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April 30, 2024

Cape May Historic District

The Cape May Historic District was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and then became a National Historic Landmark District in 1976. This allowed the community to protect the  most valuable resource for their community, the homes. The architectural wonders are now protected by laws. No historic homes can be remodeled or changed without historic commission review and  approval.

Cape May has one of the largest collections Victorian Era buildings left in the United States.

The City of Cape May is known as the oldest Sea Shore resort in America.

In the 18th century the whalers and farmers created a sustainable economy that formed the foundation for the flourishing sea-side resort that grew to international fame in the 19th century.

Cape May began to flourish as a resort after the War of 1812 when regular steamboat traffic on the Delaware River picked up passengers at New Castle, Delaware. In 1816, Thomas Hughes built the first Congress Hall Hotel at Cape Island. To this date there is still a Congress Hall hotel in Cape May.

In 1830 a contemporary writer comments: “Cape May Island is a noted and much frequented watering place, the season at which commences about the first of July and continues until the middle of August or the first of September. There are six boarding houses, three of which are very large; the sea bathing is convenient and excellent, the beach affords pleasant drives and there is excellent fishing in adjacent waters.”

Many famous became  visitors. Henry Clay arrived in August of 1847, and Abraham Lincoln in 1849, and the following while they served as President of the United States: Franklin Pierce in 1855; James Buchanan in 1858; Ulysses S. Grant in 1873; Chester A. Arthur in 1883, and Benjamin Harrison in 1889. At the peak of the summer season in the 1850’s, as many as 3,000 visitors a day arrived by steamer and this influx continued through the 1880’s.

While Cape May flourished as a resort, famous for its atmosphere and entertainments, a number of famous hotels were constructed but they were vulnerable to fire and the great 1867 fire demolished two city blocks.

Cape May has a number of excellent examples of the elegant Homes. The original architecture is evedent throughout the historic district.

Cape May still maintains the old flavor of past elegance and romance. Gas lit streets line the sidewalks and families stroll up and down the streets admiring the wonderful old homes. Its as if they are stepping back in time to a day when horse carriage ruled the streets.

Category: Cape May News

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