Early Cape May [Part 5 - The Spectacular History of the New Jersey Shore] (2023)


Cape May can truly be considered, America's first Seaside Resort. Attracting many politicians and wealthy plantation owners, it would reach its peak of popularity in the decade prior to the Civil War,

By 1850, it was featuring many fine, first class hotels. Among them was the Centre House, the Chalfonte, the Columbia House, the Ocean House, the Stockton Hotel, and Congress Hall. In 1853, it was boasting the magnificent Mount Vernon hotel.

By 1863, the Cape May and Millville Railroad was delivering visitors directly to the beach. Dances and grand balls were the events of the day, held in large dining halls and ballrooms. Wide, sprawling, hotel porches, and verandas, provided the perfect setting for social gatherings.Visitors were taking drives along the wide-open beach in their elegantly dressed carriages.

In 1875, the small community of Sea Grove was founded on Cape May Point. Three major fires would ravage Cape May in the 19th century. But the city would rebuild, constructing some of the most modern Victorian cottages of the day.

Music Credits
OPENING – Black Key Bob – Gem #24
Blue Dot Sessions – Yarrow and Root
Dan Lebowitz – Calm Forgiven Fate
Bortex – Pleasure
Aakash Gandhi – Just Stay


I think I this is: these: are the prettiest beaches I've seen I've I've not been to too too many beaches along the east coast, but this is the preferred one.

I'd go to my favorite memory is making summertime friends which really doesn't happen anymore uh.

We used to have friends in the summer and then they go away.

We catch up next year and just do it again.

We all got sunburned on our backs because we laid on our stomachs and just talked no beach tags, big beaches that the waves just rolled in nice uh.

I come to cape may point now, because it's quieter than cape may came a point.

Beach specifically is the prettiest beach, nice and calm, just walking into town coming out to see the sunset on the beach playing games, not watching that much tv literally eating seafood, all the wonderful things that that you do when you come here and you unplug, sunrises and sunsets, all of it.

The birds can't forget the birds and then the lovely mosquitoes can't forget those yeah.

That's that's it! It's treatment! For me, cape may was described by one early visitor in 1823 as being a quaint village of about 20 houses.

It would gradually begin to emerge as the most popular resort on the jersey shore graced by the warm cross breezes of the atlantic ocean and the delaware bay people in the cities of philadelphia, baltimore and washington were reading in the newspapers about the cape as a favorite summer getaway they began coming by stagecoach and by steamboat they were coming to see and be seen, and the ocean was the main attraction then, as it is today with about 50 buildings.

Lining the shore by 1844, the summer resort was described as being thronged with visitors.

An estimated 3 000 were coming annually.

Kate may can truly be considered america's first seaside resort, attracting many politicians and wealthy plantation owners.

It would reach its peak of popularity in the decade prior to the civil war, incorporated as the borough of kate may in 1848 by 1850.

It was estimated that a total of 17 000 visitors had been entertained there.

That season guests soon had their choice of many fine.

First-Class hotels among them was the center house, the chalfond, the columbia house, the ocean house, the stockton hotel and congress hall, many of them having sweeping panoramic views of the ocean.

A number of gambling clubs have become popular, the most noted being the blue pig at the ocean.

End of congress hall's six acre lawn here is where one dashing young new york widow was said to have won fifty thousand dollars in one evening by 1853, kate may was boasting the magnificent mount vernon hotel, designed to be four stories high with a bath in each of its 480 rooms, an extremely luxurious feature.

For that time, one guest had reported that 750 patrons were served in its dining room.

In one evening the great dining hall in the east wing made a magnificent ballroom when lit up 40 chandeliers hung suspended from the high ceiling like stars in the distance dazzling and captivating.

Both dancers and spectators alike, then shortly before 11 a.m.

On the morning of september, 5th 1856 the front of the mount vernon was discovered to be on fire.

Soon the entire hotel was engulfed in flames.

Cape may had nothing resembling a fire company an hour and a half later the great hotel was a heap of smoldering ash.

