Wildwood, N.J.

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Wildwood, New Jersey
City of Wildwood

View of Wildwood from Morey’s PiersGiant Wheel on Mariner’s Landing Pier

Map of Wildwood in Cape May County. Inset: Location of Cape May County highlighted in the State of New Jersey.

Census Bureau map of Wildwood, New Jersey

Coordinates: 38.988914°N 74.819824°WCoordinates: 38.988914°N 74.819824°W[1][2]
Country United States
State New Jersey
County Cape May
Incorporated May 1, 1895 (as borough)
January 1, 1912 (as city)
 • Type Walsh Act
 • Mayor Ernest “Ernie” Troiano (term ends November 17, 2015)[3]
 • Clerk Christopher H. Wood[4]
 • Total 1.394 sq mi (3.613 km2)
 • Land 1.304 sq mi (3.379 km2)
 • Water 0.090 sq mi (0.234 km2)  6.49%
Area rank 461st of 566 in state
12th of 16 in county[2]
Elevation[6] 0 ft (0 m)
Population (2010 Census)[7][8][9]
 • Total 5,325
 • Estimate (2012[10]) 5,251
 • Rank 367th of 566 in state
6th of 16 in county[11]
 • Density 4,082.0/sq mi (1,576.1/km2)
 • Density rank 151st of 566 in state
1st of 16 in county[11]
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) Eastern (EDT) (UTC-4)
ZIP code 08260[12][13]
Area code(s) 609 exchanges: 522, 523, 729, 846[14]
FIPS code 3400981170[15][2][16]
GNIS feature ID 0885444[17][2]
Website www.wildwoodnj.org

Wildwood is a city in Cape May County, New Jersey, United States. It is part of the Ocean City Metropolitan Statistical Area and is a popular summer resort destination. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city’s year-round population was 5,325,[7][8][9] reflecting a decline of 111 (-2.0%) from the 5,436 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 952 (+21.2%) from the 4,484 counted in the 1990 Census.[18] With visitors, the population can swell to 250,000 during the summer months.[19]

The Wildwoods is used as a collective term for the four communities that have “Wildwood” as part of the municipality name — the Borough of Wildwood Crest, City of Wildwood, Borough of West Wildwood and the City of North Wildwood — together with Diamond Beach, a portion of Lower Township situated on the island.[20]


Wildwood was originally incorporated as a borough by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on May 1, 1895, from portions of Middle Township, based on the results of a referendum held the previous day. On January 1, 1912, Wildwood was incorporated as a city, replacing both Wildwood borough and Holly Beach City.[21]

The Wildwoods began developing as a resort in the last decade of the 19th century. A building boom began in the 1950s, due partially to the construction and completion of the Garden State Parkway in 1955.[22][23]

Rock Around the Clock“, often credited as the first rock and roll record, was first performed on Memorial Day weekend in 1954 at the HofBrau Hotel in Wildwood by Bill Haley & His Comets. The song’s status as one of the first rock and roll hits has given rise to the city’s claim as “the birthplace of rock and roll”.[24][25]

Wildwoods Shore Resort Historic District

Wildwood is home to over 200 motels, built during the Doo-Wop era of the 1950s and 1960s,[26] in an area recognized by the state of New Jersey, known as the Wildwoods Shore Resort Historic District.[27] The term “doo-wop” was coined by Cape May‘s Mid-Atlantic Center For The Arts in the early 1990s to describe the unique, space-age architectural style, which is also referred to as the Googie or populuxe style.[28]

The motels are unique in appearance, with Vegas-like neon signs and fantastic architecture.[29] New construction in the area has seen the demolition of several motels to make room for larger condominiums. The Wildwood Doo Wop Preservation League has taken action to help save and restore these historic buildings. The Caribbean Motel in Wildwood Crest, and the Chateau Bleu Motel in North Wildwoods are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A 1950s Doo Wop museum has recently been built which contains property from demolished motels such as neon signs and furniture.[30] Neo-Doo Wop buildings in the area feature a neon lit Wawa and a 1950s styled Acme Supermarket.


Wildwood beach north of Mariner’s Landing amusement pier.

