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Year: 2002

Cozy Cape May

cozyheader2Victorian Cape May is a seaside town like no other. The ancient ocean rolls up on her flat beaches within yards of meticulously decorated wooden homes. At holiday time, Cape May is in stark contrast to her cousin towns on the Jersey shore.

The Queen Victoria

The Queen Victoria

In December, though it may be cold enough to freeze brass, you can come to Cape May and enjoy a whole new seashore experience. The summer crowds are gone, replaced by the visitors of December who come to enjoy a quieter getaway amid twinkling Christmas lights, welcoming taverns and people who are really happy to see them.

Although not a time for being barefoot on the sand, the wind and the salt air at this time of year can be invigorating! Still, a gray afternoon walk along the windy beach from the Coast Guard base to the cove can chill even the heartiest explorer. When the elements have depleted your energy and it’s time to come inside, Cape May is ready for you.

The Wooden Rabbit

The Wooden Rabbit

With over half of Cape May’s Victorian inns and hotels staying open through December, warm comfort is easy to find. Most Cape May inns maintain working fireplaces and innkeepers who are particularly skilled in preparing special holiday treats. Surrounded by antiques, polished woodwork and the scent of fresh pastries, you can settle in to an easy chair in the parlor and know that this is Cape May in winter.

‘Tis the season to shop for gifts and Cape May accommodates. The Washington Street Mall, a pedestrian-only street three blocks long has holiday browsing not found in encased suburban mall structures. You don’t lug your coat; you wear it. Enjoy a free taste of fresh fudge and sample the decorated shop windows: toys, crafts, art prints, dolls, shoes, fashions of all kinds, sweets, jewelry and of course, fresh air.

Winterwood Gift Shop

Winterwood Gift Shop

Beyond the open mall more delightful shops pop up all over, from Beach Avenue to Washington Commons; from Congress Hall to West Cape May. Everywhere, there are specialty stores with hard-to-find crafted items, more unusual fashions, antiques and traditional seaside items. Selections run the gamut from upscale to kitsch, which makes the shopping all the more fun.

Peter Shields Inn

Peter Shields Inn

When you’re hungry, step into a warm tavern and mingle with other visitors from places far from shore. Or reserve a table for dinner at one of Cape May’s excellent and renowned- restaurants. Holiday dining in Cape May is as unique as the shopping. Excellent chefs, beautifully decorated dining rooms and classic menus peppered with house specialties, stand ready to satisfy and warm your holiday spirit.

Fairthorne Cottage

Fairthorne Cottage

When darkness falls, Cape May stages a dawn of her own with thousands of Christmas lights. Gleaming windows reveal decorated trees and wreaths inside inns from Columbia and Ocean to the gazebo on Lafayette. Bundle up for a winter stroll and behind it all, if you listen past the familiar sounds of carols, you will hear the sea, Cape May’s constant companion.

— Reggie McMillan

Photographs in order of appearance: Buttonwood Manor, The Queen Victoria, The Wooden Rabbit,  Winterwood Gift Shop, Peter Shields Inn and the Fairthorne Cottage B&B.


Review: Cape May Court House: A Death in the Night

courthouse-bookIf one lives down here, one is prepared to not like anything written by outsiders about our little world. Why, you landlubbers may ask? Because they never get it right, that’s why. It’s like Hollywood trying to make a movie about the working class. The world of the working stiff is either over-romanticized or downright insulting. Lawrence Schiller does not make that mistake in his recently published book,  Cape May Court House – A Death In The Night.

The book details events surrounding the death of the wife of a prominent Cape May Court House dentist, Dr. Eric Thomas, in a car accident late one winter night in 1997. Thomas, who was also in the car along with their young daughter, sues the Ford Motor Co. for the wrongful death of his pregnant wife Tracy who was driving the Ford Explorer at the time. Ford turns the tables on Thomas alleging Tracy Thomas did not die from a defective air bag but rather from strangulation.

