Wildwood: The East Coast Capital of Googie... uh, I mean Doo-Wop - New Jersey - USA

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Wildwood: The East Coast Capital of Googie... uh, I mean Doo-Wop - New Jersey - USA

Message  Predicta le Lun 15 Juin - 20:14

http://modernistarchitecture.blogspot.fr/2015/06/wildwood-east-coast-capital-of-googie.html

Wildwood, on Cape May in New Jersey, is the undisputed capital of Googie modernist architecture on the East Coast. In fact, there's probably a higher concentration of architecture of this type here than anywhere else in the world. But it's also disappearing at an alarming rate. 







The Wildwoods, as the combined communities are known (it's frankly impossible to tell where one city starts and the other ends), has always been a vacation resort. It got its start at the end of the 19th century, and gained a lot of momentum in the early 50s through the 1960s.





While I don't know the architects for most of these, quite a few were designed and built by the Morey family. The Moreys have been a prominent family in Wildwood since at least the 50s. They were inspired to create googie modern motels in Wildwood while visiting Miami Beach and seeing hotels like the Fontainebleau, and other designs by Morris Lapidus. Many of the hotels are still owned by the Morey family, who also run local attractions like Morey's Piers and water parks.






The boardwalk and piers, with their souvenir shops, arcade games, ferris wheel, and such continue to offer the classic vintage Jersey Shore experience. Back in the day, there was even a sky ride and a monorail! 





The buildings are mostly modest, low-slung "motor inns" or "motels". They were clearly built to cater to America's burgeoning middle class at the time. A pool, a mini-golf, and a sun deck are the standard amenities.





Many haven't really been touched since they were built in the 1950s and 60s. That, alone, makes them extraordinary. But what makes them even more special is their unique architecture and signage.


Dernière édition par Predicta le Mer 13 Avr - 7:43, édité 1 fois

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Re: Wildwood: The East Coast Capital of Googie... uh, I mean Doo-Wop - New Jersey - USA

Message  Predicta le Lun 15 Juin - 20:20

The Beach Colony. How long before it gets swallowed up by big, boxy, boring condos like the ones behind it? Photo ©Darren Bradley
Detail of the Beach Colony. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Many vacation resort destinations of the period (Palm Springs, CA, Niagara Falls, NY and Ontario, or Lake George, NY) built little motels with themes of the day to appeal to the popular imagination. For example, Hawaiiana / Tiki is a popular one: 


The Waikiki. Photo ©Darren Bradley
The Ala Kai. Photo ©Darren Bradley
The Ala Moana. Photo ©Darren Bradley
The Tangiers evokes more of a Tiki vibe than a North African one to me. Photo ©Darren Bradley

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Re: Wildwood: The East Coast Capital of Googie... uh, I mean Doo-Wop - New Jersey - USA

Message  Predicta le Lun 15 Juin - 20:24

... or space-age futurism...


The Astronaut. Photo ©Darren Bradley
The Starlux. Photo ©Darren Bradley
An apocalyptic view of  the Starlux hotel before the storm. Photo ©Darren Bradley
The Starlux before the storm. Photo ©Darren Bradley

...or even a combination of both... 


The Royal Hawaiian combines both Hawaiian/Tiki themes and Space-Age themes, with a flying saucer on top similar to some of the towers in Honolulu. The person at the front desk told me it was a private apartment. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Predating Las Vegas by a few decades, at least, there are motels that evoke Camelot...


Am I in the minority in saying I'd rather stay here than at Excalibur in Vegas? Photo ©Darren Bradley

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Re: Wildwood: The East Coast Capital of Googie... uh, I mean Doo-Wop - New Jersey - USA

Message  Predicta le Lun 15 Juin - 20:27

... or the Southeast Asia... 


The Singapore used to be far more interesting. Recent renovations have rendered it a shadow of its former pagoda self. 
Photo ©Darren Bradley
or even Vikings... 


The Viking. Photo ©Darren Bradley
I really liked the naiveté of the artwork and some of the designs, as well. For example, the mural on the side of the Waikiki Hotel was meant to depict that famous view of the beach and Diamond Head beyond. But the end result is something a bit... uh... different. 


Nailed it. Actual view of Waikiki on the left, from a vintage postcard and, on the right,
an artist's rendition of the same view on the Waikiki Hotel. Photo ©Darren Bradley (for the right). 

And the Jolly Roger statue on top of this one is just funny... I love it.  


The Jolly Roger. Photo ©Darren Bradley


One thing they all seem to have in common is a modernist, Googie design aesthetic, regardless of the chosen theme. 


The Ala Moana. Photo ©Darren Bradley

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Re: Wildwood: The East Coast Capital of Googie... uh, I mean Doo-Wop - New Jersey - USA

Message  Predicta le Lun 15 Juin - 20:30

The Oceanview. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Like most resort towns, Wildwood is practically a ghost town in the off season (I visited during a cold-rainy day, as you can tell from my photos). It was completely empty. The population balloons from about 5,000 permanent residents in the winter to over 250,000 during the summer. That's nuts. I've never been there in the summer, but all of the signs regulating traffic, parking and crowds hint at absolute chaos during the peak season.

