Archive for the ‘new jersey’ Tag

Wildwood, New Jersey

At the southern tip of NJ, along the infamous Jersey Shore, there’s Cape May, and a few miles north, there’s Wildwood. They couldn’t be more different, Cape May is sedate, Victorian, and small, while the Wildwoods (Wildwood, North Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest) sprawl along several miles of coast, with a 1.8 mile long boardwalk and a historic district full of mid-century modern motels. It’s a time capsule back to the 1950s and 1960s, the names evoking travel, exotic locales, and the Space Age, an expression of the optimism, dreams, and mobility of postwar America. For 50 years, they survived fully intact, and only in the mid-2000s did a number of them disappear in the name of ‘progress’. Still, the motel row along Ocean and Atlantic Avenues remains full of Googie / Doo Wop architectural pieces, complete with sweeping lines, cantilevers, outrageous decor, and neon signs.

Royal Hawaiian Resort (1970/1979)

The typical structure has covered parking, balconies looking towards the water, a sundeck, and a swimming pool. They’re distinguished from one another by themes and decor, many with fake palms near the swimming pools, and other decorations on the  walls.

Shalimar Motel (1962)

The best of them is the Caribbean Motel (1957), one of the earlier structures built in Wildwood, with a unique spiral ramp to the second floor, a cantilevered cornice, and owners that have kept the motel in good upkeep. It is one of the first structures in town listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Caribbean Motel (1957), spiral ramp and cantilevering goodness

Pyramid Motel (1962)

Bel Air Motel (1960)

There’s other stuff, like the Singapore Motel, the Pan American and Cape Cod with the spinning neon signs atop, and 200+ properties, built between 1947-1977. Mid-century architecture in the U.S. is being razed quickly, too old that it’s out of fashion, too new that it isn’t recognized as historic or worthy of preservation. Wildwood’s motel row is luckily being recognized and renovated for ‘adaptive reuse’, and hopefully in a manner that preserves the architectural merits.

For more information, visit the Doo Wop Preservation League website.

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The George Washington Bridge

This is the only bridge from New Jersey into Manhattan, and the only route that can be walked or biked, accessed by negotiating the tangle of traffic lanes, overpasses, gates, and underpasses that all meet at the toll plaza. Driving from New Jersey, you only see it at the last moment, a shiny steel structure that rises above the Palisades. Walking across is noisy, with traffic rumbling underneath, perpetual traffic jams on the upper level, construction, renovation, exhaust, and an ever-present vibration from the endless streams of lorries crossing it daily. It’s not a particularly pleasant experience. Although walking across is the best way to appreciate it up close, the best view is from the Fort Lee park that presents several vantage points of the bridge, where the traffic and noise are far enough away that the grace of the structure literally shines, 80 years new.

West tower, closeup, the beauty of exposed steel.

Can’t say it better than Le Corbusier: ” The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson is the most beautiful bridge in the world. Made of cables and steel beams, it gleams in the sky like a reversed arch. It is blessed. It is the only seat of grace in the disordered city. It is painted an aluminum color and, between water and sky, you see nothing but the bent cord supported by two steel towers. When your car moves up the ramp the two towers rise so high that it brings you happiness; their structure is so pure, so resolute, so regular that here, finally, steel architecture seems to laugh. The car reaches an unexpectedly wide apron; the second tower is very far away; innumerable vertical cables, gleaming against the sky, are suspended from the magisterial curve which swings down and then up. The rose-colored towers of New York appear, a vision whose harshness is mitigated by distance.

". . . the only seat of grace in the disordered city."

A little love for Newark, New Jersey

Much-maligned Newark, New Jersey, generally gets a bad rap as a high crime, ugly city in the shadow of New York City. Yes, a lot of that is true, but it’s also a diverse city with many well-kept neighborhoods, a downtown that is full of grand historic structures and spacious squares, and an excellent city park. So here’s a quick tour of some of Newark’s highlights, from a couple visits over the past few weeks.

Forest Hill, Newark

Forest Hill, the most prestigious neighborhood in the city, straddles a ridge just east of Branch Brook Park. Heading downtown, and then crossing under Penn Station, one reaches the Ironbound District, with America’s largest Portuguese-speaking population, and a large Spanish-speaking community as well. It’s thriving, clean, relatively safe, and delicious. The western half of Ferry Street is dense with restaurants, and plenty of cafe / pastry shops.

Ferry Street, Ironbound District

Memorial for Whitney Houston, New Hope Baptist Church

Whitney Houston’s church is located on Sussex Avenue just south of the 280, uphill and west of downtown. The neighborhood is in transition, with the ongoing demolition of the historic, but notorious Baxter Terrace projects.

Cherry blossoms and the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart

More cherry blossoms, Branch Brook Park

And finally, across the 280 is Branch Book Park, a real urban treasure. It has a larger display of cherry blossoms than DC, with fewer people. They are already quite colorful (as of 18 March), the pink ones are in bloom, and the white ones are just starting to flower.