The Jersey Shore earned a certain kind of reputation when MTV cameras infamously descended on its coast in the naughties, but “guidos” aside, in the 1950s, it was Hollywood royalty like Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly who had claimed it as their summer vacation spot. In post-war America, the shore hosted some of the biggest names in the music business in clubs around the island, including Bill Haley and Chubby Checker during the early days of Rock‘n Roll and Doo-Wop music. The motels that were built during this period are some of the finest examples of midcentury European design and can now be considered as architectural time capsules, all located on a small five-long barrier island in New Jersey known collectively as “The Wildwoods”. In fact, they make up the largest concentration of postwar resort architecture in the United States. And now, one of the most lovingly-preserved addresses of the resort is up for sale. Welcome to the Caribbean Motel…
In 1957, the Caribbean Motel was among the first six to open in the Wildwoods in the fifties. Built by Lou Morey, whose family built many of the Wildwoods’ original Doo-Wop motels, one of its signature features being the curving “Jetson Ramp” that winded its way from ground level up to the second-floor sundeck & lounge.
It was the first motel to use the kitschy full-size plastic palm trees that now adorn most of the Doo-Wop motels in the area and the oversized rooftop neon sign was the largest to be installed in the Wildwoods at the time. The motel’s crescent-shaped pool also remains one of the most unique in the area.
Between 2003 to 2006, just before “Snookie” & company hit the Jersey Shore, over 50 historic motels were demolished to make way for new condominium development. The Caribbean motel was saved from the wrecking ball in 2004, when it was purchased by George Miller and Caroline Emigh, who succeeded in getting the property placed on the national historic registry. The Wildwood Doo-Wop Preservation League has since taken action to help save and restore the remaining historic buildings. The Caribbean’s dedicated new owners restored their neglected motel to its former glory, using movie sets of the 1950s as inspiration.
Today, kitschy oddities are present throughout, including a cabana lounge, a shuffleboard court and vintage telephones in each of the 30 tiki-themed rooms, alongside 21st-century amenities and services. In 2015, the tiny beach town of Wildwood, New Jersey, topped TripAdvisor’s list of destinations on the rise. The Caribbean became one of the most beloved Doo-Wop time capsules, an ideal getaway for mid-century design buffs looking for a nostalgic weekend at the beach.
George and Caroline continued to invest in property upgrades and renovations year after year until they finally put it up for sale just before the Coronavirus pandemic went global in March 2020. Nearly a year later, the offer still stands and the current listing price is $2,795,000.
In the hopes that this historic motel ends up in the right hands, there seemed no better a community to share this property with. So do you know someone who might want to buy a 1950s Doo-Wop motel? In the meantime, the motel is still open for bookings to stay awhile in limbo, maybe write a short screenplay for a wistful story of heartbreak on the Jersey Shore– set in the fifties of course.