The town itself is really not a focal point in the book, except to portray how small a community Cape May Court House is and how important one’s stature in that community can be when one’s reputation is disparaged. One reason the town is basically AWOL is because no one who lives in Cape May Court House would talk on the record and very few spoke at all about the man or his family.

Just how small a town Cape May Court House is becomes an issue as the case proceeds. At one point according to the book, attorneys for the dentist plead with the judge to seal the records regarding Ford’s accusations of “wrongdoing, misdeeds, or foul deeds” against their client. In making his case, Tom Mellon of Mellon, Webster & Mellon, Doylestown, Pa. asserts that Cape May Court House “is a very small community. It’s a very tight-knit community. Everybody knows everybody. This man is a minority in a very small community. If you don’t seal those expert documents for those who are in and out of this courtroom … somebody is going to get them.” The motion is denied.

What is most fascinating about the book is the intimate look it provides the reader inside the heads of Ford’s legal team, who were obviously far more forthcoming than attorneys for the plaintiff, therefore making the book list a bit. But Ford won, so naturally they would be a bit more “chatty.” Bill Conroy, at that time representing the Philadelphia firm of White & Williams, led Ford’s legal battle. The games begin when Conroy notices certain inconsistencies with Thomas’ original deposition. When he calls on experts regarding airbag deployment, he receives an opinion from one particular expert that he is not expecting — Tracy’s death was caused not by airbag deployment but by strangulation. As a result, Conroy decides to take on criminal lawyer Glen Zeitz to assist him in investigating the Thomas suit. Among Zeitz’s clients: Philadelphia mob boss Ralph Natale; a high school principal convicted of murdering a teacher and her two children; and Robert Marshall, convicted of murdering his wife in an insurance scam — the subject of the book Blind Faith.

In answer to their move, Mellon comes back with a criminal attorney of their own, Carl Poplar, with 30 years of experience in the criminal defense area.

The most likable character and the one the reader most likely to identify with is Judge Joel B. Rosen, a federal magistrate in Camden County who heard all motions and pretrial matters in the case. The poor man starts out thinking he’s dealing with just another Fortune 500 company liability case and is anxious to get matters dispatched as efficiently and expeditiously as possible without too many courtroom ploys. Boy, is he in for a surprise!

No criminal charges were ever brought against Dr. Thomas. He dropped his suit against Ford in July of 2001.

The back and forth between attorneys, as well the doggedly determined work of investigation are well detailed making Cape May Court House a good read — especially on a chilly winter evening.


The Town Named after a Building

cmcourthouse“Where’s the courthouse?”

New to the Jersey Shore, Terri and Ted came to Cape May to test a dream of owning and running a retail store. They go to the bank to open an account. The bank manager tells them they must secure a certain document from the court before they can open a commercial account. The couple asks the banker where the courthouse is. “Cape May Court House,” he says.

Too embarrassed to ask passers-by, Terri and Ted spend the rest of the afternoon walking up and down Washington Street in Cape May  looking for the courthouse.  They find City Hall and the police station with no problem, but the courthouse eludes them. Finally, they determine that the banker must mean the Magistrate’s court in the basement of City Hall. They go inside and ask the City Clerk where they can pick up the needed document. “Oh, you have to go Cape May Court House for that,” she replies. “We can’t do that here.”

“You mean the Magistrate’s offices downstairs?” asks Terri.

“No. You have to go up to Cape May Court House.” Seeing their befuddled look, she takes pity on them, although not much. “The town,” she says with exasperation. “The town of Cape May Court House. North on Route 9, about 10 miles.”

Not the first time those unfamiliar with the area have made that mistake. A recently published book, Cape May Court House -A Death In The Night, by best-selling author Lawrence Schiller was touted on a  network Morning Show where the hostess made the very same gaff as the couple, only to be corrected by the author. The book and the subsequent media attention its publication is commanding has put the tiny town of Cape May Court House in the spotlight, probably more so than the events which precipitated its writing.

