino, with the remainder of its population white, black, Asian and multi-racial.
While much of the city has evolved to meet its people’s changing needs and vision, the celebration of its beach town heritage remains strong, says Charles Milano, a business owner who came back to Long Branch for the weekend with his wife, Betty Ann. “As long as you remember the history of the town, you’ll stay here forever.”