…and how we got our colorful name
Red Bank, long part of Shrewsbury Township, one of Monmouth County's three original townships, is believed to have been first used as a locality name in 1736, when Thomas Morford sold Joseph French "a lot of over three acres on the west side of the highway that goes to the red bank." Information on Red Bank's early settlement is sparse. Its modern history generally begins c.1800 with Barnes Smock's purchase of a tract bordering the Navesink River. He opened a tavern, the all-purpose building of its day, near the river, c.1809. ...Barber and Howes' 1845 Historical Collections of the State of New Jersey... claimed that in 1830 Red Bank contained only two houses, including the tavern by the river, but by 1844 it contained seven stores, one hat manager, two wheelwrights, two lumber yards, two blacksmiths, two lime kilns, one sash and blind factory, a public meeting hall, an Episcopal church and sixty dwellings. The town's principal commerce was New York City trade, with thirteen sloops and schooners and one steamboat on that route. ...Red Bank's expansion was even more dramatic in the 1860s after the arrival of the Raritan and Delaware Bay railroad, a line later absorbed by the Central Railroad of New Jersey.
from Images of Red Bank, 1995
Settled as part of "Shrewsbury Towne" in the late 1600's, Red Bank was incorporated as a borough in 1908. By the early 1800's it was a bustling river town. Sailing vessels at first and then steamboat packets brought in freight and visitors for all Monmouth County seashore resorts and took shellfish, farm produce and local manufacturies. With the coming of the railroad, commercial boating ended but pleasure boating and iceboating then became a serious pursuit. Annual speed boat regattas, ice boat races and sailing races mean Red Bank makes sporting history the year round.
Red Bank area Multiple Listing Service booklet
Battered for years by stiff competition from malls and mega-store shopping centers that have sprung up like dandelions, Red Bank hoped to use (its plan for a Special Improvement District) to foster a cleaner, more vital downtown with better recognition. Today, it's not difficult to find proof that it's worked. Besides four—count ‘em—coffeehouses, Red Bank is home to some 64 restaurants. Add to that mix the Count Basie Theatre, a performing arts center that attracts national and regional acts—everything from rock bands to dance companies; the area's only art movie house, a bevy of antique shops; more than a dozen jewelry stores; several galleries; and a mix of new stores and others that date back several generations, and it becomes obvious that this town is doing something right. So much so that other towns are looking to it for clues to how to revive their own slumbering downtowns.
New Jersey Monthly Magazine