Any hope to truly preserve the classic Doo Wop feel of the Wildwoods, which is much of what first attracted entertainers and working families to the island decades ago, is likely long gone, preservation experts fear.

As recently as the beginning of this century, getting the Wildwoods' massive collection of 1950s and 1960s motels listed on the New Jersey and national registers of historic places "seemed to be in the bag."

But that effort quickly dissipated, and today, there's no promise for the creation of a historic district as one way to maintain what was once a collection of more than 300 mid-century motels along a six-mile stretch in Cape May County, according to Stephanie Hoagland.

Hoagland, who works with Jablonski Building Conservation, recently conducted a presentation over Zoom about the rise and fall of Doo Wop in the Wildwoods, as part of a program presented by Preservation New Jersey.

Caribbean motel in Wildwood. (Google Maps)
Caribbean motel in Wildwood. (Google Maps)
'Today, about 100 Doo Wop motels remain in business and have been refurbished and upgraded'

The term "Doo Wop" refers to the unique space-age architectural styles that made motels in North Wildwood, Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest stand out from the rest.

Between 2001 and 2006, almost 100 motels were demolished, Hoagland noted — motel owners couldn't refuse the offers being made by developers, many of whom were interested in making room for condos. The bones of Doo Wop may remain in the Wildwoods, but the skin has been removed, she said.

"Today, about 100 Doo Wop motels remain in business and have been refurbished and upgraded," Hoagland said.

Below is a sample of photos shared by Hoagland, detailing the earlier motels that began a rush of motel construction in the Wildwoods.

Early Wildwood motels

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at

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