Save the St. Ann's Rectory, Wildwood NJ
Save the St. Ann's Rectory, Wildwood NJ
We are Preserving the Wildwoods, a local group raising awareness for the economic benefits of historic preservation in the Wildwoods. Our group is thankful for new investment in our hometown, the City of Wildwood NJ. We are excited for the redevelopment of the former St. Ann’s school, but "pre demolition sales" advertised in banners on fences around the property indicate future redevelopment projects could call for the demolition of the historic St. Ann’s Rectory. We’d like to work with the current/future owners as well as the city to ensure this extremely important piece of architectural history is not only preserved, but also profitable.
The Rectory is architecturally notable because it is the only Stick-Style structure in Wildwood, as our cofounder Taylor Henry wrote in the 2018 book, Wildwoods Houses Through Time. At the turn of the 20th century, local investors Daniel Wade and Charles Gallagher donated a lot between Glenwood and Magnolia for the construction of a Catholic church. Christopher J. Scully, the first trustee of the congregation, built the new St. Ann’s Church and Rectory in 1909, a rare Tudor in the Victorian Stick-Style. Because of its unique half-timbering, it became a point of pride for locals of all backgrounds, even appearing on several postcards. The church, which was next to the Rectory, was demolished as the congregation moved to Atlantic Avenue and constructed a larger church (today known as Notre Dame de la Mer Parish).
The closest other examples of Stick-Style are the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse in North Wildwood and the Emlen Physick Estate in Cape May. Both the lighthouse and the Physick Estate were once threatened by demolition but were restored and given new life through adaptive reuse, subsequently becoming state and federally-recognized historic landmarks. Such as the communities of North Wildwood and Cape May revered and cherished their Stick-Style landmarks and volunteered to save them, we as residents of Wildwood wish to do the same for our Rectory. Since it is on a corner of the block, we would like to see the redevelopment plans leave the Rectory standing and incorporated into the proposal, moved elsewhere, or else separated and sold. Incorporating or selling it would probably be the most feasible.
Luckily, the Rectory doesn't have to be a museum to be a local landmark. Like the Holly Beach Firehouse further south on Pacific Avenue -- which continues to generate positive PR for the developers to this day -- the interior can be converted to residences in any configuration you wish, such as luxury apartments or condos. Or, it can continue to house the clergy who currently reside there. By designating the Rectory as a landmark under the state and national Registers of Historic Places, we can unlock hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funding for the restoration and modernization of the building, including safe removal of lead paint and asbestos, if necessary. Similarly, the Physick estate received state grants totaling $97,651 in 2000; $50,000 in 2007; $30,600 in 2009, and $47,500 in 2012, with projects ranging from structural stabilization to geothermal heating and cooling. Within the last two years, grants also covered the replacement of the roof.
Preserving the Wildwoods is voluntarily handling the nomination for the register ourselves. Fortunately, the Rectory has been well-maintained and is in excellent external condition. Likewise, we can also apply for and write grants. Since we’re a volunteer organization and this is directly related to our organization’s goals, we will do this at no cost, and will be happy to promote restoration work on the property positively on social media to generate positive PR.
We invite YOU to sign and let us know why you'd like to see the historic rectory preserved, and not demolished. We ask that comments be kept positive and hopeful, as negativity and vitriol rarely help causes. Thank you for your time and dedication to preserving the Wildwoods' history.