The VIP is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It's been in the same family for generations, since the beginning. The owner invited me to come back for a party to celebrate. Photo ©Darren Bradley

That said, the locals all seem to take the crowds in stride. Nearly everyone I met in town was extremely friendly and I can't say enough about their hospitality (The one exception to this rule - who was working front desk of a hotel I photographed - will remain nameless but you know who you are!). Despite most places being closed and the owners and employees busy trying to get ready for the coming tourist season, many people who were there were willing to set up chairs, open parasols, move trash cans, and otherwise go out of their way to help out and let me take photos. It's just too bad the sun didn't make an appearance... I shot all of these from under a towel, and was wiping drops off the lens between every frame. 


Despite some rather unfortunate additions (that canopy and the stuff I cropped out of the right side), the Pan American with its rotating globe sign still evokes a fascination with the jet age. Photo ©Darren Bradley


Vintage postcard view of how this place used to look. Check out that crescent-shaped entry, and all that glass! 
© Photograph copyright Aladdin Color. No reproduction allowed. www.retrostockpix.com.     

Rear view of the Pan American today. Those elevated sun decks are a common feature of most of the hotels in the area. 
Photo ©Darren Bradley
You can tell that covered trellis thing on the roof probably isn't original. The Pan American. Photo ©Darren Bradley

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Re: Wildwood: The East Coast Capital of Googie... uh, I mean Doo-Wop - New Jersey - USA

Message  Predicta le Lun 15 Juin - 20:33

Wildwood's residents don't call the prevailing style of architecture "Googie" or even "Mid-century Modernist". They call it Doo-Wop. I personally HATE that name. It sounds cheesy and reminds me of all of the cliches you find in badly recreated "50s-themed diners" you find in suburban malls. I'd never heard of doo-wop architecture. I read that the term was first coined by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts in the 90s, and is used specifically (exclusively?) for Wildwood. 


The Sand Castle. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Still, I can understand why they would invent that name. It's evocative of early Rock n' Roll, and something that most people can easily understand and relate to (probably more than the term "Googie", which is named for the first diner of that style, "Googie's", in Los Angeles by John Lautner). And Wildwood has a deep historical connection to Rock 'n Roll, as its the location where Bill Haley & the Comets performed the first Rock 'n Roll song, Rock Around the Clock, for the very first time back in 1954. 


Bill Haley & the Comets

But personally, I think that calling the architecture "Doo-Wop" cheapens it. And a lot of the locals do refer to it as "kitschy", almost apologetically, which is a shame. Be proud, Wildwoodians! Love your heritage! So much of this architecture - often by unknown architects - deserves a lot of credit and respect. In fact, several of the motels here are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 


The Caribbean, with its spiral ramp and elevated Cabana, is one of the more celebrated classics left in Wildwood. It's on the National Register of Historic Places, and has been meticulously restored. This is right before I got drenched with freezing rain. 
Photo ©Darren Bradley
The Caribbean's trademark ramp to the elevated Cabana. Photo ©Darren Bradley


The Cabana at the Caribbean. Photo ©Darren Bradley
The crescent-shaped pool at the Caribbean. This was also the first hotel to feature plastic palm trees, back in 1958. 
Photo ©Darren Bradley

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Re: Wildwood: The East Coast Capital of Googie... uh, I mean Doo-Wop - New Jersey - USA

Message  Predicta le Lun 15 Juin - 20:36

The Chateau Bleu is also on the National Register of Historic Places. That terrible Home Depot vinyl pool fencing is everywhere, on most of these hotels, unfortunately. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Of course, there's a bad news part of this story (and you knew this was coming). Since the early 2000s, Wildwood has undergone a bit of an economic renaissance, of sorts, which has led to a lot of new development. But that development has meant bland, boxy, boring condos. And it has come at the expense of many of the Googie modern hotels in the community, which are being destroyed. It was worse during the boom of 2005-2007 but I don't believe the problem has gone away. And it'll likely happen again at the next boom. 

Example of the cheap, boxy new homes being built today on lots where once stood beautiful modernist architecture motels and other businesses. Photo ©Darren Bradley


In fact, more than two-thirds of Wildwood's modernist architecture has already been destroyed. I had compiled a list a few years ago of places that I wanted to see if/when I ever had the opportunity to visit. But unfortunately, I was shocked to discover that at least half of the hotels and buildings on my list had already been demolished, in just the few years since I'd started to compile that list in 2003. Here are just a few examples: 


The Ebb Tide (1957 - 2003). With its leaning walls to reflect the ebb and flow of the tide, the Ebb Tide was the first googie-style motel to be built in Wildwood. DEMOLISHED. © Photograph copyright Aladdin Color. No reproduction allowed. www.retrostockpix.com.     