A Brief History of Cape May Court House

In Colonial times, the village was called Romney Marsh. Later it became Middle Town, as it lies in the middle of Cape May County. By the early part of the 19th century, the county seat became known as Cape May Court House. According to an article written back in the 1940s by Edward M. Post, custodian of the Cape May County Historical Museum, the name started with Captain Mey, a Dutch explorer who landed at the southern tip of the state, hence the name Cape May. Cape May then became the name of the county and, according to a Post article, “when the courthouse was built, it followed the old southern custom and the site of the courthouse of Cape May County became known as Cape May Court House.”

So, that takes care of the name. But what about the town itself?  It was first settled over 300 years ago by Shamgar Hand in 1694. He was a whaler by trade in Sagg Harbor, Long Island, when he and his friend, Christopher Leaming, moved to Town Bank on the Delaware River bank just north of Cape May. Hand purchased 408 acres of land, situated on both sides of Crooked Creek from the West Jersey Society. He later bought 700 more acres, according to the Post article “comprising the present location of the town [of Cape May Court House] extending from Holmes’ run to the southern border of the high school grounds. The eastern boundary was the sounds and the western boundary was White Oak swamp.” cmcourthouse2After the first survey in 1703 by Shamgar’s nephew, Jeremiah Hand, the property acquired the name “Romney Marsh” from the “fertile fields of Kent county, England, the homeland of the Hands.”

The first actual court house was originally the first Baptist Church in Cape May County.  It was built in 1715 and became the courthouse when the Baptists erected a new church in 1744.  A second court house was built in 1774 by master builder Daniel Hand, Jr. (Shamgar’s grandson) on an acre of land donated to the county by his father for use as a courthouse and jail.

It was a small town, even in 1929.

Recollections of publisher, Alfred Cooper, who launched the Cape May County Gazette in 1880, appeared in the paper in March of 1929. Cooper recalled that in 1880 “there were no sidewalks here — merely paths by the side of the road. There was no building line on the main streets and houses were located where and as the owner’s whims dictated.” So far as the writer could recall, the only buildings then that lined Mechanic Street (more generally known as ‘the lane‘) were ten homes, a store, a house owned by Hannah Hand, a store owned by Mrs. Harry Stites, a barber shop, and a harness shop. “From this point to Main Street, on the north side, all the ground was occupied by William Ross’s lumber yard and store.”

Cooper refers to two major fires, one on the Centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1876, which broke out in the Wheaton Hotel and another on Washington’s Birthday in 1905.

The publisher concludes that “until the building up of the seashore resorts brought into the county many people from other States, ninety-five percent of the population of Cape May County was ‘native born,’ and ‘class’ was almost unknown — maptocourthousewhen deciding to have a surprise party no invitations were issued — a simple announcement of the party was made, and everybody in the community was welcome to attend. The same was true of the prevalent beach parties — the participants often numbered a hundred or more.”

Today…

Still an essentially quiet small town, but with no town government of its own (it’s part of Middle Township which has its own Mayor and Council), the outskirts of Cape May Court House today are peppered with commercial shopping centers. The remnants of the old “mechanics shops” from two centuries ago, echo in today’s Cape May Court House. As it was through the 18th and 19th centuries, the town is still the place to find what you can’t find elsewhere in Cape May County.

The current courthouse was built in 1927; the old courthouse and many Victorian and Colonial houses still line the main streets. And of course, they still hold court here — and this is where certain documents must be sought if an entrepreneur wants to get loans and start a business in far-away Cape May.


27th Annual Hawk Watch

hwkheaderhawkwatch6Some sit patiently waiting. Some stand — their bodies pivot, arms upraised, binoculars in hand. They speak in quiet tones like people waiting for a golfer to hit a crucial shot. It’s easy to tell the serious hawk watchers from the everyday tourist or curious spectator. For one, they have equipment. Serious equipment. Binoculars are slung around their necks. High-powered binoculars rest on adjustable tripods with high-powered names like Swarovski, the official sponsor of the Hawk Watch, Nikon and Leica.

Chris Vogel

Chris Vogel

The official bird counter, on this day Chris Vogel, whom colleagues described as an “ornithological gypsy,” stands at the top of the observation deck calling out the names of birds he spots: “Sharpie (Sharp-shinned Hawk) swooping down next to a Cooper’s Hawk over by the lake.” “Where are the Balds?” Eagles, that is — Bald Eagles.

