I visited the Doo Wop Preservation League Museum when I was visiting Wildwood, NJ for the Firemen’s Convention. They were sponsoring the DJ on the stage behind the museum. It was easy to miss the museum with all the fire equipment around it and hundreds of firemen milling around.
Once inside, this small museum is a treasure trove of history of the resort motels that once lined the beaches of Wildwood, Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood. As time rolls on, many of these old motels, hotels and restaurants are giving way to condos, newer homes and new chain hotels changing the landscape of Wildwood. It is bringing it into modern times with newer looks.
The restaurant section of the Doo Wop Museum
When many of these motels are torn down, the establishments donate old furnishes, decorative objects and signs from the outside to the museum. The outside of the museum is decorated with signs of businesses that are now closed, there neon lights still shining but for a different purpose. These somewhat gaudy and over-grandised signs and looks were of a time of great optimism and travel. Since the middle and working class families did not have the money to travel to these exotic places, something similar was created for them in the Wildwoods bringing that look to the Jersey shore.
The restaurant section of the Doo Wop Museum
When talking to the curators , a couple that ran the museum said that the museum represents the change in décor used after WWII when they used the neon lights and steel from the war into the signs and lighting of the new resorts. It was a unique style of the late 1950’s and 60’s, when these materials were plentiful and motel owners were getting creative to bring in the rising middle class tourists that could not afford the trips to Hawaii and Miami Beach. These owners brought these themes to Wildwood with a creative twist. Check out the signing and furniture that lines the walls and dining set ups of the museum.
The museum is small and takes only about an hour to walk through. Each of the vignettes are designed as its own room with furnishings from old hotels and motels like tables, chairs, lamps and ashtrays in one corner, in another are stools, a jukebox and menus from a 50’s or 60’s style restaurant or items used at the time like bicycles or scooters.
The interesting preservation by the museum shows all over
The History of the Doo Wop Museum:
The Doo Wop Preservation League was founded in 1997 as a 501C3 to preserve the 1950’s and 60’s architectural styles of the Wildwood’s. Doo Wop style is a combination of Space Age dreams of the late 60’s and the exotic seaside tropics of recently opened South Seas Islands like Hawaii which became out 50th State in 1959. The Polynesian look was very ‘in’ at this time as most people could not afford to go but wanted to replicated for them.
The museum is housed in the 1960’s ‘Space Age’ restaurant “The Surfside” that was saved from the wrecking ball and moved to this spot right across the Convention Center and the Boardwalk. On Tuesdays and Thursdays when in season (i.e. Warmer Months), there are bus tours offered by the museum. The museum’s goal is catalogue the remaining businesses in town that still keep their look of the era (Museum website and The Wildwooder Newspaper).
Don’t miss the museum tours:
The best part is that the museum is free (donation suggested) and you can take your time for a self-guided tour of the museum.
Open: July and August Sunday-Saturday 10:00am-4:00pm/June & September Saturday & Sunday 12:00pm-4:00pm. Special Appointments can be made at other times of the year and the museum is open for special events held by the town and for the holidays.
Fee: Adults: $5.00 donation/Children under 12 years old Free
This seasonal museum is a ‘must see’ on Long Beach Island when visiting the town of Beach Haven. It is the perfect rainy day place to visit. The museum covers all aspects of the history of the island from its time when the Native Americans lived and fished here to the coming of the English. The museum shows in pictures and artifacts how the island was developed into a Summer resort retreat catering to middle class and wealthy tourist mostly from Philadelphia.
The Long Beach Island
The artifacts range from arrowheads and fishing equipment that the Native Americans left behind to a recent discovery of an old wooden boat created by the Lenni-Lenape tribe. The museum describes in detail life in the Victorian Age on the island with a series of pictures of the old resort hotels, most of which have burned down over the last 100 years, to artifacts that from this time including china, silver and menus from the hotels. There is also a creation of a Victorian room, a telephone operator office, rail office and a children’s toy display from that time.
The Front Room of the museum
This is an interesting display of the fishing industry on the island as well. There is all sorts of equipment that has been used over the last 100 years and the progress that has been made in the industry. There are exhibits on the whaling industry and its lasting affects on the island. There is also the story of the shifting of the tides and the disappearance of Tucker’s Island, a small island to the south of Long Beach Island that has since disappeared underwater due to the shift in the currents.
Each area of the museum contains interesting pieces of the island’s past and you should take the time to look at each section carefully. For such a small museum, it is packed with interesting facts and a fascinating story of the development of the New Jersey shoreline and the role it is playing in our ever changing life down the shore.
The back room displays of the museum
I stopped in for a recent special event that the Society was having to celebrate Halloween. The museum was having an ‘Ghost Fest-Open House” event for families and what a nice program they had for the kids and their family members that was socially distanced and safe.
There were pony rides, a maze to explore, marshmallow toasting by the fire to make smores, corn hole tossing, games of chance, a gift store for the kids and even a costume parade with the “Jersey Devil” which the kids seemed to get a kick out of when he came out.
