Monmouth Hills & The Water Witch Club

The Water Witch Club with its lodge and grounds on Route 36 overlooking Sandy Hook Bay is an outstanding example of the well planned and beautiful summer community of the 19th and 20th centuries. It was designed by architects who were members of the club and lived in their large and spacious homes in a variety of styles from the 19th century, all with surrounding private grounds and accessed by the gently curving unpaved road that gathered it all together.

It was Ferdinand Fish, a developer in New York, who brought together Manhattan businessmen and architects to recreate a membership, club officers, and the overall plan to create lots for sale for construction of a planned community for summer recreation and social aspects. All members had to be approved by a vote of the membership committee of the Water Witch club and were primarily professional men and their families from New York.

Many of the members of the club were architects themselves, so designed their own homes; others were designed by a variety of firms Mr. Fish selected who could provide drawings of their ideas from which cub members could choose.

Plans at the very beginning also included construction of a bowling alley, billiard hall, a boat house and a bicycle house, stables, as well as a ballfield and track, in addition to the clubhouse. Forty cottages were built in what was known as Water Witch Park during the first 15 years of the Club. Since they were predominantly summer homes, before the 1920s, residents often built cisterns to collect roof water to provide for themselves when the club’s main water supply was turned off. In the 1930s, many of the homes were supplied with a water service from the borough of Highlands, and by 1940, Monmouth Consolidated Water Company installed water mains below the frost line and provided service to all homes.

The Depression made a difference in style, maintenance and ownership, as owners, some having it difficult to maintain two homes, either sold their summer cottage or converted it for year round living, changing the character to a year round residential community by the 1940s. New house and styles began appearing in the 1950s and into the 21st century.

Residents became part of the surrounding community, participating in a variety of activities and professions as well as contributing to events and activities in the area. During OP SAIL 1976, the anniversary of the founding of the United States, the club adopted one of the visiting sailing ships that were in the Ship Parade in New York Harbor, and hosted a number of events for their visitors. Members were active in law, government, school activities and social events and philanthropic causes.

Over the years of this remarkably successful and very private community, which is part of Middletown Township though its residents mailing address is Highlands, the winding road has been paved, the area is incorporated as Monmouth County Hills Association, and is best known as Monmouth Hills.