GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Just outside the Oval Room at the Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club, a black-and-white photo of Grace Kelly dancing with her father hangs by the door.
But though Seaview was the site of Kelly’s Sweet 16 party in 1945, the photo is from elsewhere.
“An intern from Stockton spent a summer trying to find a picture,” said Director of Sales and Marketing Mike Tidwell. “But we have one from the same general era.”
It’s a story that encapsulates the present and past of Seaview as it prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary this year — a country club and resort with such a long but sporadically documented past that it’s still kind of unclear who designed the original clubhouse, but also one now owned by a higher institution of knowledge as a place of learning.
“We’re very excited,” said Seaview Executive Director Rummy Pandit of the centennial. Pandit oversees the resort for the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, which purchased the club in 2010, added student housing and programs, and hired Dolce Hotels and Resorts to manage and operate it.
The 100th anniversary of Seaview will be celebrated not only as part of the Stockton Scholarship Benefit Gala on April 26 — complete with 1914 retro dishes such as Beef Wellington — but throughout the entire year, including using wooden flagpoles and rakes on the two golf courses and a special 100-year Stockton Seaview logo.
“It’s an historic building ... and every time we renovate a specific area, we discover something new,” Pandit said of the clubhouse. “One section actually had two roofs. We opened up one roof and found another. That’s part of its history.”
Seaview got its start — “As the story goes,” as a 1986 article in The Press of Atlantic City states — when utilities magnate Clarence Geist got annoyed at wating for tee times at the Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield and decided to build his own club. He bought farm property in Galloway and, according to an anniversary essay on the resort by Janet W. Foster, “It seems” that Geist hired architect Frank Seeburger to turn an old farmhouse into a clubhouse.
“New $400,000 Golf Club Perfect in All Details,” a definitive-sounding headline in the Atlantic City Evening Union stated in 1914.
But, Foster added, Geist also apparently hired another architect in 1915, the year after Seaview officially opened as a private club, and it was unclear whether they then demolished the original clubhouse or just reworked it.
In any event, additions completed in the 1920s, ’60s and ’80s, as well as recent work since Stockton’s acquisition, have expanded the clubhouse into a vast complex of wings and rooms.
“At one time, this was a back entrance,” said Tidwell of a now-shuttered doorway. “It’s all closed off now, but the doors remain. The building just kept taking on different configurations.”
Keith Vreeland, director of engineering and security, led a group down into the crawl space to show the brick archwork dating from the 1920s expansion.
“The arch and the arch on the other side are basically the hallway, and the arch supports the hallway,” Vreeland said, crouching beneath low ceilings on a floor that was once dirt.
In the Oval Room, original wooden archways have all been preserved during refurbishing work — one photo of an auto convention shows a circa-1920 car just sitting in the back of the room — while down in what was once the original locker room, the marble that lines what was once the showers in the old clubhouse now just provide a distinguished setting for storage.
“Look at the thickness of the marble,” Tidwell said. “It’s at least an inch.”
The adjacent locker room, with its high ceilings, resembles those at many of the early 1900s golf clubs such as Baltusrol and Merion, Tidwell said. And following a winding path through a wing once used for rooms but now used for conferences — which was once occupied in its entirety by Mick Jagger in 1989 — Tidwell wound up at the original indoor pool. Once filled with saltwater, the pool, which still looks as though Seaview guests Warren G. Harding or (maybe) Al Capone just took a dip, is now used by students in the nearby dormitory wing.
Then there’s the annex, now used for the storage of dozens upon dozens of surplus chairs, tables and mattresses but once a dormitory for club members’ drivers and servants.
“They had a sink,” said Tidwell, “a couple single beds — and that was it.”
There was one shared tub, as well. But through the old, thick glass of the windows, the servants could see out over the course and to the ocean, making the club’s name a reality.
Today, Stockton’s student program has been “phenomenal,” Pandit said. “We started off with 25 rooms and had students live here and actually experience hospitality, and now we’re up to 100 rooms. Students actually stay here and enjoy all facilities and amenities.”
The guest side of the facility ebbs and flows in the winter, Tidwell said, but should pick up in April with golfing, weddings and conferences.
After the season winds down in autumn, Pandit and Tidwell said, there are plans for a special anniversary dinner and possibly fireworks.
In the meantime, there will be more discoveries as occasional work continues on the property — and Pandit, in his fourth year as executive director at Seaview, has really gotten the hang of the place.
“Initially when I started here,” he joked, talking of the clubhouse’s many twists and turns, “you’d come to a fork, and you wouldn’t be sure which side was which.”
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