The Jersey Devil lead the Halloween Parade
There were also self-guided tours of the museum which were a lot of fun as well as people were coming in and out looking at the holiday displays. It was a nice that the museum had a safe program for the patrons and members of the community.
The Museum was decked out for Halloween
In November of 2021, the museum had the nicest little Christmas festival. They had tables around the front hall of the museum called “The Elves Workshop” with stations that the kids could create arts and crafts for the Christmas holidays with cookie decorating, gingerbread house creating and making a jewel covered Christmas tree among other things. The museum was decorated for the upcoming holidays.
Santa is on his way to Long Beach Island is the front display of the museum
From 4:00pm to 6:00pm that evening, the participants went the park across the street to roast marshmallows and Smores over open fire pits while Christmas music played in the background and the gazebo was lit with Christmas lights as it got dark. It was quite a site.
The Museum really puts you in the Christmas spirit with events like these.
It really put you in the holiday spirit.
The Long Beach Island Historical Association collects, preserves and interprets the history of Long Beach Island through its educational programs, guest lecturers, walking tours, special events and an ever growing research center. The museum, situated at the center of Beach Haven’s Historic District, showcases 24 exhibits which include over 450 photographs and hundreds of artifacts for the sole purpose of encouraging the public to not only understand out island’s rich history but also to appreciate the people and events who helped in shaping its character (Museum Website).
History of the Museum and Town:
Before the colonial period the native Lenape tribes in the local area travelled in wooden dugout canoes to the island seasonally, to escape the heat, fish, gather clams to eat and shells for jewelry and trade. The early local colonists used the barrier islands much the same, seasonally to fish, whale (semi-permanent campus were established as early as 1690), gather salt hay, bayberry & beach plum and make sea salt.
As the settlers became more established, ports such as Clamtown (later Tuckerton) were established about 1700 on the mainland and roads improved. Cattle were grazed on Tucker’s Island by 1735. Permanent seasonal accommodations were built on the island for men coming to fish and hunt; such as the Philadelphia Company House (started as Horners in 1815, became Bonds from 1851-1909) near Tuckers Island just south of what is now called Holgate and the Mansions of Health in Surf City (1822-1850). There was a “boarding hotel” at Barnegat inlet from about 1820 and the first manned lighthouse was built at the inlet in 1834. A manned lighthouse was built on Tucker’s Island in 1848, where a community, later called Sea Haven was springing up.
The island’s “modern” history begins as the railroads reached south to Toms River and Barnegat; with the Tuckerton Railroad reaching Manahawkin and Tucketon by 1872. The railroad allowed visitors (and goods needed for comfortable living) to reach the shore quickly and also allowed for shore products to be shipped to Philadelphia & New York all year. The first year-round life-saving stations were were established in 1871. Land Development companies laid out Beach Haven in 1872 and Barnegat City (now Barnegat Light) in 1878, with sailboats and steam launches begin used to transfer visitors and goods from mainland railroad to the island. The Parry House, Engleside and later the Baldwin hotels. were built in Beach Haven and the Oceanic & Sunset in Barnegat City.
The Tuckerton & Long Beach Land & Improvement Co. principals were also major stockholders in the Baldwin Locomotive Co., the Tuckerton Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad. After they and their wealthy Philadelphia friends built houses in Beach Haven, the PRR was convinced to build a railroad trestle to LBI which opened in 1886 (abandoned 1935) leading to an extended property boom from the 1880’s-1920’s, especially in Beach Haven. Other smaller communities such as: Spray Beach (1889), Beach Haven Terrace, Brant Beach, Surf City (Inc. in 1899) and Harvey Cedars (Inc. in 1894) were established along the railroad.
Although most of the houses built were still seasonal, the presence of the railroad (and later the 1914 automobile bridge) made permanent business & year round living on the island feasible. Census records show that the island’s permanent population was 33 people in 1880, increasing to 522 in 1910 and 1827 in 1930.
After the Depression of the 1930’s and the Second World War, development resumed in the “Cape Cod” period 1846-1962; assisted by the completion of the Garden State Parkway to Manahawkin in 1954 and the opening of the four-lane causeway (to replace the old two-lane wooden bridge) in 1956. The 1962 storm and early 70’s economic problems temporarily delayed development. By the late 70’s, the island was essentially “built out”. Most recent building boom of the period 1980-2007 consists of teardown/replacement of existing homes.
Because of early erosion in Barnegat City, Surf City and elsewhere and the extensive tear-downs of the 1980’s and 1990’s, the majority of the surviving 19th century and early 20th century structures on LBI are in Beach Haven. The Beach Haven Historic District (running from 5th to Chatsworth, east of Bay Avenue/LBI Boulevard) was created in 1983 in response to the increasing loss of historic structures and conflicting building styles. As of 2012, it is the only historic district on LBI.
(From the Museum website: I give full credit to the Long Beach Island Historical Association Museum for this information)
What an interesting visit I had to the Cape May Historical Society’s Memucan Hughes Colonial House. This tiny museum is only open between June 15th-September 15th and after that only for special events. It is an fascinating little home that was built somewhere between 1730 to 1760. The original house no one is too sure if it had been built for the original owner or had been there and added on to as the records for the age of the house are unclear.
