Berkeley - Royal Pines Hotel (Crystal Lake Nursing Home)
The following images of the Royal Pines Hotel were taken on June 28, 2012 at what is now the Crystal Lake Healthcare & Rehabilitation center..

All images in this set are Copyright (c) 2012 Steven J. Baeli and may not be used without permission.

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A Brief History of the Royal Pines Hotel

The Royal Pines was a grand hotel built by the Sangor Hotel Corporation in the late 1920s in Pinewald, Berkeley Township, New Jersey just before the Great Depression. The seven-story, Spanish-style brick structure was built on Crystal Lake, a man-made lake that greatly enhanced the beauty of the already superior hotel.

A 1929 pamphlet published just prior to the start of construction boasted that the area had, “The drawing power of your completed golf course, your pier with bathing and boating facilities, your athletic field for baseball and tennis, the coming polo field, aviation field and gave preserve.”

The hotel was designed by W.K. Oltar-Jevsky, an “internationally known New York architect.” The cost of what was called, “Mr. Sangor’s Golden Dream,” was estimated to be $1.5, and was built “in response to increasing demand for adequate hotel accommodations in this region,” and “catered to those who want what might be termed ‘Park Avenue Service.’” Alfred Palmer, who formerly worked at the Hotel Astor in New York City, was hired as the top supervisor.

The grand opening was held on November 26, 1929, just after the New York stock market crash, which did nothing to help make the hotel a success, but it did not hinder the efforts to bring in notable guests to enhance its attractiveness, such as ex-New Jersey governor, A. Harry Moore, boxing great, Jack Dempsey, and New Jersey Republican machine boss, Thomas A. Mathis.

Benjamin W. Sangor, noted as the founder of the American Comics Group, had moved into the Ocean County area from Chicago about 1922, acquiring the land once owned by Lieutenant Edward S. Farrow. Farrow had attempted to develop a retirement community in 1888 called Barnegat Park for fellow officer veterans of the Civil War, but a series of events, including a stock market crash of 1893, the burning of the church and bank, and several lawsuits that followed hard times, destroyed what was once a thriving development. Farrow died in 1926 dropping dead on the streets of New York, but not before attempting to sabotage Sangor’s work towards a new, much grander world.

While Farrow was not successful in his attempts to stop his nemesis, Sangor’s dream did not last either as the Great Depression began to take root, eating into his base of wealthy clientele, so many of whom had lost great fortunes one after another. As a result, the hotel was put up for sale under the receivership of then-New Jersey Secretary of State, Thomas A. Mathis.

To add to his troubles, Sangor was indicted in 1932 for embezzlement of money from the Toms River Trust Company, the institution of which held the mortgage on the Royal Pines Hotel. Both Sangor, who was chairman of the board of directors for the trust company, and its president, Anthony M. Then, were brought up on charges of embezzling $81,320 from the financial institution. Their indictments were quashed by Ocean County judge, John Giordano, but were reinstated after the Ocean County Bar Association asked the state supreme court to intervene in the matter. Both men were found guilty and sentenced to two to three years in prison and fined $1000.

Sangor died in 1953, and Then in 1942 of consumption at the age of 48 years.

There has been much mystery and misinformation about the Royal Pines Hotel, which eventually became a hospital called the Pinewald Sanitarium, and then later a series of convalescent homes.

One of the prevailing stories is that there are hidden tunnels running under the lake, which may actually be true. There are doors down in the basement of the building that appear to lead in that direction, but all access ways have long since been closed off, and short of digging under the lake, we may never know for sure if they exist.

There are many ghost stories as well, including what some described as a “midget elevator operator,” and the Lady of the Lake, she being seen rising from the water more often than not by teenagers imbibing on the shore of Crystal Lake during various times of the year.

Perhaps the most erroneous history is that Al Capone once owned the hotel, running an illegal gambling and drinking establishment. There is absolutely no evidence that Capone was ever in Ocean County, much less owner of the Royal Pines, especially since Prohibition ended in 1933, just a few years after the hotel opened.
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