Art of Aging: Community works to preserve a piece of history

OCEAN CITY, N.J. (WPVI) -- They say you can't turn back the clock or rewrite history but you can walk back into it thanks to the preservation efforts of a Cape May County man and volunteers in the community.

John and Marj Loeper have been running the Northwood Inn Bed and Breakfast in Ocean City, New Jersey for 30 years.

Loeper was a custom builder when the property caught his eye in 1989.

"It was built in 1894 and I found out that it was condemned by the city and scheduled to be torn down," he said.

Marj added, "So he wanted to save it so we said we would do it."

The Loepers purchased the property and turned a gutted shell into a successful business.

"You meet people from all over," said Loeper.

Marj continued, "We really like doing it."

In recent years, Loeper has turned his attention to another revitalization project just a few blocks away.

"The U.S. Life-Saving Station is really a fascinating piece of history," he said.

The U.S. Life-Saving Service responded to ships in distress, pre-dating the Coast Guard, yet, "it's lost in history," added Loeper.

Loeper worked with 'Save the Station' volunteers to do just that and preserve a piece of the past.

"There were seven men that worked at the station. They were surf men. They trained every day because any split second of not being able to do something could cost a person their life," said Loeper.

Their goal was to have U.S. Life-Saving Station 30 be authentic.

Historian Fred Miller of Ocean City, N.J. said, "We think we have the best life-saving station in the country, and John's the reason for that."

"We've tried to establish the building as period-perfect 1900 to 1915," said Loeper.

The equipment used by the surfmen is also on display at the museum.

The life car played a vital role in rescue sand for Loeper, there is a family connection.

"My great great grandfather's, brother invented it, Captain Douglas Ottinger of the US life-saving service.

Loeper says he hopes these men are remembered for their efforts.

"It was a rigorous, brutal job and they've never been acknowledged," he said.
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