Casa Bahama (1959 - 2004). DEMOLISHED. Vintage Image. 
© Photograph copyright Aladdin Color. No reproduction allowed. www.retrostockpix.com.     


The Hialeah (? - 2005). DEMOLISHED. © Photograph copyright Aladdin Color. No reproduction allowed. www.retrostockpix.com.     


The Tahiti (1960 - 2004). DEMOLISHED. Vintage Image. 
© Photograph copyright Aladdin Color. No reproduction allowed. www.retrostockpix.com.     

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Re: Wildwood: The East Coast Capital of Googie... uh, I mean Doo-Wop - New Jersey - USA

Message  Predicta le Lun 15 Juin - 20:40

The Satellite (1958 - 2004). Vintage Image. DEMOLISHED. 
© Photograph copyright Aladdin Color. No reproduction allowed. www.retrostockpix.com.     

I think a lot of the residents mean well, but they simply don't understand how valuable this heritage is. They seem to be trying really hard to strip these places of their unique character. 

And there are few laws in Wildwood to regulate this development. Palm Beach, Florida and Palm Springs, California are prime examples of how communities have been able to leverage historic preservation into a major economic engine for their community. They are major tourist destinations because of it. That architectural heritage is the most important asset Wildwood has to differentiate itself. Without it, Wildwood will soon become just a bland seaside community like thousands of others. 

The owner of the Ala Moana bought the entire block where his main hotel sits, and added these homes to the back side of the lot. I met the owner - one of the nicest people I met in Wildwood. He was very proud of his main hotel, the Ala Moana... but he was also proud of these recent homes he had built. These are nice enough, but not special in the way his main hotel is.
It's a shame they couldn't keep the same modernist aesthetic as the older architecture.
Photo ©Darren Bradley

Here's the main building of the Ala Moana, which shows the contrast between the original construction and the newer, more conventional buildings on the same property (previous photo). This place won Hotel of the Year in Wildwood last year, 
and I can see why. This building is glorious. 
Photo ©Darren Bradley

The former Eden Roc is still there, but is now called the Dolphin. Why change the name and get rid of that amazing sign and legendary name? I have no idea... Why replace it with an unmemorable, bland name like Dolphin and garish 1990s-style art? Even more of a mystery. I hope it was worth it for them and that they are at least getting more customers now, or something. Photo ©Darren Bradley
Here's a vintage brochure from the Eden Roc, showing its original paint scheme and signage. © Photograph copyright Aladdin Color. No reproduction allowed. www.retrostockpix.com.     

The once-proud and unapologetically Asian-inspired Singapore hotel has now been neutered and stripped of its pagoda-like roof overhands and Asian red and white paint-scheme. It's now painted a uniformly bland hospital green color.
See photo at top of post for how it looks today. © Photograph copyright Aladdin Color. No reproduction allowed. www.retrostockpix.com.     

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Re: Wildwood: The East Coast Capital of Googie... uh, I mean Doo-Wop - New Jersey - USA

Message  Predicta le Lun 15 Juin - 20:41

There's now a Doo-Wop Preservation League, which was created in the face of all this wanton destruction, in an attempt to increase awareness and appreciation for this architecture. There's now even a museum, which is housed in a saved but relocated former diner, and they have a collection of signs from demolished motels that they'd managed to save. Alas, like everything else, the center was closed when I visited so I didn't get a chance to talk to anyone or see inside the museum. 


The Doo-wop Museum and Visitors' Center, with a collection of signs from hotels that have already been demolished. the museum itself is housed in the former Surfside Diner. This building was relocated for the museum. Photo ©Darren Bradley
But despite the demolitions, there are still more existing googie modern motels and other buildings on the island than I could count, and I look forward to visiting again someday soon, hopefully when it's sunny and not raining... 


The Bel Air & the Caribbean. Photo ©Darren Bradley
The Bel-Air. Photo ©Darren Bradley
For more information about Wildwood's unique architectural heritage, see the Doo-Wop Preservation League. 


Stokes Architecture also created a great primer on Wildwood architecture and suggested design guidelines (which, unfortunately, have largely been ignored by developers). It's a bit dated because it provides suggestions for some buildings that have since disappeared. But it's still a great reference. You can find it here. 

For more information on Googie architecture, I discuss the topic a bit in previous blog posts here and here. 

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The Caribbean Motel & Bel-Air Motel

Message  Predicta le Mer 13 Avr - 7:42

The Caribbean Motel & Bel-Air Motel

5510 Ocean Ave, Wildwood Crest, New Jersey 08260




Bel-Air Motel
















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Re: Wildwood: The East Coast Capital of Googie... uh, I mean Doo-Wop - New Jersey - USA

Message  Predicta le Mer 13 Avr - 7:42

Caribbean Motel - Wilwood , New Jersey










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Re: Wildwood: The East Coast Capital of Googie... uh, I mean Doo-Wop - New Jersey - USA

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