For the people of GOOD - the story behind the 21st Century Satellite


When I set out to create the 21st Century Satellite, I didn't even have the name down yet. It was tentatively titled the "new Satellite", and I had to create it out of necessity, since the original is no more. While I often find remakes questionable, sometimes there can be a second act...


I have a lifelong love of the area called The Wildwoods - an island at the southern end of New Jersey. I can honestly say I have distant memories of my first trip there at one year old. An intrinsic part of this is due to Wildwood's collection of Mid Century Modern motels, also known as "Doo Wop". One of my most treasured possessions is a motel directory for The Wildwoods from 1973. I'd pour over it very often as a kid. It fascinated me to study its various listings and the great images within each. That may sound strange if I were speaking of generic motels, though that's not the case with Wildwood. I've come to learn that I wasn't alone in this sort of thing.


Satellite GWHM 1973 Directory listing


At the end of September 2004, I made what ended up being my last trip to Wildwood for the year - a day trip. Before leaving that night, I took a long ride around to look at the motels. I'd only done that a couple thousand times, and I never tire of it. For some reason, I decided to pull over and really take one of them in. It surely wasn't new to me, though I sat there and thought "this place is amazing". That was the Satellite Motel, and it was the last time I saw it. A few weeks later, I looked up the Satellite online and found it was destroyed. I felt sick. I learned over the winter that many vintage motels on the island were demolished in that off season for quick condo development. My next trip to Wildwood - on a gray day the following April - was alarming.


Among the many other classic motels on the island, the Satellite was a standout. When some realized it was endangered, a campaign to "save" it was created, including a rendering of a proposed restoration & expansion. That rendering stuck with me, and I'd occasionally think "why doesn't someone build that"? While walking the island one early evening after a while, that came to mind again. The difference this time was it struck me how my thinking was wrong. It shouldn't be "why doesn't somebody...", it's "why don't you create a new Satellite?". Seeing that to fruition has been my goal in life ever since.


The original Satellite most always places at or near the top of the worst losses of a Wildwood motel. Three years after its undoing, the Satellite was recognized by the American Institute of Architects(*) as one of the 150 Best Buildings and Places in the state. The corresponding New York Times article noted the Satellite before any of those. Interest in the Satellite continues - in May 2013, as part of The Today Show's coverage of the Governor's visit to Wildwood, a segment was aired on the island's history, including a montage about its "Doo Wop" motels. The Satellite was shown first in this, with the largest image of any motel pictured. The Satellite even received mention in an article published this past summer in Utah - an area which typically doesn't feature Wildwood.


Closeup lobby roofline point


To use 'Satellite' legitimately for the 21st Century, a clear and honorable connection with the first was necessary. I poured over the original, deducing what made it tick, concentrating on images of it's first 10 years or so of life. While a great place 'til its end, some of the Satellite's initial vision and character diminished over time. Making the 21st Century Satellite come to life required the magic of modern technology, and devoting my life to it. To ensure authentic looks, a vintage styled building was designed - one that could have existed in the original period, while still fresh and appealing to the modern eye.


oceanview rooms looking back


Reaction to the design so far shows this goal was met. Some have praised how the renderings make them feel like they've stepped back in time; others liked how they felt the motel has been updated - with a spectrum of responses in between. Accomplishing this was a priority - we've picked up where the original left off initially to move forward into the future. By only choosing elements and styles that are of the original Satellite's era and have stood up well over time, the look of the 21st Century Satellite is both vintage and fresh.


Near pool corner bend


The standards of the motel's design follow through its amenities and service. The 21st Century Satellite will be providing things only dreamed about in the space age, with the human element taking precedence. Before the project's public launch, the 21st Century Satellite was presented to some people for comment. We found they most wished for and liked:


The 21st Century Satellite will satisfy all these, even providing a full featured interactive mobile app, concierge service, complimentary Wi-Fi, salon for our guests, as well as dishwashers in all accommodations with kitchens.


Oceanfront rooms balcony, doors & windows


The 21st Century Satellite also shows that Wildwood's motels, and Mid Century Modern in general, are beyond nostalgia. The future ingrained within many of the original buildings relates to continually going forward. A motel in the style which serves the modern traveler's needs and desires into that future, without forgetting its roots or what makes it important historically, can now really be a destination in and of itself. Part of preservation in this instance is showing how well a vintage design has held up, and maintaining its essence when change may be needed. These are essential aspects of what the 21st Century Satellite will accomplish.


Grill cooking area closeup


Preservation here goes beyond a particular building in and of itself. It also relates to preserving and contributing to its Mid Century Modern surroundings. A building looks and works best when it both stands out on its own and fits in with its neighborhood. The 21st Century Satellite will enhance the Mid Century Modern character of The Wildwoods by its nature. Its presence also creates a new choice in lodging that will become an additional draw for the island.


Our Fundable campaign hopes to make a strong connection with the 21st Century Satellite's patrons at its outset. A motel is nothing without its guests, and these rewards incorporate them in making history. Their presence will be felt in our lobby and its online site. Some will make their own mark by dedicating a part of the motel. We particularly hope you find making a dedication to be interesting and appealing. We're also demonstrating with other rewards that the 21st Century Satellite will be worthy of our patron's dime.


Floating stairs side view through deck top


This project is beyond commerce. The 21st Century Satellite is an extension of my very being, and a way of doing GOOD for the place I love so much through putting back something - as much as possible - on the island that should have never left. To see the continued interest in the landmark original puts a smile on my face. It'll be a great thing to see that people who wish the Satellite was still around, or would like it to come back, will finally get to see that fulfilled.


The reactions to the project privately have already been gratifying, and I'm eager to see the reception from the good people of GOOD. I hope this inspires you to DO in behalf of the 21st Century Satellite by backing it through choosing the reward you feel is best. I most gratefully thank you.


See you there.


(*)=NJ chapter