History of Wildwood Parks 2- Memorial Park
Photos courtesy of Wildwood Historic Museum
by Cathy Tchorni
On May 26, 1927 a World War I monument was dedicated and presented by Senator William Bright on a site on New Jersey Avenue between West Oak and West Wildwood Avenues. The American Legion of Wildwood had worked tirelessly to prepare for the sober yet celebratory event. Thirty three people served in World War I from the Wildwoods, and three died, including one woman. Survivors’ and families’ sacrifices were fresh in everyone’s mind, having ended less than 10 years prior. A parade honoring veterans and the monument, wound around the streets of Wildwood. The monument featured the helmeted head and arms of a typical doughboy, holding the hilt of a sword. The sword bisected a cross, with the words loyalty, courage, sacrifice and victory in each of the four quadrants. Although there seems to be no record of who sculpted the young doughboy, the shaft was completed by O. J. Hammell of Pleasantville, NJ.
Memorial Park probably was a remnant of Magnolia Lake and Cedar Park. When Magnolia Lake was filled in sometime after 1900, the surrounding parkland was built upon too. Standing on New Jersey Avenue today, it’s hard to believe that across from the monument was the Pennsylvania Railroad Station, on what was then called Holly Beach Avenue. Thousands of tourists exited the train on this spot, so that the first thing they saw across the street close to the road was the World War I monument occupying this prominent spot. Over the years Memorial Day services were held at the site.
Sometimes referred to as Monument Park, it became the Wildwood Park and Tennis Courts. At some point the monument was moved back from New Jersey Avenue, as evidenced from photos of that time. The tennis courts were replaced by the Lions Center, a senior housing complex. In front of the monument, closest to New Jersey Avenue the Tall Cedars of Lebanon, an offshoot of the Masons, planted cedar trees and placed a large, rectangular stone dedicated to Wilbur J. Ostrander in 1984, a Wildwood Commissioner and Tall Cedars of Lebanon member.
Mayor Ernie Troiano explained that the parks change both physically and in their purpose. Trees fall from storms and old age as the Tall Cedars members plant new ones. He added that the ballfield at Fox Park may be moved to Maxwell Park. At the same time the World War I Doughboy memorial will likely be moved to Fox Park to join the tributes to the Korean and Vietnam Wars. It will be better appreciated when it is more visible being closer to the Boardwalk and Convention Center. It will be another reminder to “never forget”.