The proprietor, his four children and the housekeeper had all perished in the flames.

Dances and grand balls were the events of the day held in large dining halls and ballrooms wide sprawling, hotel, porches and verandas, provided the perfect setting for social gatherings furnished with comfortable rocking chairs, along with tables for cards and drinks, while at the beach ladies, would protect their pale complexions with small parasols of silk and lace.

For in those days, a suntan was considered revolting associated with the working class.

While fair skin was a sign of refinement.

Every hotel provided stables for its guests, who brought with them their own horse and buggies visitors took drives along the wide open beach in their elegantly dressed carriages, hoping for the opportunity to gaze and talk about famous visitors in june 1855 president franklin pierce and the first lady visited kate may and stayed at the newly refurbished congress hall other presidents to stay at the resort included james buchanan, andrew jackson, abraham lincoln, chester, a arthur and ulysses s.

Grant as early as 1816 side-wheeled steamers were bringing visitors down, the delaware to cape may point by 1878 steamboats were offering the same round-trip excursion and the ultimate in elegant travel for a one dollar fare rail service did not arrive at cape may until 1863 nearly a decade after atlantic city, known as the cape may, and millville railroad to attract visitors.

The railroad company built the excursion house.

This brought about a new kind of traveler called the excursionist.

This new brand of visitor did not stay overnight at any of the hotels.

Instead, they arrived in the morning and returned by train at night locals had a name for these new day trippers, since they brought their lunch and shoe boxes, they were called shoebees in 1875.

The small community of seagrove was founded on cape may point initially intended as a moral and religious retreat before becoming commercially developed.

Of the four hotels built there.

Only the shorum remains becoming saint mary's by the sea in 1909.

It still stands today.

A quiet reminder of the area's calm religious town.

After the mount vernon burned to the ground in 1856, cape may began to lose much of its business to atlantic city and long branch.

At the close of summer, 1860 southerners returned to their plantations and both visitors and cape may residents knew an era had vanished.

The outbreak of the civil war would put an abrupt end to the peaceful summers spent on the veranda on august, 31st 1869, kate may was again ravaged by fire, which destroyed nearly everything in a two-block area extending back from the beachfront, the american house, the atlantic house, the united states, hotel and others all went up in flames.



What is special about Cape May NJ? ›

Cape May is the southernmost point in New Jersey and a year-round destination for families, couples, photographers, artists, and nature enthusiasts.

Is Cape May the oldest beach town? ›

The City of Cape May, “The Nation's Oldest Seashore Resort,” is located at the southern tip of the Cape May Peninsula in New Jersey. The city is designated the Cape May Historic District, a National Historic Landmark due to its concentration of Victorian buildings.

Is there a boardwalk in Cape May? ›

Cape May's promenade runs parallel to Beach Avenue and stretches for nearly two miles, taking you on a scenic walk or run past Cape May's beaches. Though it's sometimes referred to as a boardwalk, our promenade is actually paved (the last wooden boardwalk was destroyed in the 1962 nor'easter).

What happened to South Cape May? ›

The borough was badly wrecked by the 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane, which hit in September of that year. After the hurricane, the borough was dissolved as of April 30, 1945, and returned to Lower Township. The remaining land not underwater is part of a bird sanctuary (South Cape May Meadows Preserve).

What are the best months to visit Cape May? ›

The best time to visit Cape May is from May to September when the air and water temperatures are warm enough for sunbathing and swimming. While summer is when the Jersey Shore comes alive, this seaside destination still boasts plenty of activities throughout the year.

Is Cape May a wealthy area? ›

Cape May County has become one of the most expensive spots in the country for second homes according to a report from Pacaso. The report ranks Cape May County 15th in the nation in volume of sales, but the average cost per home, $989,000, ranked as the highest in the country.

Are Cape May beaches free? ›

In season, you must have a beach tag to use Cape May's beaches. Tags are required between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., from Memorial Day Weekend in May through Labor Day in September. Beach tags are required for all beachgoers 12 and over and will not be supplied by your accommodations.

What is the oldest Jersey Shore town? ›

Perhaps best known for the quaint, small town feel and award-winning beaches, Cape May is the oldest shore town resort in the country. Located on the Southern tip of New Jersey, the town has become a world renowned destination for beach-goers, history lovers and even bird watchers, who flock to the area every summer.

What is the oldest beach town in America? ›

Cape May, New Jersey

This picturesque town on the Jersey Shore is America's oldest seaside resort. Cape May is also listed as a National Historic District with more than 600 well-preserved and colorful Victorian buildings.

What are the ghost tracks Cape May beach? ›

The tracks were used in the early to mid-1900s to support sand mining and munitions testing during World War I and were used by the Cape May Sand Company from 1905 to 1936. The company removed sand from the beach or dredged it from the ocean and pulverized it to make glass or cement.

What is the famous street in Cape May? ›

Popularly known as Main Street USA, it has the reputation of having a great shopping mall, which is part of its historical landmarks. Here are key things to know before strolling down Cape May's Washington Street.

Can you swim in the ocean at Cape May? ›

Swimming is welcome. For your safety, the Beach Patrol recommends not swimming past chest-deep water (areas may be marked with flags). Ocean conditions may change quickly. Please check with the nearest lifeguard stand before you attempt distance swimming.

Why can't you swim in Cape May? ›

Cape May has an abnormally steep slope for southern New Jersey,” he says. “The sand grain in Cape May is more coarse, which makes it more steep.” He also said Cape May's sand grain size has gotten bigger over the years, but by how much depends on your source of data.

What movie took place in Cape May? ›

The Prowler (1981) - took place in the fictional town of Avalon Bay; filmed in Cape May.

Is Cape May a Republican town? ›

Predominantly suburban and rural counties, especially along the Jersey Shore and northwestern New Jersey, tend to vote Republican; this includes counties such as Ocean, Warren, Cape May and Hunterdon.

What is the least crowded beach in Cape May? ›

Pearl Beach at Cape May Point

Cape May Point, located in the southernmost tip of New Jersey, is home to Pearl Beach, the least crowded of all beaches in the area, according to Cottage Beside the Point: Vacation Rental Cottages in Cape May Point.

Is Cape May or Cape Cod better? ›

Let's take a look at Cape Cod vs Cape May! Cape Cod is characterized by its laid-back atmosphere and beautiful beaches, while Cape May is home to about 600 preserved Victorian buildings, rich history, and architectural diversity. Yet, despite their unique qualities, both can be a great spot for a seaside getaway.

What is the weather like in Cape May in early may? ›

The average temperature in Cape May in May for a typical day ranges from a high of 66°F (19°C) to a low of 58°F (14°C). Some would describe it as mildly cool and breezy.

What is the richest town on the Cape? ›

Many residents also want to know what is the richest part of Cape Cod. While you can find desirable real estate almost anywhere on the Cape, the most expensive towns are Provincetown, Chatam, Wellfleet, and Truro.

Where do millionaires live in New Jersey? ›

Short Hills

The richest town in New Jersey is Short Hills. It is also one of the country's wealthiest, with a median household income of $250,000. This places it in the top 1 percent of all cities in the United States when it comes to income, and many allege it's far wealthier than its $250,000 price tag.

What is the richest town on the Jersey Shore? ›

Deal is a small town that's also known as one of the richest towns on the Jersey Shore. Its population is a little over 500 residents, but here you can see magnificent mansions and luxurious life at its finest.

What is the cleanest beach in NJ? ›

Sea Girt Beach is one of the most private beaches you'll find in New Jersey. Because of that, it's also one of the cleanest you'll find in the area with plenty of space to spread out. Just keep in mind that no eating, drinking, or playing music is allowed.

Can you drink alcohol on the beach in Cape May? ›

Coolers: Coolers and food are permitted however; alcohol is not allowed on the beaches. There are no restrictions on beach tents, umbrellas or canopies for daytime use. Bonfires, open cooking and overnight camping is also prohibited. Parking:Cape May offers metered parking along the beachfront.

