Wildwoods Shore Resort Historic District

Wildwoods Shore Resort Historic District
The Caribbean Motel

The Wildwoods Shore Resort Historic District, or Doo Wop Motel District, is an area in The Wildwoods, New Jersey, that was home to over 200 motels built during the Doo-Wop era of the 1950s and 1960s. Officially recognized as a historic district by the State of New Jersey, it lies primarily in the municipality of Wildwood Crest, along a two mile stretch between Atlantic and Ocean avenues, and includes areas in Wildwood and North Wildwood.[1][2] The term doo-wop was coined by Cape May's Mid-Atlantic Center For The Arts in the early 1990s to describe the unique, space-age architectural style, which is also referred to as the Googie or populuxe style.[3]

The motels are very stylized, with Vegas-like neon signs, plastic palm trees, and fantastic architecture.[4] Construction of condominiums in the area has resulted in the demolition of many motels, but the Wildwood Doo Wop Preservation League has taken action to help save and restore the remaining historic buildings.[5] The Caribbean Motel in Wildwood Crest, and the Chateau Bleu Motel in North Wildwoods are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Plastic palm trees at the Caprice in Wildwood.
Doo-wop styled Wawa Food Market.

A 1950s Doo Wop museum has recently been built which contains property from demolished motels such as neon signs and furniture. Neo-Doo Wop buildings in the area feature a neon lit Wawa and a 1950s styled Acme Supermarket.



Motel construction in the Wildwoods began in the early 1950s. 1958 was a banner year for construction in Wildwood Crest, with the opening of the Satellite, Caribbean, El Reno (later the South Beach Motel), Sand Castle, Swan Motel and Tangiers motels. The Rio Motel, in Wildwood proper, also made its debut that spring.[6] New motels were built into the 1970s.

The Morey Brothers

Many of these Doo-Wop motels were designed by the brothers Lewis J. (Lou) and Wilburt C. (Will) Morey, born in West Wildwood in 1925 and 1927, respectively. In 1952, their company Morey Brothers Builders built Wildwood's first motel, the single-story Jay's Motel, at the corner of Hildreth and Atlantic Avenues. In 1955 they dissolved their formal business partnership and began to work more independently on motel designs.[7]


Doo Wop motels generally include U-shaped or L-shaped designs of two or three stories, asymmetric elements, swimming pools, adjacent parking or second story sun decks over parking spaces, plastic palm trees, angular walls or windows, flat overhanging roofs, prominent neon signs and railing, bright colors, and a contemporary or fantasy theme. References to popular culture or history were also common. The themes or sub-styles have been classified as: Modern/Blastoff, Vroom, Chinatown Revival, Tiki/Polynesian and Phony Colonee. The Blastoff style is reminiscent of the jet-age airports of the 1950s and 1960s. The Vroom style includes forward-thrusting building elements. Phony Colonee imitates the mass market Colonial Revival architecture of the 1950s and 1960s with Colonial American brick and lamppost elements[8]

Existing motels

Caribbean Motel

The Caribbean Motel's C-shaped swimming pool and plastic palm trees

The Caribbean Motel in Wildwood Crest, built in 1958 and now restored, was the first motel to use the full-size plastic palm trees that now adorn most of the Doo Wop motels in the area.[9] The motel was saved from demolition in 2004, when it was purchased by George Miller and Caroline Emigh, who succeeded in getting the property placed on the national historic registry. After reading the book, How to Doo Wop: the Wildwoods-by-the-Sea Handbook of Design Guidelines published by the Doo Wop Preservation League, they were so impressed by the suggested designs of Philadelphia architect Anthony Bracali that they hired him to oversee restoration of the motel. The interior design was done by Darleen Lev, a designer from New York City who was staying at the motel around the time that Miller and Emigh bought the property. An admirer of the Technicolor film process, Lev's designs are modeled on movie sets of the 1950s, as well as reflecting the motel's Caribbean motif. The Caribbean Motel was owned by the Rossi family for more than 30 years, until the early 1990s.[10]

Chateau Bleu Motel

Located in North Wildwood, Chateau Bleu Motel was built in 1962 and added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 25, 2004.[11][12] It features a heart shaped swimming pool.

Oceanview Motel

The Oceanview Motel in Wildwood Crest, which was built in 1964, is the largest motel ever built in The Wildwoods. In 2009, the owners had plans to demolish the motel to make way for condominiums, but it was rejected by the NJ DEP. The Oceanview was originally named the Admiral East Motel, when the Admiral West Motel (now the Admiral Resort Motel), shared the same owner.

