Cape May County is an area rich in cultural history. Several of the
towns and boroughs in the county have preserved their history by forming
historical societies, and Wildwood Crest is among them. The Wildwood Crest
Historical Society and Museum began early in 1975. The daughter of Philip P. Baker
(the founder of Wildwood Crest) had passed away earlier that year, leaving
all of her father's documents to the Borough of Wildwood Crest. In her will,
she stipulated that all of the documents were to be made available for
Martin Way, the attorney who handled the legal
proceedings, placed the papers in the care of Mayor Charles Guhr. Realizing the historical
significance of the documents, Mayor Guhr appointed Bill and Barbara
Smith and Stanley Gage to set up a museum to display them. The museum was
temporarily located in a small building at the entrance to the (second)
Crest Pier municipal building, and the papers were on display by summer.
It soon became apparent that the museum needed a more
permanent location. The new location was a house at 204 E. Cardinal Road.
The museum opened
on May 31st, 1976 and was the first big event of the Bicentennial
celebration in Wildwood Crest. The Bicentennial celebration included the dedication of
Turtle Gut Park across from Sunset Lake and involved the entire Crest
community. Doris and Thomas Benner were appointed as Co-Chairmen to
handle the event. Mayor Guhr cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony and opened
not just a building, but a doorway to local history.
The Crest Museum grew quickly; public donations of
documents and artifacts soon filled the house on Cardinal Road. The museum's success
continued for a few years until 1981. Under shifting political tides, it
was decided that the Police Department was to expand. The museum was given
notice that its building was to be torn down to make room for the larger Police
Department. All of the historical articles were moved to the Crest
Memorial School, and then later to a storage facility offshore.
Not having a home for the museum didn't stop the
Society, however. Jack Christine, the President of the Society at the time, was determined to
keep Philip Baker's legacy alive. Together with Stanley Gage, a lecture
series was planned. Held at the Crest Memorial School, the South Jersey History,
Culture & Heritage Course was taught by the pair in the fall of 1982.
course was a success and over 70 people from all over the county attended. The
course was repeated again the following year.
Even with the success of the lecture series, the
historical society entered a dormant state for a few years. Without a home, even the
determination of its members couldn't carry the society indefinitely.
It wasn't until early in 1990 that the society resurfaced.
Kirk Hastings, a Somers Point resident who had grown up in Wildwood Crest, began
searching for the Society. The presidency had passed from Jack Christine to Bob Coombs
in 1990 and Kirk was referred to President Coombs. The two met and decided
to revive the museum. Public interest sparked and the society grew once
again. Old members became active and Commissioner Arthur Schard found a new
home for the museum-it was to be moved to the second floor of the municipal
In June of 1992, the museum was again opened to the
public. But in 1994 the borough government decided to expand and reconfigure the municipal
building, and the museum was once again left without a home.
But not for long. Thanks to the efforts of Mayor John
Pantalone, in 1995 the
Historical Society was given one of the stores on the north side of the new Crest
Pier (the third) for its museum. With Kirk Hastings as its new President, the
Society's grand opening celebration for its newest museum was held on
May 25, 1996. This museum now boasts hundreds of artifacts, documents and old
photographs of Wildwood Crest's rich history.
Through the tenacity and dedication of its
members the Wildwood Crest Historical Society and Museum has become an important part of Wildwood
Crest, and the museum provides the community with an opportunity to preserve
the past for future generations.
Meetings of the
Wildwood Crest Historical Society are held on the third
Monday of each month, except June, July, August and
at 7:30 pm in
the Crest Pier meeting room.