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.
I visited the Hereford Lighthouse Museum recently (See my review on TripAdvisor) and toured the building and grounds. It was three floors of vintage furnishings, artifacts from the nautical era and the items from a working lighthouse, past and present.
There was an interesting display of ship wrecks and their history, the role of lighthouses in New Jersey and their past and an interesting storyboard of the lighthouse keepers and the families that lived there at all stages of the history of the lighthouse.
The Hereford Victorian Lighthouse Museum and Gardens is a working lighthouse as well as a museum. Visitors will learn about the historic structure’s history and get a glimpse into the life of a lighthouse keeper in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Hereford Lighthouse Museum).
Nestled into one of the most scenic settings in the State, the lighthouse overlooks the picturesque Hereford Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean. A park surrounding the building overflows with numerous flower gardens that have won many awards. Benches, a gazebo and a seawall observation deck allow visitors to linger and take in all the beauty (Hereford Lighthouse Museum).
There is a gift shop located on the first floor of the lighthouse.
History of the Lighthouse:
Historic and picturesque Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, a beacon of safety and assurance to the 19th century mariners, has become a cherished landmark for residents and visitors of this seashore resort community.
The Lighthouse is situated on the south side of the Hereford Inlet, which leads from the Atlantic Ocean to the famed Intra-Coastal Waterway linking Maine to Florida. First used by the 17th century whalers to haul in and butcher their catches, the Inlets use as a haven to mariners greatly increases as travel and shipping along the coast became more prevalent.
Strong currents and shifting sandbars near the entrance to the Inlet caused frequent groundings and shipwrecks. Because of this, in 1849, a Life Saving Station was constructed along the south bank of the Hereford Inlet. A second, larger station replaced this in 1871, the time of the creation of the United States Life Saving Service. As the use of the Inlet and coastal shipping continued to increase, so did the number of shipwrecks. It became obvious that a Lighthouse was needed to mark the mouth of the Inlet.
On June 10th, 1872, Congress enacted legislation to finance the purchase of land and the construction of a fourth order Lighthouse. The site chosen held a prominent position on the dune area overlooking the approach to the Inlet.
Construction bean on the uninhabited barrier island on November 8, 1873 and was completed on March 30, 1874. This wood frame residential style Lighthouse was designed by the Lighthouse Boards Chief Draftsman, Paul J. Pelz. His Victorian era design is referred to as Swiss Carpenter Gothic and also Stick Style.
Hereford is the only Lighthouse like it on the East Coast although it had five sister lights on the West. Pelz designed Point Fermin, East Brother, Mare Island and Point Hueneme in California and Point Adams in Washington State. All of these were almost identical to Hereford and were built about the same time. Only Point Fermin and East Brother still exist.
Paul Pelz would later garner world wide fame as the designer of the Library of Congress in Washington DC.
On May 11, 1874, a Notice to Mariners formally announced the start of operation of the Light. The fixed white light was located at latitude 39 degrees and longitude 74 degrees, 47 minutes. The tower height is 49 1/2 feet with the light elevation rising to 57 feet above sea level. The light is visible at a distance of 13 nautical miles.
John Marche was the first Lighthouse Keeper. He was in the post less than three months when he drowned when his boat capsized while returning to the mainland. He was replaced by a young man from Cape May Court House, Freeling Hysen Hewitt.
Freeling was a civil war veteran and a former merchant seaman. He would stay on as the keeper of the Light for the next 45 years. Freeling was considered a Pioneer of the island and among his many contributions, held the first formal religious services to occur in the Wildwood’s, in the Lighthouse parlor.
In 1888, a third larger Bibb#2 style Life Style Station was constructed three hundred feet Northwest of the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse Service and the Life Saving Service were both run by the Department of the Treasury but were separate organization. They were, however, both in the business of saving lives. The Lighthouse by warning and the Life Saving Service by rescue.
Hereford stood firm against the onslaught of the winds, rains and tides for 40 years at its original location. A severe storm in August of 1913 significantly damaged the foundation, requiring it to be moved westward 150 feet to where it sits today.
In 1915 the Coast Guard absorbed the duties of the U.S. Life Saving Service. A larger building was needed and in 1939 the modern Roosevelt Style Coast Guard Station was constructed. This Station also had a boathouse and a maintenance garage. These are the white buildings just north of the Lighthouse. 1939 was also the year that the Coast Guard took over control of the Lighthouse Service.
