Asbury Park has been made famous throughout the years. Movies, television and music have all contributed to the notoriety of this iconic town. From its humble beginnings to its latest hotspots, Asbury Park has gone through a series of changes but some things have made it through the decades and have come to represent the shore town for locals and visitors alike.
Whether taking a daytime stroll along its eclectic boardwalk or frequenting its electric nightlife, one image stands out among the rest. It’s larger than life smile, it’s unique features and bright blue eyes welcome you as you visit Asbury Park’s beautiful town. But do you even know who he is? His name is Tillie and through the years he has become the face of Asbury Park and he has come a long way since first being painted on the Palace Amusements wall in 1955.
It’s believed that the nickname “Tillie” is a nod to George C. Tilyou, the owner of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, New York. Built in 1897, Steeplechase was one of the leading attractions of its day and one of the most famous and influential amusement parks of all time. For decades, Tillie gazed down at visitors from the side of Asbury’s Palace Amusements wall. Unfortunately due to economic hardships, the Palace Amusements building fell into disrepair and as a result, closed. But that didn’t discourage the community of Asbury Park from saving their beloved mascot and soon Tillie’s bright and smiling face was adopted by boardwalk vendors, local shop owners and advertising services as the face of Asbury Park.
When the Palace site was targeted for demolition both community members and historians managed to save Tillie before the building was demolished in 2004. He may no longer be fixated on the Palace Amusements walls but his spirit and legacy live on through the community and those who call Asbury Park home like singer/songwriter Bruce Springsteen who featured Tillie and the Palace Amusements building in his hit song “Born to Run”:
“Beyond the Palace hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard
Girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors
And the boys try to look so hard
The amusement park rises bold and stark
Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist
I wanna die with you Wendy on the street tonight
In an everlasting kiss”
Tillie has bared witness to the ever-changing transformation of one of Central Jersey’s most popular destinations. A replica of the famous character can be found at the Wonder Bar located at Fifth & Ocean Avenue. Asbury Park is a welcome surge of art and music and food. It has a tight-knit community that, like Tillie, is glad to see you. So what are you waiting for? Visit Asbury Park and say hello to Tillie and check out everything this town has to offer.