Other motels

Notable existing motels also include: The Jolly Roger, The Pan American, The Crusader, The Waikiki, The Newport, The Seashell, The Admiral, The Adventurer, The Carriage Stop, The Granada, The Tangiers and the Yankee Clipper.

Demolished motels

From 2003 to 2006, over 50 motels had been demolished to make way for condominium development. In addition to the Ebb Tide, notable demolished motels in the area included the Satellite, Kona Kai, Waterways, Christine Motor Inn, Fantasy and Rio motels.[10]

Ebb Tide Motel

The Ebb Tide Motel in 1992

The Ebb Tide Motel, built in 1957 and demolished in 2003, is credited as the first Doo-Wop motel in Wildwood Crest.[3][13]

The Sea Rose Motel

The Sea Rose Motel, which was owned by Stanley and Catherine Stefankiewicz, was demolished in Fall 2004. The motel was owned for many years by the Stefankiewicz Family, who also owned the Poplar Cafe which is now known as "Goodnight Irenes".

Satellite Motel

Neon Garden at the Doo Wop Experience

Built in 1958, the Satellite Motel was one of the Wildwoods' signature "Doo Wop" landmarks until its demolition after the 2004 season, sparking a wave of redevelopment in the area that winter. It was located on the northeast corner of Atlantic & Aster in Wildwood Crest. The Satellite's rooftop neon sign was installed as part of the Neon Garden at the Doo Wop Experience museum in May 2008.[6] The motel was featured prominently in Thomas Hine's 1986 book, Populuxe.[14]

See also

The Catalina Motel


  1. ^ "The '50s and '60s Thrive In Retro Doo-Wop Motels". Washington Post. 24 June 2007. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/22/AR2007062200682.html. Retrieved 2008-12-10. 
  2. ^ Doo Wop Preservation League Web site
  3. ^ a b Wildwood Crest Historical Society Web site
  4. ^ Fancher, Emily. "Doo Wop" architecture lures tourists back to seaside town, Columbia News Service, June 10, 2002. Accessed June 17, 2007. "Just about everything in Wildwood, N.J. has been touched by 'Doo Wop'. The term describes the distinctively kitschy flair of the town's 200 motels, which were built in the 1950s and '60s. Reflecting the popular cultural themes of the era, the motels have Hawaiian and Polynesian designs, Space Age accents or rock 'n' roll details."
  5. ^ Neon and Angles: Motels of the Wildwoods, Historic Preservation Bulletin, Summer 2006, accessed May 17, 2011
  6. ^ a b "Satellite Motel". Wildwood Doo Wop.com. http://wildwooddoowop.com/Satellite+Motel/. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  7. ^ Hastings, Kirk. Doo Wop Motels: Architectural Treasures of The Wildwoods. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. pp. 11–12. ISBN 978-0-8117-3389-2. http://books.google.ca/books?id=KdFQ8_csr9QC&pg=PA34&lpg=PA34&dq=Darleen+Lev&source=bl&ots=rQ_jk-xwL-&sig=A41w38seExdXPNicRm_8JtWp_tU&hl=en&ei=PJ0_SpG4B5jCMqv6tLEO&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6. 
  8. ^ History of Doo Wop Motels, accessed May 17, 2011,
  9. ^ Spain, John (August 16, 2008). "Doo Wop delights of the Jersey shore". Irish Independent. http://www.independent.ie/travel/travel-destinations/doo-wop-delights-of-the-jersey-shore-1457070.html. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  10. ^ a b Eisenthal, Bram (October 21, 2006). "Doo Wop sings the blues". Montreal Gazette (Canwest). http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/travel/story.html?id=1e5311ae-e554-444f-a78b-21690a58d55a. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  11. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. http://nrhp.focus.nps.gov/natreg/docs/All_Data.html. 
  12. ^ "New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places - Cape May County". NJ DEP - Historic Preservation Office. January 10, 2010. p. 12. http://www.state.nj.us/dep/hpo/1identify/lists/cape_may.pdf. Retrieved April 6, 2010. 
  13. ^ "History of Wildwood Crest, New Jersey". Visit New Jersey Shore. http://www.visitnjshore.com/wildwood-crest/history.asp. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  14. ^ Hine, Thomas (1986). Populuxe: the Look and Life of Midcentury America. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press. ISBN 978-1585679102. 

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