Did History Repeat Itself in Downtown Toms River Fire?

Township historian reflects on a 1957 fire in downtown Toms River

Photo: Daniel Nee
Photo: Daniel Nee
The following column submitted by Mark Mutter, Toms River Township Clerk and Historian, reflects on a July 1957 fire that devastated downtown Toms River, with similarities to the fire that occurred Friday.

It is reprinted from a previous historical column written by Mr. Mutter.


Fire broke out at approximately 10:00 P.M. on July 29, 1957 – 57 years ago – at the southeast corner of Main and Washington Streets – the center of our downtown.

It took six hours to get the blaze under control – as over 100 volunteer firemen responded from Toms River, Beachwood, East Dover, and Island Heights companies.

First Aid from Toms River, Beachwood, and East Dover were also on hand.
Hundreds of concerned onlookers watched throughout the night.  The fire started in or near the Ross Jewelry Store on Washington Street, and quickly spread upward into the second and third floors of the Luria building, and then to the Levin building on Main Street.

Most severely damaged were Levin’s Department Store, Luria’s Apparel Shop, and the insurance office of Allen K. Brouwer.  Total losses were estimated to be as high as a half million dollars.

At the height of the blaze, firemen fought it from spreading to the Sweet Shop, further south in the row of stores on Main Street.

If it had spread that far, the whole section of buildings extending to Water Street were in danger of going up in flames.  Fortunately, a moderate wind blowing north – aided the firemen.  If it had blown south, all of downtown might have been destroyed.

Mayor John Dalton praised the volunteers.  “We’re proud of our firemen and first aid squads, “ he said.  “They deserve a tremendous amount of credit.  We’re fortunate in having such fine, loyal men as firemen and first aid squad members.”

Said Police Chief Donald Grover:  “If it hadn’t been for the excellent work of the firemen and first aid men, we’d have lost Washington and Main Streets.”

Today, 56 years later, Toms River is still well served by the excellent work of our volunteer firemen and first aid men – and women.

This is the true spirit of Toms River – decent, dedicated, involved.

It was then, in a fire 50 – plus years ago; it was last year in a storm that battered our coast.

It is a spirit alive and well today, and God-willing, a spirit that shall live on to tomorrow.
JPJson May 18, 2014 at 09:09 AM
Dumbest article ever Patch. Is every fire in the downtown area history repeating itself? If it was the same building or at the same location, I would say ok. But it was not, therefore it is not, "history repeating itself".
Paul E Taylor Jr May 18, 2014 at 09:54 AM
there were other big fires that took out both the southeast & southwest corners of Main & Water Street & Northwest corner of Main & Water Streets too Also a big one on Main street 1/2 of the east side to Water Street back in 66 or 67. That one you could see the smoke all the way to Lavallette.
bob May 18, 2014 at 10:09 AM
Just another one of the rotating politicians in Ocean County.
McCorry May 18, 2014 at 01:49 PM
Mark is the official Toms River GEEK
Av May 18, 2014 at 08:31 PM
Oh yeah


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