More on Palm Trees in Wildwood, NJ

palm trees Caribbean Motel in Wildwood

 

I think there has been a misunderstanding on a previous post where I asked the question: “Why all the fake palm trees in Wildwood, NJ?” There has been a strong reaction to this, as if I were criticizing the palm trees, when in fact I was simply asking a question out of curiosity. I’ve been to Jersey Shore towns such as Long Beach, Asbury Park, Ocean Grove, Cape May and others, and had never seen palm trees (real or fake) in any of those locations, so when I arrived in Wildwood – which I loved, by the way – I was just curious about the palm trees. I have since tracked down some interesting history about the palm trees in Wildwood and wanted to share what I learned … scroll down for more.

palm trees at hotels in Wildwood NJ
Palm trees spotted in front of the Bristol Plaza and Aztec Motels in Wildwood, NJ

From what I’ve read, there are more than 500 plastic palm trees in the Wildwoods (Wildwood, North Wildwood, West Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, and Diamond Beach), and it’s considered the plastic palm tree capital of New Jersey, maybe even the world. And nearly every one of these palm trees was built and installed by a guy named Ed Hiller, who owned a company named Four Sons Custom Palm Trees based in Langhorne, PA. I see references to this company having a website called “Poolside Palm Trees,” but am not finding the site in existence any more. According to the folklore, in the early 1980s, Hiller had a pool in his backyard and wanted a palm tree, but couldn’t find one to buy in this part of the country, so he built one. A few years go by, and he decides to turn this palm tree-building idea into a business, and participates in a trade show, and a motel owner from Wildwood bought some. It evolves into a worthwhile business venture, but then in 1998, the tide turns dramatically, so to speak: a Philadelphia-based architecture and planning firm along with some U Penn grad students come up with a study that suggested that the way to revive Wildwood as a resort area was to celebrate what it was originally intended to be: a 1950s style doo-wop-era land of fantasy and kitsch, including more neon and more plastic palms. To top it off, in July of 2000, the Governor of NJ at the time, Christine Todd Whitman, was present for an installation of a plastic palm tree at the Starlux Motel and declared the plastic palm tree as the “official tree of the Wildwoods.”

Despite this more-recent (meaning in recent decades) explanation, I see another story that explains that the first plastic palm trees in Wildwood were created immediately after World War II by a local fireman who wanted to add some pizazz to his front lawn. Then I found another story that claims that The Caribbean Motel (see my pictures below) was the first Wildwood motel to use plastic palm trees back in 1957.

palm trees Caribbean Motel in Wildwood
A view of the Caribbean Motel in Wildwood, with one of their palm trees seen at far right.
courtyard view of the Caribbean Motel in Wildwood
A courtyard and pool view of the Caribbean Motel in Wildwood with some of their palm trees.

At any rate, I have learned a few answers to my question of why there are palm trees in Wildwood, New Jersey – and I love it, I love the history of it, am fascinated by the motel architecture, and will continue to research more and share what I learn along with my pictures from my trip to Wildwood at the end of August.

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7 thoughts on “More on Palm Trees in Wildwood, NJ

  1. Love love love Wildwood Crest, NJ palm trees or not. Just came back from 2 weeks at the Astronaut Motel in Wildwood Crest, NJ and 2 Weeks at Wellfleet, MA and have been going to Wellfleet for the last 13 years. But I will be spending my 4 weeks vacation at Wildwood Crest, NJ from now on #AstronautMotel #LifeguardChair thank you parents of lost girl with army green shorts and BIG HAIR!!! Lol

  2. After WWII, soldiers came home from the Pacific full of memories of exotic locations. No longer full of farmland and factory. They saw the world! And to see Hawaii after Pearl Harbor. My father saw it burning but never saw a more beautiful place.

  3. Very cool! Thank you for sharing this. I suppose there are a number of fake palm trees in Wildwood, come to think of it. Interesting to know the backstory.

  4. Dear sir, back in the very early days of the 1980s, in fact 1980, Jimmy and Joey Z (too hard to spell, lol) owned Tony’s Bar and Grill at 26th and Park, then it was sold and Jimmy purchased the County Roost, and named it Mulligans and the bank on the corner and a liquor store, sorry – back to Tony’s – every year the bros would purchase palm trees and every fall they tried to wrap but it was just easier to purchase each year so there’s a lil’ tad bit o’ BTW … I played ball for Tony’s, we won the championship 3 years in a row and I am also the retired Coors Light driver, so I don’t really remember whether the palms were fake or not, just the ones the bros bought. Thanks man.

  5. I have been going to Wildwood my entire life and my parents before me and their parents before them. We can witness that palm trees were there before the 80’s. We think they started in the 50’s. Real palm trees will never make it that far north so that’s probably why they are fake. Other places in the 50’s had fake palm trees but Wildwood only ones that kept them along with the Doo Wop stuff.

  6. Enjoyed your research into the legend of Wildwood’s palm trees. Like others, I remember palm trees at a few motels in the ’60s. The most memorable were the two very tall ones in the front of the Hialeah in the Crest. It opened in 1964, I believe, and torn down in the early 2000’s. One of my favorite hotels on the islands.

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