Keansburg (pronounced "KEENS-burg") is a borough in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough's population was 10,105, which represented a decline of 627 (-5.8%) from the 10,732 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn declined by 337 (-3.0%) from the 11,069 counted in the 1990 Census.
Keansburg was formed as a borough by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on March 26, 1917, from portions of both Middletown Township and Raritan Township (now Hazlet), based on the results of a referendum held on April 17, 1917.
The borough is part of the Bayshore Regional Strategic Plan, an effort by nine municipalities in northern Monmouth County to reinvigorate the area's economy by emphasizing the traditional downtowns, dense residential neighborhoods, maritime history, and the natural beauty of the Raritan Bay coastline.
On September 3, 1609, the Half Moon, captained by Henry Hudson, is said to have landed on the shores of present-day Keansburg (although some historians argue that the landing and forthcoming explained events took place at the tip of Sandy Hook). Crewmen of the ship were attacked by the Native Americans when they departed the ship, and John Colman was killed, making him what is said to be the first European to be felled by a Native American arrow. He is believed to have been buried in the area that is today the intersection of Carr Avenue and Beachway in an area known as "Colman's Point".
In the time between 1609 and the early 18th century, the land was gradually purchased from the Lenni Lenape with other surrounding areas. The area was inhabited by Dutch, English, and Scottish settlers. In the 18th century, farming proved to be successful on Keansburg's land, with specialties being pears, apples and corn (maize).
Though the source of this information does not state exactly when, the land took on its second official name of Granville. The name originated from the importance of the Phillips Mill, and the grain producing farms in the region. The name held until 1880s. During the century, Granville became home to its own church, two lighthouses and small businesses. Roadways were beginning to form from repeated use of horse and buggies. The beach was already a favorite to visitors. Population was about 300 people, who mostly farmed and clammed for a living.
On Sunday, March 22, 1877, at "half past 9 o'clock," Granville welcomed the newly assigned pastor of the Granville Methodist Episcopal Church, William W. Ramsay. He later stated: "I arrived at the Granville Methodist Episcopal Church in Keansburg as pastor for the ensuing year. I soon learned that the hamlet consisted of about 300 inhabitants, whose occupations were mainly devoted to clamming & farming." At 19 years of age, Ramsay was slated to serve in the church for just one year. His success at the helm of church led to another year in Granville, after which he decided to make the village his permanent home. Ramsay and his wife, Eliza S. Wood, purchased the land that is 69 Church Street and opened a general store in 1881. In the coming years, Ramsay took greater and greater interest in Granville and eventually arranged a petition to establish a post office. The list of 132 names was passed on to John Kean of Elizabeth, a candidate for Congress. His efforts led to the opening of the post office in 1884, with Mrs. Ramsay serving as its first postmaster. That year, the name Keansburg was adopted in Kean's honor. A school was built at the cost of $30,000 in 1890 and sat on what is today the corner of Ramsay Avenue and Church Street (now Fallon Manor).
Further development continued with the creation of postcards depicting the village and land purchases, including acquisitions by William A. Gehlhaus and the Keansburg Beach Company. The Keansburg Steamboat Company was founded in 1910 primarily by Gelhaus as a means of providing transportation for New Yorkers who were interested in buying homes in Keansburg. In 1893, Gelhaus purchased a bakery business in Atlantic Highlands which he operated with his brothers until 1905. At that time he entered the real estate business in Keansburg. He was president of the New Point Comfort Beach Company which he formed with Jesse Sculthorp and Howard Roberts. The company owned a large real estate development in Keansburg and in 1906 laid out the Beachway. On June 18, 1909, the New Point Comfort Beach Company bought the steamboat Accomack in Norfolk, Virginia, and started a scheduled run from New York to Keansburg on July 1 that was intended as a way to bring prospective property buyers to Keansburg. Another real estate developer, Keansburg Heights Development Co., bought several thousand tickets. By July 21, more than $1,500 worth of tickets had been sold at $0.35 each. As the town became more populated, the Keansburg Beach Company sold off most of the surrounding land on Beachway Ave., keeping "just the boardwalk and amusement area."
Until Hurricane Donna wiped out much of the waterfront area in 1960, tourists from New York City would ferry over and spend the weekend or summer vacation to escape the city heat. In 1969, the borough spent $7.9 million on the Bayshore Hurricane Protection Plan, which had been developed with state and federal funding from The New Jersey Bureau of Navigation and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The redevelopment plan increased the size of the beaches to protect against future storms. A number of fires in the 1980s destroyed several structures on the North side of Beachway Avenue. The Dance Hall Auditorium, Keansburg Bowling Alley and the Casino Theater were destroyed by fire during this time.
The Gelhaus family re-acquired the Keansburg Amusement Park in 1995, following a 20-year absence after Henry Gelhaus had sold the property in 1972. The return of the Gelhaus family as proprietors of the amusement park sparked a resurgence of interest in the town. Upgrades were made to the amusement park grounds and a water park was constructed. Runaway rapids was opened in 1996 on the site of the former Crystal Pool. The Keansburg Waterfront Public Library, founded in 2004, was the result of a concerted effort on the part of townspeople and the borough government to provide a high quality library with resources that address the needs and interests of the community. In 2012, the town added a $3 million desalination plant with Federal Stimulus Funds and a low interest loan from the N.J. Environmental Infrastructure Trust, which greatly improved the quality of the water supply. The town had previously stopped providing well water, as saltwater intrusion into the aquifer had exceeded environmental protection standards. The new facility removes contaminants from the water supply through reverse osmosis.