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May 22nd, 2006, 07:51 PM
Jersey Doo Wop Motels Deemed Endangered

May 22, 2006

By JOHN CURRAN, Associated Press Writer

WILDWOOD, N.J. - The Lollipop and The Starlux. The Shalimar and The Caribbean. The Imperial 500 and The Tangiers.

With garish neon signs, multicolored exteriors and sweeping deck overhangs, the "Doo Wop" motels of the Wildwoods are the architectural equivalents of a Vitalis-slicked pompadour.

But they, too, are fading into the past.

One by one, the Mom-and-Pop motels are being razed, rendered economically obsolete by a real estate boom that has made the land underneath too valuable to support a couple of dozen $100-a-night motel rooms.

"It's hard," said Daytona Motor Inn owner John Donio, who has been offered five times what he paid for his 20-unit motel, two blocks from the beach. "I want to stay, I really do."

More than 50 of the motels have been demolished in the last three years, giving way to pricey condominiums with none of their charm — or history.

"Without a concerted attempt to halt demolition, these colorful vestiges of American life will go the way of the ducktail haircut, the '57 Chevy and the drive-in double feature," said Richard Moe, executive director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "Instead of being demolished to make way for nondescript new development, the Doo Wop motels should be preserved as the focus of an all-season resort and a vibrant, livable community for year-round residents."

The Trust, based in Washington, D.C., included the motels on its list of the 11 most endangered historic places in America.

More symbolic than anything, the distinction is aimed at raising public awareness about the plight of the sites.

Built in the 1950s and 1960s and dubbed "Doo Wop" after a vocal style of the period, the motels sprung up next to the ocean in Wildwood, North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest, catering to a booming post-war America that wanted vacation places with outdoor pools, parking spaces and easy ocean access.

The other sites on the "endangered places" list are:

• The Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building in Washington.
• Blair Mountain Battlefield in Logan County, W.Va.
• Fort Snelling Upper Post in Hennepin County, Minn.
• Historic communities and landmarks of the Mississippi Coast.
• Historic neighborhoods of New Orleans.
• Kootenai Lodge in Bigfork, Mont.
• Kenilworth, Ill.
• Mission San Miguel Arcangel in San Miguel, Calif.
• Over-the-Rhine Neighborhood in Cincinnati.
• A concrete staircase at the World Trade Center that survivors used to escape Tower 1 after the Sept. 11 attacks. Most people don't know the staircase remains; it is closed to the public. The staircase is not included in plans for a new tower.


May 23rd, 2006, 02:00 AM
These are something that needs to be saved. I have been going to Wildwood for summer vacation since I was born. These hotels are institutions and make Wildwood unique. Wildwood is far better than any other boardwalk or beach town in New Jersey or New York barnone. Wildwood makes Jersey unique. I mean back in the 50s you had Chubby Checker,Frankie Valli, Bobby Rydell who sang "Wildwood, Wildwood, Days", Dick Clark, Bruce Willis vacationed there, etc... Wildwood was and still is the Miami Beach of the Jersey Shore. These hotels need to be saved, when I went down there I couldn't get over how many of the hotels were torn down to make room for cold, ugly, generic condos. There are still MANY Doo Woop hotels stadning, but it seems that unless they are saved, their days are numbered. People this is not an over reaction, this is real, Wildwood is different from any Jersey Shore town you have ever seen this is about the charm and character of this shore town that make it unique. Nearby Cape May, is actually a National Historic City one of only a handful in the nation. Cape May has many BEAUTIFUL AND GEORGOUS victorian homes. Wildwood should make itself a Doo Woop Historic Dirstict around where these hotels are. They need to be saved. If you have never been to Wildwood or Caoe May, ITS A MUST SEE! Great boardwalk with a TRAM CAR that runs along it. Crazy piers full of rides and games for 4 miles long. And the beach from Boarwalk to ocean is 4 FOOTBALL FIELDS LONG!!! It is one of the biggest beaches on the East Coast and is constantly voted one of the top beaches in the COUNTRY!

