Get Involved with Island Beach State Park

Volunteers maintain historic landmark of the Jersey Shore


Bristol roofer to a 108-year old shore relic: We’ve got you covered

The Judge’s Shack sits among the dunes at Island Beach State Park, a stark contrast to the model mansion built by steel magnate Henry Phipps, just a few miles and many dunes to the north.  The shack is a magnet for photographers amidst its location a stone’s throw from the surf, along a 10-mile stretch of beach where hundreds of shipwrecks, strandings and rescues occurred.  The shack is often a reference point for beach buggy-traveling fishermen along the indistinguishable miles of dunes.  At least 108-years old, the shack is imperiled by the ravages of the coastal elements.  The roof was damaged during hurricane Sandy and remains in in poor condition, actively leaking.

After recently visiting the shack and learning about the precarious circumstances the Friends are faced with, Abe Brooks and brother Alf Brooks of Kanga Roofing in Bristol, Pennsylvania, have volunteered to lend a hand, professionally installing mineral surface roofing materials supplied by the Friends.  The material to be applied is the modern equivalent of the original mineral surface roofing material.

Ted Nickles, an historic restoration contractor and active member of the Friends of the Judge’s Shack, said this contribution of labor is a huge benefit to the mission of the organization.  “The integrity of the roof is critical to the preservation of the building,” he said.

A small team of volunteers formed the non-profit Friends of the Judge’s Shack in 2010.   In 2017 the Friends group, in partnership with and under the oversight of the Division of Parks and Forestry of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, took over the task of managing and maintaining this wooden structure, contributing their knowledge, trade skills, and personal resources to sustain it.  They also plant dune grass and erect snow fencing to stabilize dunes and protect the wooden structure from the wind and tides that jeopardize its very existence.

Officially declared eligible for the National Register of Historic places, the Judge’s Shack is considered an example of vernacular architecture, characterized by the use of local materials and knowledge. Vernacular buildings are typically simple and practical, whether residences or built for other purposes, in this case as a short-term dwelling for sportsmen activities.  There used to be many dotted along the East Coast.  This is the only one known remaining in NJ and a rarity along the Eastern Seaboard.

Early records trace the shack’s origin to at least 1911, though it may be even older.  Henry Phipps bought the nearly 10-mile stretch of the barrier island in the 1920s and envisioned a resort for the very wealthy.  Those plans were interrupted by the Great Depression and his death.  When the State of New Jersey purchased Island Beach in the early 1950s, there were more than 70 similar dwellings on land leased from the Phipps’ Barnegat Bay and Beach Company.  Now there are fewer than a 10.

The Judge’s Shack has become an historic icon representative of the Shore before development became rampant.  It harkens back to when early outdoor sportsmen were lured by the tranquility and open space of miles of dunes with few structures in sight other than the earliest Life-Saving Stations.  Cobbled together from driftwood and recycled materials, these fishermen fashioned crude short-term dwellings.  Many were merely improvised, others were later outfitted with generators, wells and gas refrigerators.

Because the State Park does not allow people to walk on the dunes, and the building is fragile, the Judges Shack is being preserved as an artifact and is not open to the public.

Interior and exterior photos of the Judge’s Shack, it’s history, and the Judge it is named for, are prominently featured recently in Island Beach - A Sonnet in the Sands, a new book by local author Gordon Hesse.

For more information, contact Ted Nickles (856) 672-1440