Tuesday, May 7, 2024

The Wildwoods, NJ: The Doo Wop Capital of the USA


THE WILDWOODS – Travel back in time to the “Fabulous Fifties” in the Wildwoods, New Jersey – home to the country’s largest concentration of mid-century commercial architecture. 

Mid-century themed hotels/motels and businesses can be seen throughout the five-mile island. These buildings reflect their original predecessors from the 1950s and ‘60s in architecture, décor, design, and color. The hotels are reminiscent of a time when the mid-century mood of the nation was reflected in the architectural style called “googie,” “populux,” or “Doo Wop.” 

While traveling through the Wildwoods, one can’t help but notice plastic palm trees towering over kidney shaped pools, jutted roof angles, wrought iron balconies, and whimsical names and flamboyant themes, giving these similarly styled buildings individual character. Vivid imagery and vibrant colors of aqua, oranges, and pinks bombard the eye of the motoring public, as bright neon signs beckon to travelers, each blatantly attempting to outdo their neighbor. 

The motels and their ample parking reflect the burgeoning era of automotive travel of the 1950s and ‘60s with designs and architectural features that pay tribute to post-war pop culture, architecture that continues to memorialize the bold spirit of a newly restless society; and motel names that conjure up tropical paradises and other exotic destinations. 

A visit from Disney “imagineers” to the Wildwoods in the 1990’s for inspiration and ideas to complete their beach-and-boardwalk themed hotel brought the realization to local Wildwoods business owners that their ‘unique surroundings’ were a significant slice of Americana, and a key part of mid-century history. Out of this came the formation of the Doo Wop Preservation League in 1996. The League embarked on its mission to “foster awareness, appreciation, and education of the popular culture and imagery of the 1950s and ‘60s in an effort to promote preservation and unique renovations to the 220+ circa 1950s and ‘60s (Doo Wop) buildings in the Wildwoods.” 

Steve Izenour, world-renowned architect of Venturi, Scott Brown, and Associates, headed a study which verified that the Wildwoods have the largest collection of flamboyant circa 1950s and ‘60s mid-century architecture in the nation, now labeled “Doo Wop.” As Art Deco is to South Beach, Doo Wop Architecture is to the Wildwoods, giving it its unique and distinctive flair. 

More than 90 of what once were hundreds of historically significant motels still remain in the Wildwoods, while more recent business arrivals, such as the Starlux Motel, Sinclair Gas Station, TD Bank, McDonald’s, and Wawa have incorporated the Doo Wop theme into their architecture. These historic, privately owned family-oriented motels are more popular than ever. 

It’s exciting to see new construction adopting the Doo Wop style in their design. New properties incorporating Doo Wop style design include Madison Resorts, The Vibes Hotel, Waves Hotel, The Hotel Cabana, The Wild Resort, and Mahalo Resorts. 

The preservation movement was given a big boost in 2006 when the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the motels of the Wildwoods among the “Eleven Most Endangered Historic Sites in America.” 

The value and importance of preserving, and building upon, Wildwood’s Doo Wop architecture and lifestyle was recognized by the National Trust as an important American asset to be enjoyed by future generations. Both the Caribbean Motel in Wildwood Crest and the Chateau Bleu Motel in North Wildwood have earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places. Additionally, the Caribbean Motel has been recognized and listed on the Historic Hotels of America. 

Now billing the Wildwoods as the “Doo Wop Capital of the World,” the Doo Wop Preservation League continues to move forward on many fronts. The League has developed a design manual titled, ‘How to Doo Wop’ that is given to developers of new construction in the resort destination to encourage them to incorporate Doo Wop design elements into their new properties. 

The Wildwoods’ Doo Wop Experience Museum and Neon Sign Garden – voted among USA Today’s 10Best Reader’s Choice Awards Best Pop Culture Museums for the past two years, is brimming with cool artifacts, fun memories, fascinating history, and bright neon lights – offers visitors a chance to learn more about the “Doo-Wop” era of American culture. 

Located at 4500 Ocean Avenue in Wildwood and open seasonally from April to October – the museum is a celebration of architecture, design, music, pop culture and everything else that made the Wildwoods famous in its early heyday of the 1950s and 1960s. 

Outside the entrance to the museum, a Neon Garden exhibits restored neon signs that were rescued from old Wildwood landmarks whose fate was a date with the wrecking ball. The entire complex glows with as much exuberance and optimism as the property’s original Surfside Restaurant was intended to exude in its day... only this time, it’s signaling in a whole new era of appreciation for Doo Wop in the Wildwoods! 

The Doo Wop Experience Museum hosts a Doo Wop Bus Tour that runs two nights weekly throughout the summer. For a small fee, guests can hop on the bus and take a step back in time with a guided tour of the largest concentration of Doo Wop architecture in the country. Tour goers will learn about the shapes, images, and symbols of the mid-century architecture, along with the Space Age infatuation of the time during this award-winning tour. 

Also reflective of the Fabulous ‘50s-‘60s era and carrying the legacy onto the Boardwalk are the Wildwoods Icon Wall Murals. The Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority (GWTIDA) conceived and developed the Icon Wall Mural projects to beautify selected public spaces and heighten appreciation of how the Wildwoods evolved over decades into a living, breathing slice of Americana. 

The Icon Wall Murals feature key individuals or one-of-a-kind treasures that have significantly contributed to Wildwoods’ colorful history and unique culture, which has drawn people of all ages to this shore resort destination for generations. Bobby Rydell, Bill Haley and the Comets, and Chubby Checker are the subjects of the three iconic Icon Wall Murals located throughout the Wildwoods – a celebration of the Wildwoods’ rich musical history and its claim as the “Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll Music.” 

The Doo Wop movement has gained a great deal of momentum and a national reputation, while helping the Wildwoods expand its role as a must-see vacation destination along the East Coast and, in particular, the southern Jersey shore. The Doo Wop Preservation League and the Wildwoods are preserving and enhancing the best of their past with an eye to the future as they continue to build a year-round resort and recreation destination for the 21st century. 

For additional information about the Wildwoods, visit www.WildwoodsNJ.com or call 800-992-9732.

No comments:

Post a Comment