Wildwood is a resort city that is very popular with vacationers and tourists mostly from New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and even nearby parts of Canada during the summer months. Its most notable features are its beach and 1.8 miles (2.9 km) boardwalk, home to the Morey’s Piers amusement complex and Raging Waters and Ocean Oasis waterparks owned by Morey’s Piers. The boardwalk features a trolley called the “Tramcar“, which runs from end to end. In June 2006, its Doo-Wop-style motels were placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation‘s annual Eleven Most Endangered List,[31] described as “irreplaceable icons of popular culture.”[32][33] In June, recently-graduated high school seniors come to Wildwood for Senior Week.[34]

Wildwood was ranked the best beach in New Jersey in the 2008 Top 10 Beaches Contest sponsored by the New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium.[35]

Wildwood is home to the New Jersey Firefighter’s Convention, held annually every September since the 1970s. Known for its parade featuring fire company apparatus from across the state, it moved from Atlantic City due in part to rising crime and the disallowing of the parade on city streets. Wildwood is also home to an annual co-ed beach Ultimate Frisbee tournament drawing teams from all over the country that attracted 430 teams and over 5,000 players to its 19th annual event in 2011.[36]

French Canadian tourists visit Wildwood during the summer.[37]


An iconic sign lights up a liquor store in Wildwood, which has more than 60 active liquor licenses.

Portions of Wildwood are part of an Urban Enterprise Zone in The Wildwoods.[38] In addition to other benefits to encourage employment within the Zone, shoppers can take advantage of a reduced 3½% sales tax rate at eligible merchants (versus the 7% rate charged statewide) at eligible merchants.[39]

Wildwood has an unusually large number of liquor licenses for its population. State law normally provides for one consumption license (i.e., for a bar, restaurant) for every 3,000 residents, and one distribution license (i.e., for a liquor store) for every 7500 residents.[40] Because of a state law allowing a municipality to grandfathered in liquor licenses that existed before 1948,[41] Wildwood has a permanent population of 5,300, but has 61 active liquor licenses.[42]


The Wildwood Boardwalk features several amusement parks and shops, most notably three piers collectively known as Morey’s Piers. Due to the far distance of the ocean from the boardwalk, the beach is home to many sporting events, concerts, and monster truck rallies in view of the boardwalk. A stage is set off to the side of the boardwalk near Mariner’s Landing Pier where several performances are held throughout the summer.

In 2008-09, a section of the boardwalk was rebuilt using ipe tropical hardwood, even though the town had made a commitment to use domestic black locust as a more environmentally friendly option. The black locust wood shipped by the supplier was deemed unacceptable and the commissioners decided to use ipe wood to ensure that the project could be completed in time for the upcoming season.[43]

Boardwalk Chapel is a summertime Christian Gospel outreach on the boardwalk, sandwiched between a pizzeria and a gift shop. Its wide entrance offers thousands of board walkers the opportunity to move freely in and out of any one of its 77 consecutive evening services held during June, July and August.[44]


Wildwoods roller coaster

Wildwood city is located at 38°59′20″N 74°49′11″W (38.988914,-74.819824). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city had a total area of 1.394 square miles (3.613 km2), of which, 1.304 square miles (3.379 km2) of it was land and 0.090 square miles (0.234 km2) of it (6.49%) was water.[1][2]

The city is located on a barrier island facing the Atlantic Ocean. On the same island are the towns of North Wildwood, Wildwood Crest and Diamond Beach, a place in Lower Township. Collectively with the town of West Wildwood (located on a separate, adjacent island), these communities form “The Wildwoods” resort. Wildwood also borders Middle Township.


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1900 150
1910 898 498.7%
1920 2,790 210.7%
1930 5,330 91.0%
1940 5,150 −3.4%
1950 5,475 6.3%
1960 4,690 −14.3%
1970 4,110 −12.4%
1980 4,913 19.5%
1990 4,484 −8.7%
2000 5,436 21.2%
2010 5,325 −2.0%
Est. 2012 5,251 [10] −1.4%
Population sources:
1900-2000[45] 1900-1920[46]
1900-1910[47] 1910-1930[48]
1930-1990[49] 2000[50][51] 2010[7][8][9]

Census 2010

At the 2010 United States Census, there were 5,325 people, 2,251 households, and 1,146 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,082.0 inhabitants per square mile (1,576.1 /km2). There were 6,843 housing units at an average density of 5,245.7 per square mile (2,025.4 /km2). The racial makeup of the city was 68.04% (3,623) White, 11.15% (594) Black or African American, 0.73% (39) Native American, 0.79% (42) Asian, 0.13% (7) Pacific Islander, 16.24% (865) from other races, and 2.91% (155) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 31.21% (1,662) of the population.[7]

There were 2,251 households of which 22.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 29.5% were married couples living together, 15.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 49.1% were non-families. 40.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 3.03.[7]

In the city, 20.5% of the population were under the age of 18, 10.4% from 18 to 24, 28.2% from 25 to 44, 27.3% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38.0 years. For every 100 females there were 105.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 104.8 males.[7]

