House Histories of Ocean Grove: Lane Villa

A structure as magnificent as the 63 Cookman Avenue of the 1890s surely has a story to tell. I don’t know what year the house was built, but I do know it operated as a guest house under the name “Lane Villa” as early as November 19, 1892, when it was mentioned in the Ocean Grove Record.

Jacob Lane and his wife Sarah Ann Middlesworth Lane came to Ocean Grove, New Jersey from Newark, where Jacob ran a merchant tailoring business at 506 Broad Street for over thirty years. According to a 19th century clipping from Blogfinger, it was Mr. Lane’s failing health that brought the couple to Ocean Grove. The seaside was thought to be healing, and Ocean Grove’s popularity as a resort town offered the Lanes an opportunity to make a living as many others did, operating a guest house.

The Lanes had five children, including two daughters, Mae and Laura, who relocated to Ocean Grove with their parents. I’m taking a guess that Mrs. Lane and her daughters did most of the work at Lane Villa, considering Jacob’s poor health. It’s not surprising to note that Mrs. Lane’s name appears in newspaper advertisements for Lane Villa as the proprietor. Looks like Sarah was the boss lady.

It seems the Lane ladies were well-suited to running a guest house. They kept Lane Villa open year-round and often entertained in the off-season. One would think tending to guests during a bustling Ocean Grove summer would be enough to send anyone to their bed for another eight months. But the Lanes thrived on providing hospitality. For example, in November of 1892, they held “An olde time sociable” to raise money for the building of a bridge over Fletcher Lake. Tickets were ten cents, “sweetmeats extra”. Mae and Laura were still playing hostess as late as 1923, when their Hallowe’en party made the front page of the Ocean Grove Times.

If the Lanes hadn’t enjoyed running a guest house, they probably wouldn’t have inspired such affection in their guests. There was at least one family that returned to Lane Villa year after year. In the early part of the 20th century, the Weeks family of Newark — Wilbur, his wife, and their two daughters, May and Edna — spent their summers in Ocean Grove, always at Lane Villa. Perhaps they’d known the Lanes in Newark. They knew them well enough to be in attendance at Jacob Lane’s 81st birthday party at Lane Villa in May 1911.

Those summers in Ocean Grove made quite an impression on young May and Edna Weeks. Perhaps as they watched Mae and Laura Lane assisting their parents in the running of Lane Villa, they envied them, even imagined themselves in their place. While it was undoubtedly hard work, there must have been something idyllic about operating Lane Villa, because May and Edna purchased it from the Lanes in 1935. In doing so, they may have been fulfilling a girlhood dream. A newspaper article of that year reports that the Weeks daughters, since married, were calling themselves “the firm of Cottrell and Grammer” (that is, Mrs. Mae Weeks Cottrell and Mrs. Edna Weeks Grammer). They continued to run the guest house, still called Lane Villa, throughout 1935, as newspaper ads of that year show the proprietors as “Cottrell and Grammer”. However, they didn’t advertise in the Ocean Grove newspaper after 1935. Lane Villa was still acknowledged as the home of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Grammer (Mrs. Grammer being Edna Weeks Grammer) as late as 1942.

The Lane sisters stayed in Ocean Grove upon selling to the Weeks sisters, Cottrell and Grammer. The November 24, 1950 edition of the Ocean Grove Times reports Laura Lane celebrating her 90th birthday at home with her sister at 75 1/2 Mt. Pisgah Way.

A relative of the Lanes wrote to Paul Goldfinger of Blogfinger in 2013 and shared some photos and family anecdotes (definitely worth a look). Goldfinger wrote that, “According to family lore, the sisters lost the Villa sometime in the 1930’s ‘to a shady lawyer.’” In fact, it seems it was the Weeks sisters (Cottrell and Grammer) who lost Lane Villa, and probably to one Ross R. Beck, Esquire who advertised his business at 63 Cookman as early as 1951, and as late as 1959. (I don’t know if Beck was “shady”, but now that the suggestion’s been put in my head, I find myself imagining that he’s the villain who removed the second-story porch and all that wonderful gingerbread!)

Today 63 Cookman Avenue is divided into apartments.

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