The Crazy Suburban Mom: Kitschtastic Doo-Wop Motels of Wildwood, NJ

Friday, November 11, 2011

Kitschtastic Doo-Wop Motels of Wildwood, NJ

Last week I was in Cape May, NJ and I did something brand new.   The night before I left I came across the Doo Wop Preservation League website.

The next town over from Cape May is Wildwood and since the 50's 'The Wildwoods' have been visited by families looking for beach and boardwalk vacation fun.  The cool thing .... the really cool thing.... is a lot of the wacky buildings and signs remain.

The site is a tacky feast of retro kitsch and I loved it.      

Here is some information from the site:

The Origins of Wildwood's Fabulous Doo Wop

Postwar 1950's America was an optimistic, confident, enthusiastic society and an economic colossus where people enjoyed increasingly greater wealth and leisure time. TV overtook radio as the most important cultural influence and began broadcasting ads for a device that would transform society: the automobile.
Families wanted to get in their cars and go! The Wildwoods accommodated them with a dynamic seaside boardwalk, amusement piers and nightclubs that became a proving ground for the period's biggest music stars. The prosperity and vitality of the 1950's provided the impetus for an exciting high-voltage visual style that transformed the Wildwoods' architectural landscape. The island resort's architecture built in this era reflected the spirit of the people: brash, bold and boastful, and the popular culture of the times. The dense building fabric presented a varied and exaggerated spectacle of designs, all competing for the passing motorists' attention. Angular elements, space-age imagery, tropical themes and colors, with spectacular neon signage turning up the volume even more, combined to form a sensational display that can still be seen in the Wildwoods today

"The Doo Wop Motel District, officially recognized as the "Wildwoods Shore Resort Historic District" by the State of New Jersey, lies primarily in the municipality of Wildwood Crest, along a two mile stretch between Atlantic and Ocean avenues.

Within this district, you'll find the largest concentration of Doo Wop, or mid-century commercial, motels in the nation! Block after block features motel after motel after motel, each with its own unique fantasy theme, eye-catching sign, vivid color pallette and kitschy ornamentation.

Over 50 vintage motels still stand today within this unique district. Up until the late 1990s, nearly 100 motels stood within this district alone, virtually untouched since their original construction in the 1950s and 60s. Between the years 2000 and 2005, unchecked real estate development & speculation in the area led to the demolition of several noteable motels, while others have undergone significant renovation. Today, the Doo Wop Preservation League works with local business & property owners, city planning & zoning officials, and the state historic preservation office to help ensure that the remaining historic structures in this district will be preserved and celebrated for generations to come."

I visit Cape May in the off season and there is plenty to do, Wildwood isn't like that.  It was all but shut down.  

Most motels were closed for the winter; even the boardwalk was closed.   I found one open store on the boardwalk which was oddly, a surf shop.

I wanted to find an open gift shop, and to find one, or more, of the books I'd read about on the Doo-Wop site...

But all I found open was a Rite-Aid and I had to drive some...   It wasn't a total loss though, I got some great pictures.   These hotels are like peeking decades back in time.

The motel pictures are mine, so I'd appreciate credit if you decide to take them (But asking's better.)

blue marlin motel wildwood nj

The Blue Marllin

seashell motel wildwood nj

Sea shell Motel

The signs were amazing.  I haven't seen that much neon in one place - EVVVVV-AH!

bristol plaza, wildwood, NJ

The Bristol Plaza

Look at The Bristol Plaza; the colors and design.  So 50's... 

tiki Vacancy sign, wildwood nj

Wild vacancy neon and lot's of palm trees of every type.  Neon, plastic, painted...  It was tikitastic!