The Census Bureau’s 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $32,783 (with a margin of error of +/- $9,471) and the median family income was $45,125 (+/- $24,251). Males had a median income of $24,416 (+/- $1,945) versus $26,043 (+/- $7,007) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $25,118 (+/- $3,877). About 16.2% of families and 23.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.4% of those under age 18 and 8.7% of those age 65 or over.[52]

Census 2000

As of the 2000 United States Census[15] there were 5,436 people, 2,333 households, and 1,273 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,212.6 people per square mile (1,627.0/km2). There were 6,488 housing units at an average density of 5,027.9 per square mile (1,941.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 70.55% White, 16.65% African American, 0.39% Native American, 0.48% Asian, 0.15% Pacific Islander, 8.85% from other races, and 2.94% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 17.62% of the population.[50][51]

Among Wildwood’s Hispanic community in 2000, 69.7% were from Puerto Rico, while an additional 17.0% were from Mexico.[53]

There were 2,333 households out of which 25.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.2% were married couples living together, 17.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 45.4% were non-families. 38.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 3.06.[50][51]

In the city the population was spread out with 25.7% under the age of 18, 10.5% from 18 to 24, 27.7% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 14.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 95.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.2 males.[50][51]

The median income for a household in the city was $23,981, and the median income for a family was $28,288. Males had a median income of $30,787 versus $23,320 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,682. About 20.2% of families and 26.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 39.7% of those under age 18 and 21.9% of those age 65 or over.[50][51]


Wildwoods International Kite Festival on Memorial Day 2008.

Local government

Wildwood is governed by a three-member commission under the Walsh Act Commissioner form of municipal government. All three commissioners are elected at-large on a nonpartisan basis to serve concurrent four-year terms of office, with the vote taking place as part of the November general election. At a reorganization conducted after each election, the commission selects one of its members to serve as mayor and gives each commissioner an assigned department to oversee and operate.[5] As part of the May 2009 election, voters approved a ballot question that shifted elections from May to November. The first election under the new cycle is November 2013, with prospective savings of $25,000 each election cited as the primary justification for the change.[54]

As of 2013, members of Wildwood’s commission are Mayor Ernie Troiano, Jr. (Commissioner of Public Works, Parks and Public Property), Pete Byron (Commissioner of Revenue and Finance) and Anthony Leonetti (Commissioner of Public Affairs and Public Safety), all serving terms of office ending November 17, 2015.[55][56]

History of recalls in Wildwood

Since the City of Wildwood has been incorporated on January 1, 1912, there have been three recall elections and all were successful. The first was in 1938 when the State’s first female Mayor Doris W. Bradway and Commissioner Frederick W. Murray were voted out of office.[57] The second successful recall was in December 1984 when Mayor Earl B. Ostrander was recalled.[58] The third successful recall was in December 2009 when Mayor Ernest Troiano, Jr. and Commissioner William N. Davenport were recalled.[59]

Federal, state and county representation

Wildwood City is located in the 2nd Congressional District[60] and is part of New Jersey’s 1st state legislative district.[8][61][62]

New Jersey’s Second Congressional District is represented by Frank LoBiondo (R, Ventnor City).[63] New Jersey is represented in the United States Senate by Cory Booker (D, Newark; took office on October 31, 2013, after winning a special election to fill the seat of Frank Lautenberg)[64][65] and Bob Menendez (D, North Bergen).[66][67]

The 1st Legislative District of the New Jersey Legislature is represented in the State Senate by Jeff Van Drew (D, Dennis Township) and in the General Assembly by Nelson Albano (D, Vineland) and Bob Andrzejczak (D, Middle Township).[68] Matthew W. Milam (D, Vineland) resigned from his seat in the Assembly as of February 28, 2013,[69] and was replaced by Andrzejczak who was sworn into office in March after being selected by Democratic committee members from Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties.[70] The Governor of New Jersey is Chris Christie (R, Mendham Township).[71] The Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey is Kim Guadagno (R, Monmouth Beach).[72]

Cape May County is governed by a Board of Chosen Freeholders consisting of five members, elected at-large in partisan elections to three-year terms of office on a staggered basis, with one or two seats coming up for election each year; At an annual reorganization held each January, the freeholders select one member to serve as Director and another to serve as Vice-Director.[73] As of 2013, Cape May County’s Freeholders are Freeholder Director Gerald M. Thornton (Middle Township, term ends December 31, 2013),[74] Freeholder Vice-Director Leonard C. Desiderio (Sea Isle City, 2015),[75] Kristine Gabor (Upper Township, 2014)[76] and Will Morey (Wildwood Crest, 2014),[77] along with the vacant seat of M. Susan Sheppard expiring in 2013 that was vacated after Sheppard was sworn in as County Surrogate.[73][78] The county’s constitutional officers are Sheriff Gary Schafer (Ocean City, 2014),[79][80] Surrogate M. Susan Sheppard (Ocean City, 2015)[81] and County Clerk Rita Fulginiti (Ocean City, 2013).[82]