Is parking free in Cape May NJ? ›

Overnight parking in the school lot is not permitted. There are also free parking spaces on many side streets throughout town. These typically fill up early in the morning, but if you don't mind driving around, you can find occasional spaces open during the day. All parking is free in West Cape May.

Why is it called Cape May? ›

Cape May was named after a Dutch captain, Cornelius Jacobsen Mey. Due to a misspelling on the original paperwork, Cape “Mey” became Cape May, NJ. Dutch used to refer to modern day South Jersey as the “New Netherlands.” Cape May's first hotel was the Atlantic House, built in 1791 by Ellis Hughes.

What is America's oldest seaside resort? ›

In 1761, Cape Island officially became the first seashore resort in America. Visitors would come from Philadelphia came by way of horse-drawn wagons, stagecoaches, sloops and schooners – and later by train and steam-powered boats – to vacation by the sea.

What is it like to live in Cape May? ›

Cape May is a with a population of 2,922. Cape May is in Cape May County and is one of the best places to live in New Jersey. Living in Cape May offers residents a dense suburban feel and most residents own their homes. In Cape May there are a lot of restaurants, coffee shops, and parks.

What is the longest drivable beach in America? ›

Long Beach Peninsula, WA

The longest drivable beach in America and one of the longest beaches in the world, the Long Beach Peninsula features 28 miles of coastline – and 20 of those miles are drivable.

What is the oldest living town in America? ›

That distinction belongs to St. Augustine, Florida, established by the Spanish in 1565. Today, St. Augustine survives as the nation's oldest continuously occupied city, and is now gearing up for its 450th birthday bash.

What is the 2nd oldest town in America? ›

Jamestown, Virginia (1607)

The city of Jamestown is the second-oldest city in the U.S. and the site of the first permanent English colony in North America.

What are the stones in Cape May NJ? ›

Cape May diamonds (sometimes capitalized "Diamonds") are quartz pebbles found on the beaches of Cape May Point, New Jersey. The pebbles are sometimes collected, cut and polished to resemble diamonds, then sold locally as souvenirs.

Are Cape May ghost tracks still visible? ›

The ghost tracks are all that remains of a rail line that once served as support for sand mining and munitions testing facilities during World War I. The tracks are currently only visible at low tide.

Where is Poverty Beach Cape May? ›

Poverty Beach or Sewell Point is a barrier spit, approximately 2.5 miles (4 km) in length entirely within the City of Cape May, along the Atlantic Ocean coast of eastern New Jersey in the United States. It is the southernmost barrier island in New Jersey.

What is the most beautiful street in Cape May? ›

Columbia Avenue: Running parallel to the beach, this beautiful tree lined street travels straight through the historic district, connecting Ocean Street to Madison Avenue.

What is the oldest building in Cape May? ›

Colonial House stands uncontested as the oldest house standing in Cape May.

Why is it called Poverty Beach in Cape May? ›

The name of this beach, Poverty Beach, is said to have originated with the poorer classes who could use only this beach in times past. The distance of Poverty Beach from popular contemporary Cape May tourist attractions and accommodations usually assures fewer people and more peace.

Can you drink tap water in Cape May? ›

For the latest quarter assessed by the U.S. EPA (January 2021 - March 2021), tap water provided by this water utility was in compliance with federal health-based drinking water standards.

Is Cape May a dry town? ›

In Cape May County – Ocean City, Cape May Point, and Wildwood Crest are all dry communities.

What is the ocean temp at Cape May beach? ›

Today's Cape May Avenue sea temperature is 71 °F.

Does Cape May have a dress code? ›

Cape May Restaurants

There might not be a formal dress code, but we would advise dressing up. Many of our fine dining restaurants have live piano music in the evenings. Reservations strongly suggested. Casual Dining Cape May's casual restaurants offer sit-down service and are usually family friendly.

Is it safe to visit Cape May? ›

Cape May is safe for tourists. The crime rate is low, especially when it comes to violent crimes.