For the next 25 years the Hereford Lighthouse continue in operation. By the early 1960’s the Coast Guard began to automatize many of its many of its lighthouses. In 1964 this was the fate of Hereford when an automatic rotating modern optic was placed on an iron skeletal tower behind the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse was closed as was the Coast Guard Station next door. The entire property was transferred to the control of the New Jersey State Marine Police. The Police made use of the Coast Guard Buildings but the Lighthouse was boarded up and left to deteriorate for the next 18 years.
In 1982 through the long and painstaking efforts of Mayor Anthony Catanoso and his wife, Phyllis, a lease was signed Whereby the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection turns over the stewardship of the Lighthouse to the City of North Wildwood.
Restoration of the neglected building was immediately begun. After only ten months of intense work, on July 1, 1983, a portion of the restored building was opened to the public. Hundreds of public spirited citizens who helped raise funds for the restoration and contributed time, talent, energy and materials were on hand to celebrate the official reopening of the historic landmark for public use.
In 1986, the modern automated light was removed from the iron tower and placed in the Lighthouse lantern room making it a fully functional aid to navigation once again.
Efforts were then begun to also create a museum in the Lighthouse. The interior of the building was furnished with period antiques, educational displays and lighthouse memorabilia. The 4th order Fresnel Lens was also restored and placed on display on the 2nd floor of the Lighthouse.
A project to improve the sandy, barren grounds into a park was undertaken by Superintendent of Parks Steve Murray, who designed the Park along with its many garden areas.
Finally an authentic restoration of the entire Lighthouse was begun in 1998 and as with many old, historic structures is always a work in progress. Grants awarded by the New Jersey Historic Trust and the N.J. Department of Transportation have helped finance this work.
The Hereford Lighthouse is listed on both the National and State Registers of Historic Places. It is also part of the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail.
Keepers of The Hereford Inlet Lighthouse:
John Marche: 1874
John Nickerson: 1874
Freeling Hewitt: 1874-1919
William Hedges: 1919-1925
Laura Hedges: 1925-1926
Ferdinand Heizman: 1926-1939
Robert O’Neil: 1939-1942
George Baker: 1945-1955
Newman Bowden: 1955-1959
Bruce Bolon: 1960-1961
Disclaimer: This information was taken from the Hereford Lighthouse History website and I give the museum full credit for this information. Please call ahead before visiting in the off-season to see when the museum is open. It is a fascinating piece of New Jersey history.
I visited the Wildwood Historical Society George F. Boyer Museum (See review on TripAdvisor) when I was visiting Wildwood, NJ for a convention. It was a gloomy morning and the museum is open from 9:00am-2:00pm. It is the perfect place to visit on a rainy day at the beach.
The museum is a treasure trove of artifacts of the history of the three towns, North Wildwood, Wildwood and Wildwood Crest. The history covers the original inhabitants when the Native Americans lived and fished in the area, the rise as a resort community especially its heyday in the 1950’s and 60’s as a solid middle class resort town and a extensive history of the police, fire department and schools as well as the town and its council people.
The Wildwood Historical Society at 3907 Pacific Avenue
Each room of the museum is stacked with information, artifacts in case lines and the walls are lined with books, manuscripts and albums. The school history shows how integration worked even as far back as the turn of the last century and the development of the school system. There were books of graduation pictures, sporting events and band involvement.
The town has contributed so much to society
There is a very interesting display of fire fighting pictures especially of the amusement fires of the past and the rebuilding of the parks and piers. Take time to look at the artifacts in the hallways and pictures of the development of the parks. There are interesting pieces saved from the old parks.
There is even a section of restaurant menus and dishware from the well known establishments of the past and many pictures of the hotels and motels of the ages. It showed how it went from a Victorian resort to the modern times of the sixties theme motels with art deco architecture. There was a real change after the war to a more middle class customer who was depending on the automobile instead of the train system.
Popular businesses of the past
There is also a large section on the old amusement piers with pictures and artifacts from the old “Dracula’s Castle” park that burned down in the early 2000’s. There are signs, old tickets, small ride cars and prizes from the games from the piers. There is extensive detail to the display and you have to look at all the pictures of the amusements at various points of history.
The Amusement section
Plan about two hours as you will loose track of time when looking at all the pictures and displays. It is a little packed in here but there is so much to see and take time to watch their videos which are fascinating and informative on the history of the town of Wildwood.
Who was George F. Boyer:
George F. Boyer was born in Philadelphia in 1904. He came to Wildwood around 1932 and earned his living as a butcher, a merchant and a fireman. His real local fame, however, came from his role as the City of Wildwood’s first and only official historian. While serving with Wildwood fire department in 1959, he came across the stump of a tree (now known as the “W” tree) in the old city hall.
