The St. Ann’s Rectory, standing proudly along Wildwood’s Pacific Avenue for 111 years, is now facing demolition. We are asking the community to help us preserve a valuable piece of Wildwood and South Jersey history by signing and sharing our petition (change.org/saintannsrectory) against demolishing the rectory. It’s time that the Wildwoods start adopting creative approaches to growth rather than simply demolishing much-loved buildings in favor of bland, generic replacements.
The Rectory is the last remaining Victorian Stick-Style structure in Wildwood and one of the few remaining in all of Cape May County. The beautiful, half-timbered exterior has been a point of pride in Wildwood and appears on many postcards from the early 1900s. But the Rectory is not just an architecturally important building: it is a sacred space that represents consolidation, cooperation, community, courage, commitment. Cherishing it is a celebration of heritage, of faith and worship, and of everything the congregation volunteered, toiled, and gave to both the secular and religious residents of the Wildwoods and Cape May County.
We as preservationists are not against new investment and development in Wildwood, rather we emphasize that new development can be done in a way that respects a community’s history. Adaptive reuse takes older buildings and reuses them for purposes they originally weren’t designed for. When former industrial cities convert their older factories, warehouses, and historic buildings into residences, restaurants, brewpubs, and office spaces, that is adaptive reuse.
There are some success stories in Wildwood too: a firehouse was converted to condos (Holly Beach Firehouse), and a motorcycle dealership was converted to a brewing company (MudHen). As adaptive reuse becomes more common across the United States, the Wildwoods with their large number of existing historic buildings have a great opportunity to make adaptive reuse a centerpiece of their redevelopment plans.
The easiest way to help our cause is to sign and share our online petition at change.org/saintannsrectory. Even though the liquidation sales stripped some of the Rectory’s woodwork and doors, there is still so much worth saving. Woodwork can be replaced, but the Rectory cannot if it is demolished. Let’s send a strong message to developers that South Jersey cares about its traditions and history and doesn’t want its communities erased because #preservationISprogress.
Thank you for your support.
Preserving the Wildwoods and Partners in Preservation