County: Cape May
The National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the Doo Wop Motels of the Wildwoods as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places on May 10, 2006. For details visit http://nthp.org/11most/doo_wop.html
The two hundred motels found along a 40-block stretch in the Wildwoods constitute the largest collection of mid-century commercial resort architecture in the country. They were built between 1956 (soon after the Garden State Parkway opened, making driving to the shore easier) and 1970 in a style architectural historians call Populuxe, or “Doo Wop,” after the vocal harmony singing style popular in the mid-1950s. These Doo Wop motels are playful, two or three story, bar or l-shaped structures that usually feature elaborate balcony railings, outlandish signs, and colorful offices or lounges designed in unexpected shapes.
They open a window on American life in the 1950s and 60s, and on the special role played by the New Jersey Shore in the development of a culture of leisure and consumption after World War II. (The dance craze of the early 1960s, “ the twist,” was first introduced by Chubby Checker at a club in Wildwood.) The district remains an active and viable seashore resort that provides vacation lodgings to several hundred thousand visitors every summer. But already almost 100 of these irreplaceable cubic zirconiums of popular culture have been lost, as development pressure intensifies along the coast. The Doo Wop Preservation League, a group of business owners, local residents, and preservationists has raised awareness of the historical significance of this district, but only changes in zoning and local historic preservation ordinances can prevent the disappearance of this extraordinary group of motels.