Running down the origin of the tree, sparked a tsunami of information as he talked to local residents and researched and collected old records. One thing led to another and in January of 1962, Boyer was appointed in the city’s newly established historical commission and became the first president of the Wildwood Historical Society.
Tireless in his efforts to collect and preserve local artifacts, Boyer spoke to school and church groups as well as civic organizations, urging them to “act now..to gather those irreplaceable links with the past and preserve them for generations to come.”
Founded by Boyer, Wildwood’s first historical museum opened in 1963, on the second floor of the Municipal Building in October 1976, the City of Wildwood honored Boyer for his “long and devoted service” by renaming the museum, the George F. Boyer Historical Museum.
He passed away a month later but his legacy lives on. The museum, now located at 3907 Pacific Avenue, continues to welcome visitors and locals alike, just as it did a half century ago under Boyer’s care.
The non-profit museum is made possible thanks to volunteers who dedicate time to our cause. We always need volunteers. To learn about volunteering, drop in during our open hours, call us or fill the contact form on the website.
Disclaimer: This information was taken directly from the History of the Wildwood Historical Museum website and I give them full credit for the information. Remember that the museum has limited hours and the resort is seasonal so please call the above number for the times and dates when the museum is open.
I visited the zoo in late September on a very gloomy rainy day, which I do not recommend for visitors. The animals like the humans took cover in their sheds and would not come out until the sun peaked out at the end of my visit. It still is an interesting zoo.
I have to admit that it is a little dated in that the philosophy of zoos continues to change and I think the zoo could use another updating to give the animals some more room and better stimulation in their respected areas. They just need more room to move around.
The entrance to the zoo and park
The gift shops and restaurants are typical to a zoo with overpriced children’s fare and gifts but it still is fun to walk around and watch the families have a good time. The gift shop does have some interesting items.
This pristine zoo and park features more than 550 inhabitants representing 250 species. Over 200 acres of beautiful, natural wooded areas and open space. Winding trails for hikers, bikers, joggers and wildlife watchers. Picnic areas and a huge playground make the park and zoo your perfect place for a family adventure (Cape May County Zoo and Park).
I finally got to revisit the zoo in 2022 and it was a much more pleasant experience to come to the zoo in the warm sunshine. It gives both me and the animals a different perspective. The place was also mobbed. It was Firemen’s Convention weekend, and the zoo was busy with families visiting the animals displays and taking pictures.
There were all sorts to tour guides working that day and docents explaining the animals and their habitats to the visitors. The sad part is that the animals look so bored. The giraffes I thought looked the most bored of all. There is not much land for them to room around and they get to see this area over and over. They have plenty of room to stretch out but not like in the wild.
The weather was nice that afternoon but a little hot and that made the animals so sleepy. Most of them were sleeping when I visited the larger animals in their pens. The heat must have gotten to them like many of the humans on the benches around the park.
The small displays of reptiles, birds and the smaller monkey family were nice as those displays challenge both the animals and people to really look at the life of these animals. One of the displays that was interesting was the Red Panda display. The docent was talking about like the in the wild for these animals and how they have to breed them captivity as there are not many of the left.
What I also like about the museum is that they have a very nice gift shop with all sorts of stuffed animals and tee-shirts and a very cheery staff that is willing to help you. They also have a very engaging carousel that takes the kids and their older kid parents who enjoy the music and the ride as much as their kids do.
It is a really well maintained zoo where I can tell that the staff really cares and take very good care of the residents here.
Park & Zoo History:
The Cape May County Park Central is located two miles north of the heart of Cape May Court House and occupies both the right and left side of Route 9. This site was originally a southern plantation of the Matthews family.
Back in 1763, on Daniel Hand’s plantation in Middletown (now called Cape May Court House), the State Assembly petitioned erecting a courthouse and jail. The petition was granted and the cost was limited to 300 pounds. In 1764, Daniel Hand gave one acre to the county for the purpose of building a courthouse.
During the dame time, just north of the courthouse’s land, was the Matthew’s plantation. The main plantation was located below the lake and tributary waters. Just north of the tributary and small lake, the Matthews had an orchard that was set aside as a family cemetery and for the slaves of the plantation. This site still remains and is part of the park today. For a short period of time during the 1700s-1800s, this site was also used to bury the poor.
In “The 1942 Park Land Acquisition,” approximately forty acres of the Matthews plantation donated to the count to be used as a park and meeting place. Most of the land was wooded but some was lakes and tributary waters and also the cemetery. At this time, very little was done to the land. Later, a building used as a laundry at Crest Haven was moved from that location and converted into a maintenance and supply building with a comfort station and a six grill brick barbecue pit was constructed. It was during this time that the 4-H department, after holding its fair in Cold Springs or the riding club grounds, decided to ask permission to hold the fair at the county park.