From websites:

Beach Facts

-They’re free! In the Wildwoods, beach tags are not required
-The Wildwoods’ beaches, unlike most beaches in the United States, have areas that grow in size each year
-Included in the Travel Channel’s “America’s Best Beaches”
-Chosen as Condé Nast Traveler Magazine’s “Best Sports Beach”
-Listed among the top most popular beaches by Byways Magazine
-Chosen as No. 1 in “Top 10 Family Beaches” by the New Jersey Star-Ledger
-Listed in “Top 10 Singles Beaches” by the New Jersey Star-Ledger
-Chosen as “One of the Best” by the readers of the South Jersey Courier-Post



May 23rd, 2006, 09:05 AM

BIG big beaches
Lots of places to stay and eat
More relaxed


Sometimes silty depending on the recent weather.
BIG BIG beaches (walking to shoreline)
Pretty long to get to.

I do not thing they should save these little places left and right, but at the same time there should be an attempt to keep some of the flavor. No speedy-condo "luxury" development, and no elimination of the whole hotel industry in the area (turning the beach into a private one).

There is a balance point between full sellout and uncompromising conservation. We just have to find it.

May 23rd, 2006, 09:33 AM
Wildwood has authentic character. You know when you're there. Most places in America you're really nowhere. I'm genuinely sorry we're on our way to losing Wildwood --just as I'd be sorry to lose Nantucket or Cape May.

May 27th, 2006, 02:00 PM
I almost cried after reading this. Wildwood and those hotels were my summers every year since I was one year old. It's like these developrs have no sense of value or worth.:(

Shore enough, more condos arrive
Wildwood hotels replaced by condos
An example of architecture down there. And beloved Beach Colony with For Sale sign.:(

Saturday, May 27, 2006
Newhouse News Service

The news was delivered one recent night in a meeting room a block from the ocean in Wildwood Crest.

"Forty hotels in town have been torn down so far," said Kirk Hastings, president of the Wildwood Crest Historical Society.

There were groans from the 25 people at the meeting, most longtime, year-round residents of the Cape May County seaside community.

"I can't keep up with this," Hastings said. "It's unbelievable how fast things are being torn down. I drove around the other day, noticed a few more empty lots, tried to remember what was there."

If you haven't been to the Wildwoods in a few years, you may not recognize the place. In the past five years, 75 vintage motels in North Wildwood, Wildwood and Wildwood Crest have been demolished to make way for condos with names such as Belldon's Coastal Colors, Club Regatta and Carousel-by-the-Sea.

"For Sale" signs hang from hotel railings. Hotels that might have cost $50,000 or $100,000 to build in the 1950s are being sold for $3 million and up. The pagoda-shaped Singapore in Wildwood Crest is listed at $14 million.

The skyline of Wildwood, the Jersey Shore's most colorful destination, is about to be drastically altered. Nine 25-story condo-hotels are planned on or near the oceanfront. They will include shops, restaurants and, in one case, an indoor beach with real sand.

"We have people complaining that we're turning Wildwood into Philadelphia-by-the-Sea," said Mayor Ernie Troiano, the town's most enthusiastic booster. "If the town never progressed, we'd all be in grass huts, and cattle would still be grazing out here. It's called progress."

But progress, in the form of high-rise hotels, luxury condos and increased ratables, has residents worrying the towns are losing their kitschy character and becoming sterile summer communities for the well-heeled.

The Wildwoods' collection of post-World War II resort hotel architecture -- perhaps the country's largest -- is rapidly declining. Hastings and others decry the loss of such classic motels as the Satellite, with its star and spaceship-studded neon sign; the Fantasy, whose name seemed to encapsulate the Wildwood experience, and the incomparable Ebb Tide, with its lean-in, lean-out walls. All three were demolished in the past two years --the Ebb Tide and Satellite for condos, the Fantasy for a Harley-Davidson dealership.