The home consists of two small downstairs room filled with period furniture and decorations and there is an upstairs with three small rooms that is closed to the public. The front room Mr. Hughes used as a tavern that he kept open until almost the 1800’s. He had catered to a growing whaling industry that needed some form of entertainment in this quiet town that was isolated from the rest of the state.
The front of the house is decorated as tavern to greet guests. There were tables filled with games and items that would have catered to the trade but still you knew you were in someone’s home. There are vintage card tables, board games and some household items.
The Cape May Historical Society
The back room is a closed off kitchen with a fireplace and spinning wheels and wash tubs, all the things to run a household. There were also children’s toys, kitchen and garden gadgets and family items to personalize the house. The Hughes family lived in the house until the Victorian age and then they built the house on the front of the property and moved the smaller house to the back of the grounds. The house had been moved three times since its original location on the main road a few blocks away.
The tour itself is only about a half hour long and the guides do a nice job explaining the history of the house. On the gloomy day I visited, the museum was very busy with people visiting the house and with its connection to colonial history and the popularity of the musical, “Hamilton”, it is making it a popular destination when visiting Cape May.
History of the Museum:
The mission of the Greater Cape May Historical Society is to collect, preserve, document, interpret and share the history of Greater Cape May and to enhance the appreciation of that history through the Society’s historic site, The Colonial House Museum, collections, research, exhibitions, educational programs and publications.
All are invited to visit the Colonial House Museum, a 1700’s era house. The house was moved to its present site next to City Hall when the Hughes Family built the grand Victorian that is now a Bed & Breakfast. Come visit us and see the House as it was with a Tavern Room and a Common Room when it was owned by Memucan Hughes. On display are period furnishings and other period household items.
The Society presents an annual exhibit dedicated to an unique chapter of Greater Cape May History along with special events for Halloween and Christmas.
Disclaimer: This information was taken directly from the Greater Cape May Historical Society’s pamphlet and I give them full credit for it. Please call the above number for more information and selected openings.
Sunset Beach in Cape May, NJ is one of the most beautiful beaches in American and is ranked 24# on TripAdvisor as one of the breathtaking beaches to visit. The beach site in Lower Township in Cape May and is at the very end of Sunset Boulevard which is a direct run from downtown Cape May.
One both sides of the parking lot, there are gift shops and a small café grill. These have limited hours after Labor Day Weekend. The grill is closed after the holiday weekend but sometimes stays open depending on the weather after the Labor Day weekend.
The beach is amazing as you can see the pleasure boats in the distance coming in and out of the small harbor just north of the beach. Looking out into Delaware Bay is quite spectacular with its moving waves and the way it glitters in the sun. In the warmer months, it is just nice to walk along the shore and watch the birds. In the winter months, the breezes get to be too much and a short visit is nicer.
Any time of the year though, make sure to be here for sunset and that is when the beach works it beautiful natural magic. At sunset you will see an array of colors with the sun setting in the distance. The last time I visited the beach in September, it was a combination of oranges, purples and blues as the sun set. The lower the sun the more brilliant the colors. They become more complex as the sun gets lower.
The best part of the view is that it is played out on the large stage. It covers the whole sky and it looks like the sun is going to sleep in the bay. You can almost touch it. Each night when the sun sets its a different color in the rainbow in the sky. The backdrop of the small stone formations and the SS Atlantus Concrete Ship make it more dramatic.
SS Atlantus Concrete Ship
Whenever you are in Cape May, try to finish your dinner early and then watch Mother Nature work her magic by the shoreline. It is an experience that should not be missed. Please try to arrive about an hour before sunset to get a space in the parking lot.
It is the most spectacular site at anytime of the year.
Sunset Beach area:
The SS Atlantus Concrete Ship:
The SS Atlantus Concrete Ship was built and launched in 1918, just after World War I had ended as a trans-Atlantic steamer to return troops from Europe to home. After being decommissioned in 1926, she was purchased along with two other ships to create a ferry dock for ferries from Cape May to Delaware. The plans were later shelved as she ran aground in a storm along Sunset Beach and could not be freed.
Flag Lowering Ceremony:
The Evening Flag Ceremony held every night at sunset between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The lowering of the American flag at sunset is a 40 year old tradition. All of the flags that are flown at the flag ceremony are veteran’s caskets flags that families being with them from their loved one’s funeral. The ceremony includes the Pledge of Allegiance, the ‘Stat-Spangled Banner’ and a recording of Kate Smith’s ‘God Bless America”.
Cape May Diamonds:
While taking a stroll along the beach, look out for Cape May ‘Diamonds’. These are small pieces of quartz crystal found in the sand that are washed from the bay. You can find Cape May diamond jewelry in the gift stores at the beach.
(NJ Leisure Guide)
Disclaimer: This information was taken from the NJ Leisure Guide and I give their writer full credit for it. The beach is open all year around but it is the best in the warmer months. Don’t miss this spectacular view at sunset.