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Wildwood, New Jersey
—  City  —
View of Wildwood from Mariner's Landing Ferris wheel
Map of Wildwood in Cape May County. Inset: Location of Cape May County highlighted in the State of New Jersey.
Census Bureau map of Wildwood, New Jersey
Coordinates: 38°59′20″N 74°49′12″W / 38.98889°N 74.82°W / 38.98889; -74.82Coordinates: 38°59′20″N 74°49′12″W / 38.98889°N 74.82°W / 38.98889; -74.82
Country United States
State New Jersey
County Cape May
Incorporated May 1, 1895
Government [1]
 - Type Walsh Act (New Jersey)
 - Mayor Gary DeMarzo
 - Total 1.4 sq mi (3.6 km2)
 - Land 1.3 sq mi (3.3 km2)
 - Water 0.1 sq mi (0.2 km2)
Elevation [2] 0 ft (0 m)
Population (2007)[3]
 - Total 5,291
 Density 4,212.7/sq mi (1,626.5/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 08260
Area code(s) 609
FIPS code 34-81170[4][5]
GNIS feature ID 0885444[6]

Wildwood is a city in Cape May County, New Jersey, United States. It is part of the Ocean City Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of the United States 2000 Census, the city population was 5,436 during the off-season, but it can swell to 250,000 during the summer months.

Wildwood was originally incorporated as a borough by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on May 1, 1895, from portions of Middle Township, based on the results of a referendum held the previous day. On January 1, 1912, Wildwood was incorporated as a city, replacing both Wildwood borough and Holly Beach City.[7]

Wildwood is also used as a collective term referring to the four communities with Wildwood comprising part of the municipality name — specifically the Borough of Wildwood Crest, City of Wildwood, Borough of West Wildwood and the City of North Wildwood — together with Diamond Beach, a portion of Lower Township situated on the island. Collectively, these communities are known as "The Wildwoods."

The Wildwoods began developing as a resort in the last decade of the 19th century. A building boom began in the 1950s, due partially to the construction and completion of the Garden State Parkway.[8]

Wildwood beach north of Mariner's Landing amusement pier.

Wildwood is a resort city that is very popular with vacationers and tourists mostly from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware and even nearby parts of Canada during the summer months. Its most notable features are its beach and 1.8-mile boardwalk, home to the Morey's Piers amusement complex and Raging Waters and Ocean Oasis waterparks owned by Morey's Piers. The boardwalk features a trolley called the "Tramcar", which runs from end to end. In June 2006, its Doo-Wop-style motels were placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's annual Eleven Most Endangered List, described as "irreplaceable icons of popular culture."[9][10]

It was ranked the best beach in New Jersey in the 2008 Top 10 Beaches Contest sponsored by the New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium.[11]

Rock Around the Clock, often credited as the first rock and roll record, was first performed on Memorial Day weekend in 1954 at the HofBrau Hotel in Wildwood by Bill Haley & His Comets. The song's status as one of the first rock and roll hits has given rise to the city's claim as "the birthplace of rock and roll".[12][13]

Wildwood is home to an annual co-ed beach Ultimate Frisbee tournament drawing teams from all over the country.[14]



Wildwoods International Kite Festival on Memorial Day 2008.

Wildwood is located at 38°59′20″N 74°49′12″W / 38.988969°N 74.819863°W / 38.988969; -74.819863 (38.988969, -74.819863).[15] Some may say that Wildwood is located on a barrier island facing the Atlantic Ocean and comprises five separate municipalities but it really is NOT: Wildwood, North Wildwood, West Wildwood, Wildwood Crest and Diamond Beach, a place in Lower Township. Collectively, these communities form "The Wildwoods" resort.

Wildwood also borders Middle Township.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.4 square miles (3.6 km2), of which, 1.3 square miles (3.3 km2) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.2 km2) of it (6.52%) is water.

Wildwoods Shore Resort Historic District

Doo-wop styled Wawa

Wildwood houses over 200 motels, built during the Doo-Wop era of the 1950s and 1960s,[16] in an area recognized by the State of New Jersey, known as the Wildwoods Shore Resort Historic District.[17] 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.[18]

The motels are unique in appearance with Vegas-like neon signs and fantastic architecture.[19] New construction in the area however has seen the demise of many older motels being demolished so bigger condominiums may take up residence. The Wildwood Doo Wop Preservation League has taken action to help save and restore these historic buildings but construction of far larger hotels may overtake the area in the next few years. Thankfully due to the low demand for these otherwise expensive condominiums, many doo wop motels have been spared.

