Exploring ‘The Rock on Route 539′
If you've ever taken Route 539 to get from Manahawkin to Whiting (or vice versa), you've probably encountered this unmistakeable landmark. I'm talking about 'Patriot Rock' or 'The Rock on Route 539'. I've driven by this site many times over the years, but never took the time to stop and take a closer look at it, until now.
The rock itself is settled just off to the side of the road on Route 539 in Lacey, but it can feel like the middle of nowhere for someone driving through. While trees and occasional dirt trails line 539 for miles in either direction, the rock seems to come out of nowhere and sticks out with a vibrant display.
I didn't know the history of the rock or exactly how or when it originated until I started doing a little research. JamesRahn.com has a pretty detailed timeline of the history of the rock, dating back to 1999, before it was painted in the signature red, white and blue colors that we all know today. Back then, the theme changed based on the season with incarnations including a pumpkin for Halloween, a turkey for Thanksgiving, flowers for Easter, and many more. According to the article, the original mystery artist was a retired man by the name of Edward Gillesheimer from Cedar Glen Lakes, but the responsibility of maintaining the rock has changed throughout the years.
It wasn't until the events of September 11th that the rock took on its current and mostly permanent patriotic theme. In a note sent to JamesRahn.com, a woman by the name of Jennifer painted the stars and stripes a week after 9/11, after waiting to see if anyone else would do it first. After a week of inactivity, she got to work. Since then, there have been a few adaptations and some instances of vandalism, but the overall integrity of the landmark has remained intact.
Today, a series of small and large American flags adorn the side of the road leading up to the rock. While it may have become just another part of the landscape for those that frequently commute on Route 539, just think about the magical feeling felt by those who are driving by for the first time, no inclination about how or where this monument came from.
Thank you to everyone who has and continues to maintain this small, but impactful piece of local art and patriotism.
If you want to see it for yourself, it's just a few miles past the entrance to the Wynnewood section of Whiting on Route 539.
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