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.
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.
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.