Wildwood's high-rise hotel district now has guidelines to encourage the use of "Doo Wop" design in new construction.[17] In addition, a plan to demolish the Ocean View Motel and was denied by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Through the Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA), the DEP denied an application to demolish the Ocean View Motel and construct a six-story, 69-unit condominium structure in its place.[10]

A 1950s Doo Wop museum has recently been built which contains property from demolished motels like neon signs and furniture. Neo-Doo Wop buildings in the area feature a neon lit Wawa, Subway Sandwich Shop, and a 1950s styled Acme Supermarket. On Memorial Day,2010,a one half scale of The Viet Nam Memorial Wall will be dedicated.The Wall will be erected in Columbus Park,on land donated by The Sons Of Italy.All funds to build this Memorial have come from donations including fund raisers,auctions etc.


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-storey Jay's Motel at the corner of Hildreth and Atlantic Avenues. However, in 1955 they dissolved their formal business partnership and began to work more independently on motel designs.[20]

1958 was a banner year for motel construction in Wildwood Crest, with the opening of the Satellite, Caribbean, El Reno (later the South Beach Motel), Sand Castle and Swan Moteland Tangiers motels. The Rio Motel, in Wildwood proper, also made its debut that spring.[21]

Notable demolished motels

From 2003 to 2006, over 50 motels had been demolished to make way for condominium development. In addition to the Ebbtide, notable demolished motels in the area included the Satellite, Kona Kai, Waterways, Fantasy and Rio motels.[9]

Ebb Tide Motel

The Ebb Tide Motel, built in 1957 and demolished in 2003, is credited as the first Doo-Wop motel in Wildwood Crest.[18][22]

Satellite Motel

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.[21] The motel was featured prominently in Thomas Hine's 1986 book, Populuxe.[23]

Notable existing motels

Notable existing Motels are: The Pan American, The Crusader, The Waikiki, The Newport, The Seashell, The Admiral, The Adventurer, The Oceanview Motel, The Tangiers, and the Yankee Clipper.

Caribbean Motel

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.[24] 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 over see 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.[9]

New Jersey State Firemen's Convention

Since the early 1970s the Wildwoods have been home to the annual New Jersey State Fireman's Convention. It moved to the Wildwoods from Atlantic City in the early 1970s. The convention had been held in Atlantic City for many years prior to the building of the big casinos of today. When the City began to change the council refused to allow the visiting firefighters to parade their apparatus through the streets. This was one of the reasons for the move along with the rising crime rate. The Wildwoods welcomed the convention with open arms and allowed for the parade which every year runs the length of New Jersey Ave. from Wildwood Crest through Wildwood to North Wildwood.


Historical populations
Census Pop.  %±
1930 5,330
1940 5,150 −3.4%
1950 5,475 6.3%
1960 4,690 −14.3%
1970 4,110 −12.4%
1980 4,913 19.5%
1990 4,484 −8.7%
2000 5,436 21.2%
Est. 2007 5,291 [3] −2.7%
Population 1930 - 1990[25]

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 5,436 people, 2,333 households, and 1,273 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,212.6 people per square mile (1,627.0/km2). There were 6,488 housing units at an average density of 5,027.9/sq mi (1,941.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 70.55% White, 16.65% African American, 0.39% Native American, 0.48% Asian, 0.15% Pacific Islander, 8.85% from other races, and 2.94% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 17.62% of the population. Downtown Wildwood has a large Mexican community.

There were 2,333 households out of which 25.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.2% were married couples living together, 17.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 45.4% were non-families. 38.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 3.06.

In the city the population was spread out with 25.7% under the age of 18, 10.5% from 18 to 24, 27.7% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 14.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 95.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $23,981, and the median income for a family was $28,288. Males had a median income of $30,787 versus $23,320 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,682. About 20.2% of families and 26.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 39.7% of those under age 18 and 21.9% of those age 65 or over.


Local government

Wildwood is governed by a three-member commission under the Walsh Act Commissioner form of municipal government.[1]

Wildwood's commission consists of Mayor Gary S. DeMarzo , Commissioner (Deputy Mayor) Alexander "Al" Brannen and Commissioner Edward "Chip" Harshaw Jr.[26]

Federal, state and county representation

Wildwood City is in the Second Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 1st Legislative District.[27]

New Jersey's Second Congressional District, covering all of Atlantic County, Cape May County, Cumberland County and Salem County and portions of Burlington County, Camden County and Gloucester County, is represented by Frank LoBiondo (R, Ventnor City). New Jersey is represented in the Senate by Frank Lautenberg (D, Cliffside Park) and Bob Menendez (D, Hoboken).