pink champagne motel, wildwood nj

Pink Champagne Motel 

Bel Air Motel Wildwood NJ

The Bel Air

surfcomber motel, wildwood nj

The Surf  Comber Motel

seagull motel, wildwood nj

The Sea Gull Motel 

seashell motel, wildwood, nj

surf comber motel, wildwood, nj

starlux motel wildwood, nj

Starlux motel vacancy sign Wildwood, NJ

Star Lux Vacancy Sign

Dawn Motel Sign Wildwood, NJ

The Dawn Motel

VIP Motel Wildwood, NJ

Ocean Holiday Motor Inn, Wildwood NJ

American Safari Motel, Wildwood NJ

Wildwood NJ, Doowop Motel Signs

The Doo Wop Museum and Neon Garden

I hope some of these places are open in the spring; that's when I plan to go back...  It will still be off season but I hope Wildwood will have a bit more life to it.    I'm sorry so much was closed down, I'd totally go this time of year...

In fact, I did.


Lin 11/13/11, 9:21 PM  

Wow! That is a time-warp! I would love to see these all lit up.

ken 1/27/12, 8:41 AM  

If you can go in june everything is open and will love it! Especially at night

Some places are open before memorial day and after mid sept but everything is in between those two dates

Tracy Reinhardt 1/27/12, 8:49 AM  

Ken, I go to Cape May twice a year (off season) and just happened to drive over to Wildwood this last time after finding the Doowop website. I was FLOORED! It was amazing! Even though it was all but closed down the photos I took were amazing.

The reason I go off season is cost. What can I say? Cape May is pretty deserted that time of year too but there is enough open to vacation, Wildwood was closed. I wasn't expecting that.

I will definitely go back for pictures but I'm afraid I won't be able to make it in season.


Eric 1/27/12, 10:30 AM  

Tracy, If you want to see what the motels and restaurants looked like in the 60's check out

FlyinGN 1/27/12, 11:06 AM  

We have been going to Wildwood for almost 50 years.. Its unbelievable in the summer .. You HAVE to go. The boardwalk is something you will never forget

Wildwood Motels 1/27/12, 2:58 PM  


If you'd like to stay in Wildwood and have some of the summer feeling, but want to also save some money, consider a trip there in May. The rates are generally the lowest of the season for most of the month. The weekend previous to Memorial Day weekend might be a good choice, or when the Car Show is held earlier in the month.

It's always great to see someone discover and love Wildwood.

Tracy Reinhardt 1/27/12, 3:04 PM  

I just found your site, amazing! I got to Cape May twice a year, 4 of us. This was the first time we rode into Wildwood. I'd found the doowop site and had to go. We generally don't go to Cape May as late as May and this year I'm not even sure we are going due to another trip someone is taking - It will be the first time in years that we won't be going in the spring. What is the situation in Wildwood late fall?

DooWopper 1/27/12, 3:41 PM  


Last year Morey's Piers hosted their first "Morey's Fears" which alike to Six Flags "Fright Fest" and it was a large success. I believe this will be taking place Fridays and Saturdays in October. Also on October 13th is the Fabulous 50's Celebration with shows going on in the convention center including some original artists from the 50's.

The Wildwood's are an amazing place, and in my opinion, are home to the greatest boardwalk in the world. The architecture is amazing as well, and is certainly reminiscent of a more care free time in our history. I have several videos featuring pictures of Wildwood on my YouTube channel which you may enjoy, my account name is SuperOktav


Tracy Reinhardt 1/27/12, 3:48 PM  

October is definitely in the ballpark and doable. I do a lot on my blog with Vintage things - buying, talking about... and am trying to get things for my home in that style. So that era is VERY appealing to me.

That event is on the calendar: 10/12/2012 - 10/13/2012
Fabulous '50s Celebration

Friday: '50s Record Hop hosted by Jerry Blavat at the Wildwoods Convention Center.

And I think it would be very appealing to the people I go with also!

I would love to see that and blog about it, pictures everything! It would be wonderful! Hope I can manage it!


scca28 2/12/12, 7:16 AM  

When you get to Wildwood, set aside some time to visit the WW Historical Museum, you will learn a lot there! Here is a link to it posted on one of our friend's websites:

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