The county road department and employees of Crest Haven cleared a section of the grounds of trees and brush, then seeded the ground for grass. This made a clearing for tents and booths, plus a horse ring to be used by the 4-H fair. The telephone company donated light fixtures and wire. Several years later, Pepsi-Cola donated a booth to be sued for refreshments. This was the extent of the county park for many years.
The County of Cape May was approved by referendum in November 1962. The State of New Jersey enabled an act for a park commission of nine residents of the county, which was established on February 5, 1963. The commissioners would serve terms of 1 to 5 years without compensation. A director was appointed in January 1966 and a solicitor was appointed in 1967.
The primary function of the park commission is to plan, acquire, develop, maintain and administer park land and the recreational facilities, thereon, which provide values for the benefit of the entire county. The Park Commission assumed complete responsibility of the County Park Systems on January 1, 1967. The County Park Facilities in 1967 were the same as they had been since the stat of the park! Facilities included maintenance and supply building with a comfort station, a band stand, 3 shelters, 1 six grill barbecue pit and a drinking fountain.
The Cape May Zoo layout
Parks facility developments under the commission in the year 1967 were: 2 ten car parking lots, 6 group and organization barbecue pits, 40 picnic tables, 13 picnic grills and 1 playground. In 1968, they added 1 manual pump with shelter, 2 shelter, 2 ten care parking lots, another playground, 10 picnic tables, 6 picnic grills, 2 shuffleboard courts, 3 horse pitching courts, 3 swinging par benches and 8 regular park benches. Also, they added 1 volleyball court, 1 badminton court, 1 croquet court plus a camping area for Boy Scouts and Girl Scout and a foot bridge.
In 1969, a large amount of recreation facilities were added along with some park equipment to better serve the park users. On the recreation additions: 1 horseshoe pitching court, 3 quoit pitching courts, 1 deck tennis court, 1 aerial tennis court, 1 archery range, 1 boccie court, 1 tether ball court, 1 tether tennis court, 1 hopscotch court, a natural trail, 3 swinging park benches, 2 entrance gates, 4 foot bridges, 5 parking lots and 24 shelter picnic tables. All available to the public to use. Also, during this period, the residence of Charles W. Allen was purchases and made into an office fro the Cape May County Park Commission.
It has been close to seventy years since the parks beginning but the facility is still expanding and remains open to the public year round.
(History of Cape May Parks & Zoo; Parks System)
History of the Cape May County Zoo:
The Cape May County Zoo was created in 1978 within the Cape May County Park. The dedication was on May 6, 1978.
At the opening of the zoo, it consisted of an African lion, primates (spider monkeys), various barnyards animals and New Jersey wildlife animals. In the early 1980’s, the zoo gradually incorporated into its displays more exotic animals such as black bears, bison, antelope, primates and birds. All exhibits were constructed by park personnel.
The Giraffe Exhibition at the Zoo
Beginning in 1986, a zoo renaissance began. Donations were solicited and major reconstruction was underway. Some of the projects that were completed consisted of a complete perimeter fence, a new lion exhibit, a Bengal tiger exhibit, a cougar exhibit, a giraffe and camel exhibit, a reptile house and a construction of a medical building and diet preparation building.
In 1989, the zoo became AZA accredited and has remained an accredited zoo to this date.
Throughout the 1990’s, renovations and new exhibits continued with the construction of an African Savannah, which consisted of 57 acres that display giraffes, zebras, antelopes and ostriches. Reconstruction of a reptile house replaced the original reptile house that was destroyed by fire in 1998, also a “World of Birds” walk through Aviary was constructed.
From the zoo’s beginnings in 1978, the animal population was around 70 animals and today the zoo consists of 550 animals representing 250 species.
The Cape May County Zoo is home to 13 flamingos from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.
The zoo has recently improved traffic flow, parking and beautified the entrance to the zoo. The zoo is undergoing restroom renovations along with other amenities and necessities.
The Cape May Zoological Society added a train and added an animal themed carousel late in the summer of 2008.
The Cape May County Zoo celebrated its 40th birthday in 2018.
(History of the Cape May County Zoo)
Disclaimer: The information of the history of the Cape May County Park & Zoo was taken directly from the Park’s website and I give them full credit for the information. Please call ahead for weather and seasonal conditions to the park.
The day I visited it was raining and the animals just like the humans ran for cover.