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SummerFest: Margate's History As Oasis On The Ocean

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MARGATE, N.J. (CBS) -- This quiet enclave of tree-lined streets is an oasis on the ocean, exactly what city officials hoped for more than 100 years ago when they ditched the name South Atlantic City and picked a new name, Margate.

"Margate, it was designed to be the opposite of Atlantic City, which was full of energy and action, 24-7, crowded beaches, crowded boardwalks," said Gwen Meade, who runs the Margate Historical Society Museum at the Margate Library.

In the 1920s, the Parkway section along Ventnor Avenue was built with elaborate fountains.

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"The idea was to attract wealth, people of means, people of taste," Meade said. "And to this day, it's still a beautiful section of town with beautiful landscaping along the center, with original fountains that we just love."

Not far from there is the place made famous by a misspelled Monopoly card: Marven Gardens, a neighborhood of 105 houses built in the 1920s.

"It's a real place," said Sharon Goff, a Marven Gardens homeowner. Residents will tell you it's M-A-R for Margate, V-E-N for nearby Ventnor.

Although not all of the original houses are still standing, some are. The gardens themselves are now on the National Register of Historic Places.

"I think the residents are really proud to live in such a historic area," Goff said. "We're very close to Ventnor Avenue which is heavily trafficked, busy. As soon as you enter the gardens, it's just a quiet little enclave."

Margate loves its gardens, especially hydrangea plants, which a local garden club started giving away in the 1940s to beautify the whole of Absecon Island. For decades, locals competed in an annual Hydrangea Festival.

"The Hydrangea Festival faded away in the '70s, but the plants are everywhere," Meade said.

CBS3 SummerFest

This family-focused city plan seemed to work. Generations keep coming back to enjoy the walkable downtown and the beaches, or to visit Margate's most popular attraction, Lucy.

"My grandmother has had a beach house here for over 60 years," said one visitor.

"We have always been a little more of a year-round town than some of our seashore neighbors," Meade said.

Goff says Margate is tough to leave.

"All my friends who are retiring in Florida, I say, 'Oh well, not going to be me!' I'm here for good."

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