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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Eddie Simms and Zable's Folly

I remember all the local talk, sometime around the late 1970's, when Ed Sims, from Brigantine, purchased the old Headley-Bush farm on Route 9 in New Gretna. There was a lot of local speculation as to just what his plans for the old farm were.

I was cutting firewood on the adjacent property owned by Sarah Guertler one winter afternoon when I was startled by a stranger standing over me. I turned off the chain saw and looked up. He asked if I had permission to be cutting wood on the property. After I assured him that I did have the land owner's permission, he proceeded to introduce himself as Eddie Sims from Brigantine. He told me that he had just purchased the Bush farm and was going to restore the old farm house.

The Bush farm on Rt. 9 in 1974. (Photo courtesy of John Headley, the great grand son of Benjamin Franklin Headley who owned the farm in the mid to late 1800's before it passed on to the Bush family.)

I was happy to hear of his plans. Being interested in history, I thought it a worthy plan. It's about time that we started restoring our old buildings, like they do in Europe, instead of tearing them down. We should be proud of our heritage!

The Bush farm house, circa 1929. (Photo courtesy of Franklin W. Gray.)

Well, as time unfolded, and Eddie began construction, I was surprised by the result. Seems Eddie owned some rather worthless property in Brigatine for some years. Then, along came legalized gambling in the Atlantic City area and, wallah, Eddie sells the hitherto worthless land for a few million bucks, or so, to Harrahs. All that money must have been burning a hole in Eddie's pocket, as his "farm house restoration" project took shape.

The end result of Eddie Sims farm house restoration project on Rt. 9 in New Gretna (March 4, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

What evolved was nothing like the restored farm house that I had envisioned, but rather a cross between a Greek diner and the Playboy mansion. Minnie Bush and her son, Cliff, must be rolling over in their graves. I can't think of anything else that would be more out of character with tiny, rural New Gretna . . . That is, until I recently read the following newspaper clipping referring to a June 10, 1926 Tuckerton Beacon story.

Wow, this project makes Eddie Sims appear to be a bush leaguer. Newport was known for its plethora of mansions for the ultra rich (including the VanderBilts, Carnegies, and Rockefellers) and the America's Cup Yacht races. Deauville, France with its racecourse, harbor, international film festival, marinas, conference centre, villas, Grand Casino and sumptuous hotels was regarded as the "queen of the Norman beaches". Since the 19th-century, it has been a fashionable holiday resort for the international upper class. These were clearly people who would never wear their white shoes past Labor Day. And New Gretna was to be their rival.

I can't explain what happened to Abe Zable's plans but, obviously, things never worked out for him and his New York millionaire friends. I guess it's just as well. I never really enjoyed drinking tea with my pinkie held high.

Pete S.

PS- I want to thank Mary Lou Mathis for giving me the news clipping about Abe Zable and his development plans for New Gretna.


  1. Eddie Simms last name is spelled SIMS.

  2. Anonymous,

    Thank you for pointing out the spelling mistake regarding Eddie Sims' last name. I've made the correction in the above Blog entry.

    Pete S

  3. gerat nice blog to point overview on mistakes ,,,,
    good don't any mistake in life

  4. and look at it now what a shame

  5. It is July 2012 and I have long wondered the history of this unusual piece of land. I pass it frequently and within the past couple years have seen the additions of comic action figures, gigantic prehistoric animals, cannons on walls, sea creatures, religious statues as well as dozens of things that one would expect in a theme park. I just today found out the land is privately owned and continually adds permanent items for his grand children. I wish I was one of his grandchildren. He must be FUN.

  6. Lucky for us the dreams of Abe Zable and his friends evaporated with their money when the Stock Market crashed. I could guess who scooped them up cheap.

  7. Lucky for us the dreams of Abe Zable and his friends evaporated with their money when the Stock Market crashed. I could guess who scooped them up cheap.