Populuxe! Just say the word out loud. It’s bouncy, bubbly, boisterous, like summer. In the summer, if you’re a Jersey girl, you have to go down the shore. At least I have to, it’s in my DNA. One of my favorite places is Wildwood. The beach is gorgeous, and the bazillion mile walk in the sand to the actual water is, um, it’s ah, good for your butt.
Why do I love Wildwood so much? Well, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may have guessed. The Architecture! Wildwood is a quick Populuxe fix when the mothership of this architectural style, California is out of reach.
I’ll do a post on Cali-Populuxe once I get the shore out of my system.
This joyous, exuberant architectural style originated in the late 1940’s, and was most heavily influenced by the emerging car culture in California. Beginning with coffee shops and diners, owners began to look for ways to draw the attention of people whizzing by to their businesses. Bold geometric shapes, like reverse parabolic roofs, quadrahedrons ( I did not just make that word up) starbursts, boomerangs, swoopie sensuous curves, soaring metal structures, glass and neon are just some of the very recognizable elements that speak to the Populuxe style.
Wildwood’s motels, diners and restaurants are illustrations of the elements that define Populuxe.
Growing up, all year long I looked forward to our family vacation, two glorious weeks at the shore. For my mom, not so glorious, as we couldn’t afford to stay in a motel. She had to pack bed linens, pots and pans, all the the various and sundry kid beach accoutrement and spend at least part of that “vacation” with her in-laws in a teeny tiny bungalow. I did not care, I would have slept in the car. I WAS DOWN THE SHORE! After spending the day on the beach, we’d walk through downtown Wildwood and finally, to the boardwalk. Looking at all the motels with their exotic names, sparkling pools and whoa – Palm Trees! I would dream of traveling the world, especially now that I knew what Tahiti looked like!
One of these soft, summer evenings, pile everyone into the car and take a ride down the shore. Look past the sleaze and the cheese and take notice of the quirky, silly, look-at-me! style of the 50’s and 60’s roadside architecture. Good for the soul. If your further north, Route 22 still has a few populuxe structures that have managed to escape demolition, at least for now.
For more on Wildwood populuxe architecture, visit Doo Wop, the Wildwood preservation site.