Asbury Park Palace Amusements artifacts, including Tillie, are on the NJ Endangered List

Artifacts from the former Palace Amusements in Asbury Park, including Tillie’s famous face, have been included in Preservation New Jersey’s annual list of the Garden State’s 10 most endangered places.

The list was announced on Saturday, May 4.

The Palace Amusements, between Cookman Avenue and Lake Avenue on Kingsley Street, was demolished in 2004 as part of a redevelopment plan, but some elements were retained. They are apparently located outside the city’s convention hall, in a gated area that also houses the site’s dumpsters.

Representatives for Madison Marquette, the retail developer of the Asbury Park boardwalk and current owner of the artifacts, and the city did not respond to a request for comment at press time.

Tillie while looking at the old Palace Amusements building in Asbury Park in 1989.Tillie while looking at the old Palace Amusements building in Asbury Park in 1989.

Tillie while looking at the old Palace Amusements building in Asbury Park in 1989.

“Twenty years ago, 33 irreplaceable artifacts were saved when developers destroyed Palace Amusements, a century-old arcade listed on the National Register of Historic Places,” the Save Tillie campaign said in a May 4 statement. “The plan for their future was imperfect. But the promise was explicit. In exchange for lucrative waterfront rights granted by the state of New Jersey, developers promised preservation and reuse. Twenty years later, the artifacts have never been returned. The developers never announced a conservation and reuse plan. The artefacts have been inspected three times by a leading conservationist, who recently found evidence of serious deterioration.”

Tillie’s grinning face, seen on T-shirts, bumper stickers and more, has become the unofficial symbol of Asbury Park and its resurgence as a summer destination. Fans of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are especially fond of Tillie, as Palace Amusements is mentioned in the hit song “Born to Run,” and the group posed for a promotional photo for the winking Tillie in the ’70s. Tillie was originally painted on the palace in the mid-1950s and he, along with a bumper car mural, was removed from the building’s exterior in 2004.

More: Tillie from Asbury Park was on her way. Here’s where he’s going – and why you won’t see him

More: Tillie of Asbury Park: Who owns the iconic face of the resurgent city?

In 2004, a new Tillie face was painted on the Wonder Bar. The work got a boost when Chevrolet wanted to do a Corvette 50th anniversary photo shoot with the rock band Goo Goo Dolls at the Palace Amusements that year. The photo shoot was moved to the newly painted Wonder Bar at the suggestion of former Wonder Bar owner Pat Schiavino.

Tillie’s original permanent home would be a hotel next to the Asbury Park Casino and Carousel House. Those plans have now been scrapped.

“No one knows where things will go next,” Mayor John Moor said in 2021.

“It is now imperative that state officials conduct a long, hard and unbiased review of the 2004 deal that allowed the artifacts to be brought to the brink of irretrievability,” Save Tillie said.

In 2020 this "Greetings from Asbury Park" sign showing Tillie wearing a face mask welcomed visitors entering the city on Sunset Avenue.In 2020 this "Greetings from Asbury Park" sign showing Tillie wearing a face mask welcomed visitors entering the city on Sunset Avenue.

In 2020, this “Greetings from Asbury Park” sign, which featured Tillie wearing a face mask, welcomed visitors entering the city on Sunset Avenue.

Preservation New Jersey receives an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State. The list “highlights irreplaceable historic, architectural, cultural and archaeological resources in New Jersey that are in immediate danger of being lost,” Preservation New Jersey said in a statement. “The act of listing these resources recognizes their importance to New Jersey’s heritage and draws attention to the dire situation that threatens their continued existence and the survival of historic resources statewide.”

The rest of the 2024 list includes St. Paul’s Abbey in Newton; the Anderson farm and house, Bayville; the Garden State Gate House, Cherry Hill; Orange Memorial Hospital, Orange; the Homestead Plantation Enslaved Quarters, Clark; the MLK House, Camden; Joseph Hornerhuis, Princeton; Urban Historic Districts, Statewide; historic properties owned and operated by the state, statewide.

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Jersey Shore native Chris Jordan covers entertainment and features for the USA Today Network New Jersey. Contact him at @chrisfhjordan; [email protected]

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Tillie of Asbury Park included on Preservation NJ’s endangered list