For the 2010-2011 Legislative Session, the 1st legislative district of the New Jersey Legislature is represented in the State Senate by Jeff Van Drew (D, Dennis Township) and in the Assembly by Nelson Albano (D, Vineland) and Matthew W. Milam (D, Vineland).[28] The Governor of New Jersey is Chris Christie (R, Mendham).[29] The Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey is Kim Guadagno (R, Monmouth Beach).[30]

Cape May County is governed by a Board of Chosen Freeholders consisting of five members, elected at large in partisan elections to serve staggered three-year terms in office. Cape May County's Freeholders are Freeholder Director Daniel Beyel (Upper Township, term expires December 31, 2008), Freeholder Vice-Director Ralph E. Sheets, Jr. (2008), Ralph E. Bakley, Sr. (2010), Leonard C. Desiderio (Sea Isle City, 2009) and Gerald M. Thornton (2010).[31]

History of Recalls in Wildwood

Since the City of Wildwood has been incorporated on January 1, 1912, there have been three recall elections and all were successful.

The first was in 1938 when the States first female Mayor Doris W. Bradway and Commissioner Frederick W. Murray were voted out of office.

The second successful recall was in December 1984 when Mayor Earl B. Ostrander was recalled.

The third successful recall was in December 2009 when Mayor Ernest Troiano Jr. and Commissioner William N. Davenport were recalled.


The Wildwood Public School District serves students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Schools in the district (with 2005-06 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics[32]) are Glenwood Elementary School (K-5; 394 students), Wildwood Middle School (6-8; 173 students) and Wildwood High School (9-12; 284 students).

Students from West Wildwood attend the district's schools as part of a sending/receiving relationship for grades K-12. For grades 9-12, students from North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest attend Wildwood High School as part of sending/receiving relationships.[33]

There are also two Catholic schools on the island: St. Ann's Elementary in Wildwood, and Wildwood Catholic High School in North Wildwood. North Wildwood also has the public school Margaret Mace Elementary.


Portions of Wildwood are part of an Urban Enterprise Zone in The Wildwoods. In addition to other benefits to encourage employment within the Zone, shoppers can take advantage of a reduced 3½% sales tax rate (versus the 7% rate charged statewide).[34]

Religious Points of interest

  • Boardwalk Chapel is a summertime Christian Gospel outreach on the boardwalk, sandwiched between a pizzeria and a gift shop. Its wide entrance offers thousands of board walkers the opportunity to move freely in and out of any one of its 77 consecutive evening services held during June, July, and August.


The Wildwoods Convention Center
  • In 2008-2009 a section of the boardwalk was rebuilt using ipe tropical hardwood, even though the town pledged to use domestic black locust.[35]
  • A stage is set off to the side of the boardwalk near Mariner's Landing Pier where several performances are held throughout the summer. An example is Miss Cindy's School of dance, Broad Street Entertainers of Perkasie and Quakertown Pennsylvania.

Popular culture

Wildwood boardwalk at night
  • Wildwood is home to the beverage known as the "Lime Rickey".
  • WWE Raw came to the Wildwood Convention Center late summer of 2005. WWE SmackDown came to the Wildwood Convention Center late summer of 2006. WWE Raw broke an attendance record at the Wildwood convention center on August 10, 2007.[36]
  • The song Wildwood Days by Bobby Rydell is about the shore town.
  • "Wildwood Blues" by psychedelic rock band Nazz is based on the Wildwood shore.
  • Eddie Florano wrote a song called Wildwood.
  • The video for Jason Aldean's song Laughed Until We Cried is set in Wildwood.[citation needed]
  • In the 1987 movie Wall Street, when Charlie Sheen's character tells Daryl Hannah's character she could have bought a beach house for four hundred thousand dollars (the value of a painting they were looking at) she sardonically replies, "Sure you could, in Wildwood New Jersey".[37]
  • A CKY song entitled "The Boardwalk Body" was written about a body found under the boardwalk on one of lead singer Deron Miller's childhood trips to Wildwood.
  • In the 2008 movie Wipe Out, the beach scenes were shot in Wildwood.

Noted residents

Notable current and former residents of Wildwood include:


