- Historic Sites
A New Jersey seaside resort struggles to save the architecture—and the memories—of the Eisenhower years
April/May 2007 | Volume 58, Issue 2
More than 100 motels have been demolished here, their corpses replaced with cookie-cutter condos that can be rented for a month or more. They feature full kitchens, geared for families who plan to eat at home, and I saw Escalades, Range Rovers, and the like parked in the driveways. The condos are not meant for the working class, and just as motels edged out hotels, now condos are replacing motels. The boardwalk games, the typical recreation for a night out on the town, mostly cost five dollars a pop (Fascination, of course, being the exception), and big-name stars never play Wildwood any more. “We came up with rock ’n’ roll,” said Bob Bright, Jr., of the Wildwood Historical Society, and “we went down with rock ’n’ roll.” And even though American parents, often wealthier than their own parents, encourage their children to take internships and aim for career-track jobs rather than work a stint on the boardwalk, the foreign students are a reminder of the larger battle about immigrant workers and their role in American society.
In the end, no matter how Wildwood changes, the lure of the boardwalk, with its bright lights and deep-fried food, holds strong. One night, out for a walk, I saw a little boy about seven years old, pushing his toddler sister in her stroller. Zigzagging all over the boardwalk, he lifted the stroller off its front wheels and tipped his sister backward. His passenger was waving her arms and legs in a perfect imitation of the grownups on the roller coasters behind her, her hands above her head and her little feet flexed and outstretched. Her giggles and shrieks were a reminder that nothing is better than a warm night at the beach, with an exciting ride to experience and some cotton candy in your sights.