By FRED COLDREN
WILDWOOD — City of Wildwood completed its first 100 years as a city government on New Year’s Day 2012 and can begin celebrating its 100th anniversary.
On Jan.1, 1912, official incorporation of the “City of Wildwood in The County of Cape May” took effect to replace two previous local governments: (1) Borough of Holly Beach which was originally established in 1885 from Lower Township, and (2) Borough of Wildwood, which was formed from Middle Township on May 1, 1895.
The consolidation of the Holly Beach and Wildwood boroughs into the City of Wildwood 100 years ago was authorized by the voters of the two local governments in a referendum on Aug. 29, 1911.
Actually, that referendum was originally intended to consolidate all four boroughs then in existence on the island knows as “Five Mile Beach” into one municipality, but voters of both Borough of Anglesea and Borough of Wildwood Crest voted against being part of the consolidation.
Following the 1912 consolidation of the two boroughs that did consent into the current “City of Wildwood,” the year “1912” was added to the city’s official seal so that the year would be forever remembered. It was printed in tiny letters above the holly leaves in the center of the seal, which continues to be used by the City on its official documents.
This year’s occasion of the 100th anniversary of City of Wildwood is expected to encourage residents and visitors to learn more about the fascinating history of the city and also the four remaining separate municipalities on “Five Mile Beach island.
Wildwood Crest, formed from Lower Township on April 6, 1910, already celebrated its centennial in 2010.
North Wildwood incorporated as a city on April 30, 1917 to replace its previous form as a borough since May 16, 1906, and its earlier existence as Borough of Angles since June 13, 1885.
Borough of West Wildwood was formed from Middle Township on April 21, 1920.
Now in 2012, Borough of Wildwood Crest is 101, City of Wildwood is 100, City of North Wildwood is 94, and Borough of West Wildwood is 91. The four local governments in the Wildwoods are the youngest municipalities in Cape May County, along with Borough of Stone Harbor which was established April 3, 1914, 97 years ago.
Current ages of all 16 municipalities in Cape May County are shown in a chart, based on data published by the New Jersey Geological Society in 1969 and reprinted in 2004 in “The Story of New Jersey’s Civil Boundaries, 1606 -1968”.
One interesting perspective on the original development of The Wildwoods comes from a photo provided from the County Museum of the first county road and bridge that opened 99 years ago on Rio Grande Avenue. The photo shows a horse drawn carriage entering City of Wildwood and very few buildings on the island leading to the beaches.
Cape May County was established as New Jersey’s first county 319 years ago in 1692. Lower, Middle and Upper Townships were all incorporated Feb. 21, 1798, 213 years ago. Dennis Township was officially incorporated March 1, 1827 from lands received from Upper Township 184 years ago, but proudly proclaims 1826 as its founding year.
The fascinating history of the middle sections of Five Mile Beach that evolved into City of Wildwood 100 years ago will be reported and described from research of previous historians and the collections of the Wildwood Historical Society and its museum, named for George F. Boyer, the respected author of the 1976 book named “Wildwood – Middle of the Island.”
Current volunteers and staff of the society are assisting with documents, reports, photographs, and other memorabilia.
Cape May County Historical and Genealogical Society and its County Museum, 504 Route 9 North in Court House, has also opened its files and support to searches for pertinent research on the history of The Wildwoods.
The Herald welcomes reader contributions of historic information to share with the public, and expects to publish additional historical facts and insight during this centennial year.
The Nov. 16, 2011 edition of this newspaper reported that a special meeting of the Commissioners of City of Wildwood on November 14th discussed ideas and proposals for the 100th anniversary, predicting that “the city’s centennial next year will happen with a bang, not a whimper.” Idea discussed included a gala, parade, a commemorative stamp, a 100th anniversary logo, boardwalk race, concerts, and other events.