The Jersey Shore Arts Center
The Mission of the Ocean Grove Historic Preservation Society, Inc. is twofold: to save and restore the beautiful and historic old Neptune High School building, home to the Jersey Shore Arts Center and to operate the Arts Center in support of local artists, arts educators and arts organizations. We do this by providing affordable space in which to learn, create, rehearse, perform and exhibit original work, and to engage Jersey Shore audiences with the arts.
The Ocean Grove Historic Preservation Society is a registered 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. Our tax ID Is 22-3505238.
About The Jersey Shore Arts Center
The restoration of the "old" Neptune High School, and its subsequent transformation into the Jersey Shore Arts Center (JSAC) is a remarkable story that began with the vision of Herbert Herbst and some very determined and far-sighted individuals.
In 1897, the property on which the building sits was leased to the Neptune Township Schools for the purpose of creating Neptune High School. Designed and constructed by local architect Ernest A. Arent (1876-1950) of the architectural firm of Brouse and Arend, the building was completed in 1898 and dedicated on September 20 of that year.
It was a grand structure for its day with seventeen classrooms, an opulent, chandeliered auditorium, a drawing room, spacious rotunda and a sweeping central staircase. The cost, including land, building and equipment, was $91,000. The local Ocean Grove paper described the four-story brick structure as “one of the largest and most picturesque school buildings in the State of New Jersey” and it was cited at the 1906 St. Louis World's Fair as an "Architectural Splendor."
By the winter of 1960, the school district had finished building what became known as the new Neptune High School. The old building was closed in 1979 and remained empty and decaying until renovations began.
In 1996, the Ocean Grove Historic Preservation Society, led by Herbert Herbst, stepped in, took title to the building, and began the quest to not only save the badly damaged building, but to realize a dream of turning it into a beautifully restored building to serve as a home for the visual and performing arts for the New Jersey shore communities.
When the Historic Preservation Society’s volunteers began work, they were faced with a nearly impossible task. Ceilings had fallen, floors and walls were ruined and nearly every aspect of the building -- plumbing, electrical and sprinkler systems - had to be upgraded. Contractors were hired for major structural, plumbing, and electrical work while volunteers tackled carpentry and other aspects of the restoration.
The first phase, completed in 2000, saw the opening of the first floor with five newly renovated classrooms, restrooms, lobby, office space, and a magnificent 400 seat theater. Subsequent phases saw the construction of dressing rooms, costume and workshop rooms, and a kitchen in the lower level of the building (completed in 2001). Since then, the entire second floor has been restored and renovated, including classrooms, the theater's Loge with additional seating for 200 people, two dance studios and a large ballroom studio.
In the summer of 2014, the third floor opened to the public, housing a cafe and professional kitchen, two art studios, the Herbst Theater, which seats 75 people, and a lobby.
Today, the Arts Center continues provide educational content for Monmouth County residents and visitors. In addition to providing a venue for arts-related activities, the JSAC also is a home to creative professionals who offer instruction and participation in the visual and performing arts. The JSAC hosts numerous theater groups, offering first class dramatic and musical productions, and presents art exhibitions featuring work of New Jersey artists.
JSAC Board of Directors
Melinda Herbst-Kelley, President
Janet Rothstein, Vice President
Mary Ann Conway, Secretary
Frank Danieli, Treasurer
Jane Johnson, Member
Ann Mauer, Member
Edward Santoro, Member
Kaitlyn Magnin, Rentals Coordinator
Robert Duncan, Building Monitor
Renee Bang, Performing Arts Program Coordinator