As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 2,791 registered voters in Wildwood City, of which 611 (21.9%) were registered as Democrats, 732 (26.2%) were registered as Republicans and 1,448 (51.9%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were no voters registered to other parties.[83]

In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 54.4% of the vote here (964 cast), ahead of Republican John McCain, who received 44.2% (783 votes), with 1,772 ballots cast among the city’s 2,583 registered voters, for a turnout of 68.6%.[84] In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 52.6% of the vote here (949 ballots cast), outpolling Republican George W. Bush, who received around 45.8% (825 votes), with 1,803 ballots cast among the city’s 3,161 registered voters, for a turnout percentage of 57.0.[85]

In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 50.8% of the vote here (540 ballots cast), ahead of both Democrat Jon Corzine with 41.7% (444 votes) and Independent Chris Daggett with 4.5% (48 votes), with 1,064 ballots cast among the city’s 2,908 registered voters, yielding a 36.6% turnout.[86]


The Wildwood Public School District serves students in pre-Kindergarten through twelfth grade. Schools in the district (with 2010-11 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics[87]) are Glenwood Elementary School[88] (PreK-5; 429 students), Wildwood Middle School[89] (6-8; 142 students) and Wildwood High School[90] (9-12; 289 students).[91]

Public school students from West Wildwood attend the district’s schools as part of a sending/receiving relationship for grades K-12. For grades 9-12, students from North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest attend Wildwood High School as part of sending/receiving relationships.[92]

There are two Catholic schools on the island, Cape Trinity Catholic and Wildwood Catholic High School in North Wildwood, which operate separately but have shared a common building since September 2010.[93] Both schools operate under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Camden.[94]


Roads and highways

The city had a total of 32.38 miles (52.11 km) of roadways, of which 29.93 miles (48.17 km) are maintained by the municipality, 2.37 miles (3.81 km) by Cape May County and 0.08 miles (0.13 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.[95]

Route 47 (Rio Grande Avenue) has its southern terminus in Wildwood and continues into Lower Township via the George Reading Wildwood Bridge, which provides access to the Garden State Parkway.[96] County Route 621 (New Jersey Avenue) runs for 1.3 miles (2.1 km) through the borough, from Wildwood Crest to the south to North Wildwood in the north.[97]

Public transportation

New Jersey Transit provides bus service to Philadelphia on the 313 and 315 routes and to Atlantic City on the 552 route, with seasonal service to Philadelphia on the 316 route) and to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan on the 319 route.[98][99]

Popular culture

Wildwood boardwalk at night

  • On June 20, 2012, Kenny Chesney performed a free concert sponsored by American Express as part of their Unstaged series. The event took place on the Wildwood beach with 20,000 in attendance.[100]
  • Cozy Morley, a once popular entertainer and club owner here, recorded a song called On The Way To Cape May.[101]
  • Wildwood is home to the beverage known as the “Lime Rickey“.[102]
  • WWE Raw came to the Wildwood Convention Center late summer of 2005. WWE SmackDown came to the Wildwood Convention Center late summer of 2006. WWE Raw broke an attendance record at the Wildwood convention center on August 10, 2007.[103]
  • The song “Wildwood Days” by Bobby Rydell is about the shore town.[104]
  • The song “Everything’s Wild in Wildwood” by The Treniers was inspired by summers in the early 50s during which they played residencies at a night club in the town.[104]
  • “Wildwood Blues”, the 1967 song by the psychedelic rock band Nazz, is based on the Wildwood scene.[105]
  • The video for Jason Aldean‘s song “Laughed Until We Cried” is set in Wildwood.[106]
  • In the 1987 movie Wall Street, when Charlie Sheen’s character tells Daryl Hannah’s character she could have bought a beach house for four hundred thousand dollars (the value of a painting they were looking at) she sardonically replies, “Sure you could, in Wildwood New Jersey”.[107]
  • A CKY song entitled “The Boardwalk Body” was written about a body found under the boardwalk on one of lead singer Deron Miller‘s childhood trips to Wildwood.[108]
  • In the 2008 movie Wipe Out, the beach scenes were shot in Wildwood.
  • A season 4 episode of Hoarders features Randy Senna, the owner of “Randyland” based out of Wildwood.[109]
  • A portion of the rock band Kiss‘ album, Alive!, was recorded from a July 23, 1975, concert at the old Wildwoods Convention Center.[110]
  • Bruce Willis worked as a bartender in Wildwood in his early days and can be seen on the “Wildwood Days” documentary.[111]

Notable people

People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Wildwood include: