NORTH WILDWOOD, N.J. - Despite the rejection by voters on Tuesday to change the name of this Cape May County beach town back to its historical moniker of Anglesea, the nod to its maritime tradition - on streets, a fire house, and even a pub - will certainly remain.
But the idea of somehow disassociating a place that some have called a bedroom community to Wildwood - and the northern anchor to a collective of towns that have come to be known as "The Wildwoods" - has been put to bed for at least a generation or so, according to North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello.
"I think the whole thing was a very good exercise in community democracy," said Rosenello, who placed a nonbinding referendum on the ballot in Tuesday's election that asked voters whether they wanted the name change.
Local resident Ed Wheaton originally floated the idea in a petition drive. Wheaton's great-grandfather was once the mayor of Anglesea, and the younger Wheaton said changing the name back would honor the town's historical roots and heighten its identity.
The name of the community became North Wildwood when the 2.1-square-mile borough was officially incorporated 110 years ago, but some locals clung to Anglesea to describe the most northern reaches of the Cape May County beach town that began as a primitive fishing village settled by Scandinavians in the 1880s. The name Anglesea still often appears in real estate listings and on various locales like Anglesea Avenue, Anglesea Drive, the Anglesea Volunteer Fire Company, and the Anglesea Pub, a popular Irish tavern.
On Friday, no one at the pub would say they wanted to see the entire town renamed.
"I don't think anyone here cared much at all for the idea," said the bar's manager, who would not give his name.
And in the end, apparently most residents didn't either. In a 961-636 vote, the majority said no. Only one of the town's eight precincts - the one in the actual Anglesea section - came in with a majority of yeses, Rosenello said.
"The question led to a polite and civil discussion about it in the weeks leading up to the election and ultimately gave people a chance to learn more about the town's history," Rosenello said.
In the days after the election, rather than any protests against the vote, Rosenello said he has gotten positive feedback from locals about keeping the current name.
"So many people have been coming up to me saying they love everything about North Wildwood and don't want to change a thing, including the name," Rosenello said.
Among them is Bob Sawyers, 86, who has lived in the town for more than 40 years.
"It would be silly to change the name now. . . . Nobody would know it," Sawyers said.
Others said they were disappointed by the vote.
"I think it could have created a whole new brand identity for the town separate from the rest of the Wildwoods," said Anita D'Orio, 46, of Toms River, whose family summers in the town. "And that could have been a good thing."
But the mayor of a neighboring town - who admits to being a bit rebuffed by the notion - is glad it didn't pass.
"I'm glad I don't have to go out there and cut the s off the sign . . . at least not yet," joked Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano, referring to the Wildwoods sign that welcomes visitors to the island.
Troiano said he feared that separating the town by name from the Wildwoods could have led to others doing the same thing. He's against the idea of any of the towns that comprise "The Wildwoods" - including the City of Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, West Wildwood, North Wildwood, and the Diamond Beach section of Lower Township - from removing their name from the collective.
"Each town offers something different to the whole and that whole has created a relatively successful brand. Nobody says, 'I'm going to North Wildwood or Wildwood Crest.' They say they're going to 'Wildwood,' " Troiano said. "That's how this particular area is identified."
Such branding is also lucrative when it comes to tourism dollars. Beside geographically, the coastal towns are economically entwined via a 2 percent tourism tax that is collected in the Wildwoods that helps fund marketing and visitor reinvestment. Last year, proved to be the most lucrative summer season for the towns since the tax was enacted in 1993, collecting a record $4.5 million in tax revenue for the communities.