According to an article in the Estonian World View, written by Andres Raudsepp, “a young newlywed couple, Konstantin and Martha Lacht in 1933, played a significant role in community history, having donated the land where the current Estonian House stands. A witness to its early connection to Estonians is none other that the honorary consul-general of Estonia in Canada, Laas Leivat, who declares that his uncle settled in Lakewood in the early twenties. Many Estonians settled there in the thirties, almost exclusively from New York City, where an active community had already formed.”
With the surge of Estonians continuing into the New York-New Jersey area in the 1950’s their numbers steadily grew. Several new additions had to be built to the existing Estonian House by the 1970’s to accommodate the increase in membership and attendance. By then it housed a library, meeting rooms for the youth and scouting activities. It was fully equipped to meet the needs of social affairs, lectures, art shows and theatrical performances. Its facilities also included a sharp-shooting range where numerous matches were held, including an international sharp-shooting match in 1971, at which the world record for indoor shooting was broken. The Association also had an outdoor stage and arena which could seat two thousand for its annual athletic, song and summer festivals.
The Lakewood Estonian Association is an umbrella organization. It has comprised of such clubs as the following: Bridge, Garden, Senior Citizens, Chess, Stamp, and Teens. Since 1950 the Association has operated the Lakewood Estonian School, whose objective is to instruct children of Estonian-American parents in the language, history, geography, literature and other aspects of their heritage.
A branch of the Estonian War Veterans, the Legion of Estonian Liberation, Inc., has its local chapter within the Association. The cultural group, the Lakewood Estonian Folk-Dancers, was established in the early 1950’s. The theatrical group, Lakewood Estonian Theater, had been active since the very beginning.
Emulating a trend of recent decades has been the influx of retirees of Estonian descent into Ocean County. Just as their predecessors, they have become active citizens, fully integrated into both the local Estonian community and the larger general community. For more that half a century, Estonian immigrants and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have perpetuated Estonian heritage and traditions, while at the same time, contributing to Ocean County’s economy, culture and political fabric. Estonians came to the United States in search of freedom, opportunities and a new home. For many, their hopes were fulfilled in Ocean County.