Even the fabled Wildwood Diner is being moved out of the way for a mid-rise hotel. BCRC Associates of Newtown, Pa., the developer, is offering the classic blue-trimmed 1950s diner for free to anyone willing to pay transportation costs.

Five years ago, one-third of the residential units in Wildwood Crest were condos. Now it's up to one-half. Wildwood Crest Mayor Carl Groon, while welcoming the replacement of the older, more decrepit, 1950s motels, worries the dramatic influx of condos will adversely affect the town.

"The worst part about the increased value of our real estate is that it prevents young families from moving in," explained Groon, a lifelong Crest resident. "We are losing our year-round identity. It takes $400-$500,000 just to walk in and buy a small home.

"Plus, we're unable to draw volunteers for the fire department, for EMS, for Little League, because young people are the ones normally doing these things. It's not an easy problem to solve. How do you get young people to move here?"

Towns up and down the 127-mile-long Jersey Shore have been awash in construction in recent years. But nowhere is the building pace faster than in the Wildwoods, whose 14,000 year-round population swells to 4.5 million in the summer.

At the beginning of 2001, there were 126 hotels and motels in Wildwood Crest. Now there are 81, with 25 to 30 scheduled for demolition this year.

The resort is reinventing itself with a rapidity perhaps unprecedented for any town in state history.

Many of the new condos and town homes are not winning any beauty awards from locals, but several developments are striking and different. At Coastal Colors, a sprawling, multicolored town home complex described as the island's "most exclusive" community, single-family homes are priced from $1.5 million. Club Regatta, billed as "the luxury destination for a select few in Wildwood Crest," features condos in the $565,900 to $590,000 range, and town homes from $734,000 to $840,000.

"There's a lot of opportunity here; there are a lot of properties still available," said Paul Chiolo, owner of Oceanside Realty, which represents some 500 properties on the island.

Modern-day Wildwood (the term is often used to describe all three towns) was built on fantasy and fun. Some even consider the resort the birthplace of rock 'n' roll. Bill Haley and the Comets performed "Rock Around the Clock" for the first time at the HofBrau Hotel in 1954. Chubby Checker introduced the Twist at the Rainbow Club in 1960. Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" was first broadcast at the Starlight Ballroom.

Will Morey was one of the first to recognize the resort's postwar potential. Morey built a neon-lit empire of candy-colored hotels and ride-studded piers that would attract generations of tourists. With his brother, Bill, he opened Morey's Pier.

Wildwood became a brilliantly lit, sign-studded fantasyland. The motels echoed the past (the Frontier, Saratoga, Carriage Stop), looked ahead to the future (the Satellite, the Astronaut) and transported you to exotic locales (the Singapore, Tahiti, Kona Kai). Tiki heads, outrigger canoes, thatched roofs, sword-wielding pirates, flying-saucer-shaped lounges, plastic palm trees: in the Wildwoods, kitsch was king.

But Wildwood's motels started to show wear and tear in the 1980s, and the resort gradually lost its allure. It became a place to spend a rowdy night or weekend, not a peaceful week. Cape May, just under 10 miles to the south, with its splendid Victorians, and Ocean City -- "America's Greatest Family Resort" about 30 miles to the north -- became more attractive destinations. Wildwood hit rock bottom.

The real estate turnaround began about five years ago. A $70 million state-of-the-art convention center, largely funded through a state bond issue, opened on the oceanfront. It reaped immediate dividends. In 2001, the old convention center hosted 49 groups. From April 2002 through December 2005, the new convention center hosted 543 groups. Developers started to cast covetous eyes at the doo-wop motels and their choice lots. The Doo Wop Preservation League had been formed in 1997 to save the resort's 1950s commercial architecture, but by the new millennium the writing was on the crumbling motel walls.

Peter Genovese can be reached at (973) 392-1765 or pgenovese@starledger.com