A Cape May-based hotel company plans to restore a Doo Wop motel in Wildwood that many feared would be demolished.
“People have been worried about this motel for a long time,” said Taylor Henry, vice president of Preserving the Wildwoods.
Last month, Madison Resorts bought the Ocean View at 7201 Ocean Avenue in Wildwood Crest for $10 million. The 108-room beachfront hotel, now rebranded as Madison Resort Wildwood Crest, is scheduled for a Memorial Day opening. “We plan to keep the 62-plus-year-old building and restore it to its retro roots along with modern touches throughout the improvement,” said Dan Alicea, founder of Madison Resorts.
Since then, there has been a blitz of media coverage — and that plays very well into Henry’s favor. “Some people say Doo Wop is dead, but it’s very much alive,” Henry said. “It goes to show that there is still a market for preservation.”
Henry has been fighting to establish a historic preservation commission in the City of Wildwood. Not only are people interested in mid-century architecture, she argues, but there is money in the tourism industry to be made from it. Madison Resorts said it would sink $12 million into renovations. That price tag is on par with the investments happening up and down the New Jersey coastline.
Doo Wop architecture, which can range from futuristic to Polynesian-themed in design, was built in the 50s and 60s, a highflying chapter in local history when singers like Chubby Checkers and the Supremes performed at local venues. In the early 2000s, though, just when Doo Wop was getting a second wind from architecture lovers, there was a wave of demolitions that destroyed about 200 of these kitschy hotels. The loss of these landmarks led to the island being named one of the Most Endangered Places in the state by Preservation New Jersey, Jersey Digs reported.
This past summer, Henry said she met with Mayor Pete Byron to discuss the possibility of establishing a historic district that would include both Doo Wop and Victorian-era architecture. In fact, Henry’s book Wildwood Houses Through Time, which helped earn her an award last year from Preservation New Jersey, unearthed that in 1997, the late architect John Olivieri carried out a survey of the City of Wildwood that led to the formation of three historic districts that were never recognized. A similar district would just have to be defined and enforced by a historic preservation commission.
“The commissioners just have to name people to the HPC,” Henry said. “They want to look at other towns to see how they work there.”