  1. ^ a b 2005 New Jersey Legislative District Data Book, Rutgers University Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, April 2005, p. 8.
  2. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographical Names Information System: City of Wildwood, Geographic Names Information System, accessed November 10, 2007.
  3. ^ a b Census data for Wildwood city, United States Census Bureau, accessed October 4, 2008.
  4. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  5. ^ A Cure for the Common Codes: New Jersey, Missouri Census Data Center. Accessed July 14, 2008.
  6. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  7. ^ "The Story of New Jersey's Civil Boundaries: 1606-1968", John P. Snyder, Bureau of Geology and Topography; Trenton, New Jersey; 1969. p. 116.
  8. ^ "Neon and Angles: Motels of the Wildwoods". Historic Preservation Bulletin. Historic Preservation Office. Summer 2006. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  9. ^ a b c Eisenthal, Bram (October 21, 2006). "Doo Wop sings the blues". Montreal Gazette (Canwest). Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  10. ^ a b "11 Most Endangered: Doo Wop Motels". National Trust for Historic Preservation. 2006. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  11. ^ Urgo, Jacqueline L. (May 23, 2008). "Triumph for South Jersey". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  12. ^ The Birthplace of Rock and Roll: Wildwood, New Jersey, Stakes Its Claim, accessed November 16, 2006.
  13. ^ Strauss, Robert. "Cradle of Rock? Two Towns Stake Their Claims", The New York Times, July 10, 2007. Accessed July 10, 2007. "It was Saturday night during Memorial Day weekend in 1954, and more than 500 people were jammed into the HofBrau Hotel here to hear his band, the Comets, kick off the summer. “We had just recorded this song in April,” he said, “and that night we introduced it to the crowd. I guess that was the first real night of rock ’n’ roll.” The song was “Rock Around the Clock,” by Bill Haley and His Comets, considered by many to be the first rock-’n’-roll hit, and the first song with the word “rock” in the title to hit the top of the Billboard charts."
  14. ^
  15. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2005-05-03. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  16. ^ "The '50s and '60s Thrive In Retro Doo-Wop Motels". Washington Post. 24 June 2007. Retrieved 2008-12-10. 
  17. ^ a b Doo Wop Preservation League Web site
  18. ^ a b Wildwood Crest Historical Society Web site
  19. ^ 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."
  20. ^ Hastings, Kirk. Doo Wop Motels: Architectural Treasures of The Wildwoods. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. pp. 11–12. ISBN 978-0-8117-3389-2. 
  21. ^ a b "Satellite Motel". Wildwood Doo Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  22. ^ "History of Wildwood Crest, New Jersey". Visit New Jersey Shore. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  23. ^ Hine, Thomas (1986). Populuxe: the Look and Life of Midcentury America. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press. ISBN 978-1585679102. 
  24. ^ Spain, John (August 16, 2008). "Doo Wop delights of the Jersey shore". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  25. ^ New Jersey Resident Population by Municipality: 1930 - 1990, Workforce New Jersey Public Information Network. Accessed March 1, 2007.
  26. ^ Key Employee Directory, City of Wildwood. Accessed May 1, 2008.
  27. ^ 2008 New Jersey Citizen's Guide to Government, New Jersey League of Women Voters, p. 66. Accessed September 30, 2009.
  28. ^ "Legislative Roster: 2010-2011 Session". New Jersey Legislature. Retrieved 2010-02-08. 
  29. ^ "About the Governor". New Jersey. Retrieved 2010-01-21. 
  30. ^ "About the Lieutenant Governor". New Jersey. Retrieved 2010-01-21. 
  31. ^ Freeholders Home Page, Cape May County, New Jersey. Accessed January 30, 2008.
  32. ^ Data for the Wildwood Public School District, National Center for Education Statistics. Accessed April 30, 2008.
  33. ^ Wildwood City School District 2007 Report card Narrative, New Jersey Department of Education. Accessed April 30, 2008. "Students from North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest join students from Wildwood and West Wildwood at Wildwood High School."
  34. ^ Geographic & Urban Redevelopment Tax Credit Programs: Urban Enterprise Zone Employee Tax Credit, State of New Jersey. Accessed July 28, 2008.
  35. ^ "Wildwood Opts for Ipe Wood Over Black Locust in Boardwalk Construction". Cape May County Herald. March 17, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-17. 
  36. ^ Schedule of Events 2007, accessed March 26, 2007.
  37. ^ "Wall Street (1987) screenplay, Accessed August 18, 2008.
  38. ^ Jacob Thompson Baker biography, United States Congress. Accessed August 4, 2007.
  39. ^ Narducci, Marc. "SOUTH JERSEY FOOTBALL STANDOUTS SCORE IN THE NFL THIS YEAR, NINE FORMER HIGH SCHOOL STARS ARE SUITED UP IN THE PROS, AMONG THEM IRVING FRYAR AND RON DAYNE.", The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 13, 2000. Accessed June 14, 2007. "Wildwood's Randy Beverly had two interceptions for the New York Jets in Super Bowl III."
  40. ^ Remy Hamilton profile, Arena Football League. Accessed June 14, 2007.
  41. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang. "JOY HANCOCK DIES; LAST WAVES CHIEF", The New York Times, August 25, 1986. Accessed June 5, 2007. "Born in Wildwood, N.J., Miss Bright briefly belonged to the Naval Reserve in New Jersey and then stayed on as a civilian employee at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station."

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