History of Wildwood Parks 3 – The Home that once sat on magnolia lake
Photos courtesy of Wildwood Historic Museum and Donna Koehler
by Cathy Tchorni
Sometimes I am given a gift where an assignment yields unexpected pleasures. Such was my experience visiting Bill Tschopp, a nearly 40-year summer resident, and his daughter, Donna Koehler, a proud, year-round Wildwood resident.
On a hot August morning, we were unexpectedly cool under an umbrella, sitting in comfortable outdoor chairs around a table. Bill lives on W. Pine Avenue in Wildwood, a few houses away from New Jersey Avenue, with Fountain and Memorial Parks nearby.
My original reason for the visit was to reminisce with Bill about Magnolia Lake, which wound behind the original old house that used to be in front of the one in which he lives in now.
Bill bought the house on W. Pine Avenue in 1977 for $36,000. It was an old, three-story house that had been moved in 1896 from Rio Grande Avenue to its present location. Originally, it was a two-story house, but after the move, a foundation and first floor were built, with the house set on top of the new structure. Neither Bill nor Donna knows the reason for the move, except that its new location would have had Magnolia Lake behind it. Their house is visible in an early postcard of the fresh water lake. Donna did her research and discovered that two parks, Cedar and Magnolia, separated by a bridge, were behind the house, named ‘Holly House.’ It served as a summer home for a wealthy family.
Bill worked in the Philadelphia educational system and brought his family to Wildwood every summer. He used his vacation time carefully. In the summer, he drove to his job in the city every Tuesday through Thursday, taking Mondays and Fridays off. Bill’s wife and children enjoyed all the fun of Wildwood’s beaches and pastimes. One of his daughters had a disability that affected her breathing. The sea air, according to Bill, was wonderful for her, so much so that her doctor in Philadelphia commented on her marked improvement.
To offset the cost of the house, the family rented the other two floors, which were separate apartments, in the summer. Flooding and storms coming in from the bay eventually took a toll on the old house, which gradually began to tilt. Bill continued to paint the house and do other minor maintenance. According to Bill, an aggressive commercial property owner, who had a business on New Jersey Avenue, persistently tried to get Bill to sell him his house. The town also pressured Bill to make mandatory improvements to the home. Sadly, the house was eventually condemned. In 2012, after Hurricane Sandy, a structural engineer determined it was damaged beyond repair, and the old house was torn down. Now, only the old driveway shows markings of the house.
Today, Bill lives in the servants quarter’s house situated in the back part of the lot, which fortunately has never flooded. He happily spends his summers in Wildwood and has passed on his love for our town to his daughter Donna and her husband Ed, whose home on a nearby street was also damaged during Hurricane Sandy.
Bill and Donna agree that this is the risk of living on the barrier island, but neither would consider living anywhere else but Wildwood by-the-sea…
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