Does Cape May have big waves? ›

Because Cape May isn't known for its massive waves, it is a great place to learn, especially during the summer! Stay at Southern MansionAfter your long day of surfing in Cape May, rest and relax back in your room at the Southern Mansion.

Was Jaws filmed in Cape May? ›

Though the film takes place in the fictional town of Amity Island in New York, it was actually filmed throughout Martha's Vineyard, Mass. (Long Island was considered "too busy" — the filmmakers wanted an island that would feel eerily empty to filmgoers.)

Is Tom Cruise filming in Cape Town? ›

CAPE TOWN – Hollywood actor Tom Cruise is back in South Africa working on the upcoming Mission Impossible movies.

Where on the Cape was Jaws filmed? ›

Much of Jaws was filmed in Menemsha which is a small, fishing village on the western side of the island in the town of Chilmark.

Why is Cape May so popular? ›

The entire city of Cape May is designated the Cape May Historic District, a National Historic Landmark due to its concentration of Victorian architecture. Cape May was recognized as one of the top 10 beaches in the United States by the Travel Channel. It is part of the South Jersey region of the state.

What is special about Cape May? ›

Cape May County, “The Jersey Cape,” is a destination famous for its beaches and boardwalks, but the Cape offers visitors of all ages much more to explore than surf, sand and amusements.

Does Cape May have a downtown? ›

The Washington Street Mall is Cape May's picturesque town square lined with unique shopping, dining, and more. We are the heart of America's Original Seaside Resort! Make it Easy, Ride the Jitney!

What are 3 facts about Cape May? ›

  • There's a legend that pirate Captain William Kidd left buried treasure somewhere in Cape May, NJ.
  • Pirates traveling up the coast regularly dropped anchor on the shores of Cape May, NJ.
  • The Lenni Lenape were the first to inhabit Cape May.
  • Cape May was named after a Dutch captain, Cornelius Jacobsen Mey.
Feb 1, 2016

Is Cape May a walkable town? ›

The best way to see Cape May is to walk through town. Cape May is a small island with so much to see that walking is the best way to explore. Biking in Cape May is a favorite pastime among visitors and locals, and one of the easiest ways to get around town.

Why can't you swim at Cape May Point? ›

Cape May has an abnormally steep slope for southern New Jersey,” he says. “The sand grain in Cape May is more coarse, which makes it more steep.” He also said Cape May's sand grain size has gotten bigger over the years, but by how much depends on your source of data.

Were there pirates in Cape May? ›

Documented reports note that there was, indeed, pirate activity here. In one instance, at least, a Governor Bass claimed to have "been credibly informed that Captain Kidd...had been seen and spoken to..." aboard a large sloop near Cape May.

Can you drink alcohol in Cape May? ›

On Tuesday, Gov. Phil Murphy signed the legislation, which was first introduced in fall 2020. Cape May, Atlantic City and North Wildwood were among the Shore towns that had allowed for seasonal open carry and consumption of beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks starting in summer 2020.

Why is Cape May popular? ›

The entire city of Cape May is designated the Cape May Historic District, a National Historic Landmark due to its concentration of Victorian architecture. Cape May was recognized as one of the top 10 beaches in the United States by the Travel Channel. It is part of the South Jersey region of the state.

Is Cape May considered South Jersey? ›

South Jersey may be defined geographically as the area below I-195 that includes the state's lower seven counties: Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem.

Can you sleep in your car in Cape May? ›

Absolutely no camping (sleeping, eating, watching TV) is permitted in a parked RV within Cape May City.

Can you walk around Cape May with alcohol? ›

Cape May and Atlantic City are now allowing people to stroll in certain areas with an open alcoholic container. The Jersey Shore towns are hoping to boost business at bars and restaurants hit by the coronavirus pandemic shutdown.

How do people spend a day in Cape May? ›

While not in the ocean or on the beach, visitors can spend time in Cape May exploring nature trails, whale and dolphin watching, taking Victorian house or ghost tours, golfing (real and miniature), fishing (surf and sea), antiquing or visiting art galleries and history exhibits.

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