It is a good day for Hawk watching. A cold front has moved in along with strong northwesterly winds providing optimum conditions for the migrating raptors.

This is the 27th Hawk Watch. Cape May Point, is a funnel for hawks, Monarch butterflies, and other migratory birds. From September 1st through November, Cape May Point is their stop-off  before they cross the 14-mile stretch of the Delaware Bay to land, then continue to points further south on the other side.

hawkwatchplat2As Mark Garland, senior naturalist at the Cape May Bird Observatory and author of Watching Nature, puts it “They come here to stop, rest and refuel. I equate it with telling a someone, ‘you have a 14 -mile run and if you stop before the 14 miles have elapsed you’re dead.’  These are not water fowl. They cannot land on water. If they do, they die.”

Cape May Point State Park is the spot they pick for their hiatus, and the hawk count begins just as they take flight over the bay. Official tallies have range from over 88,000 hawks to as few as 22,000 hawks per year, with an average of 55,000. Some watches are more spectacular than others. Garland noted that in a recent Hawk Watch, “we counted 19,000 hawks in one day.” Last year, however, the count plummeted to 28,849 total sightings. Unusually warm weather the past two years has been blamed for the decrease in numbers.

hawkwatch5In warmer weather, Garland explained, the winds are generally unfavorable coming not from the west or northwest, which also ushers in a cold front, but rather from a more southerly direction.

“We don’t know if this weather pattern is going to be a trend or not, but that is the point of the Hawk Watch to collect data in a consistent way in this and other Hawk watches so that it serves as a good census for long term trends of what’s happening. It’s difficult when the wildlife is dispersed to tell what the trends are.” That’s the importance, he said, of the Hawk Watch particularly in Cape May where so many birds congregate in such a small area.

hawkwatch1Data collected serves as a barometer for what is happening in the whole of nature and in mankind. Garland cites as an example the noted decrease in population of the American Bald Eagle and the Peregrine Falcon back in the 50s. The decline was attributed to the use of DDT as a pesticide. Later, similar negative findings were found in the breast milk of women, also attributed to the use of DDT.

The possible extinction of the two species, as well as the problems the human species faces as a result of pesticide use, found a voice in Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, which triggered the environmental movement of the 60s. “The research,” Garland said, “that made those discoveries possible started with bird watchers.”

Conversely, the banning of the use of DDT has brought about a surge in population of the Bald Eagle, the Peregrine and the Osprey.

An observation deck in Cape May Point State Park has been built with the Hawk Watch in mind. It is very unlike the first observation deck. When Pete Dunne, author of The Feather Quest and Tales of A Low Rent Birder, climbed up on a lifeguard stand 27 years ago and became Cape May Point’s first official Hawk Watch counter, he was completely unprepared for what lie ahead.

Pete Dunne

Pete Dunne

Hired by  Bill Clark, a member of the New Jersey Audubon Society to make the fall count for the newly formed Cape May Bird Observatory, Dunne said, “Up to that point, I counted for mostly for myself. I’d participated in a spring bird count but that amounted to maybe 3,000 birds.” In fact, he counted 21,800 birds of prey that first day.

The official count for fall, 1976 was 48,245. “And I missed two of the best days,” he said. “I couldn’t come in. Those were the best days of the watch. I’m sure I would have counted 80,000 total for that year had I not missed them.”

birders2Dunne describes the observation site in 1976 not as a pristine wilderness waiting to be cultivated but a wasteland filled with discarded concrete, old utility lines, and debris from years of military construction. There was no parking lot and no roof over the pavilion. In fact, he says there wasn’t even any vegetation. The Cedars and greenery which currently surround the site have all been planted since that first Hawk Watch.

What Dunne nor any of the founding members of the Cape May Bird Observatory could predict 27 years ago was the explosion in popularity birding watching would take and the growing importance the Cape May Hawk Watch would assume. Its reputation has made it a Mecca for bird watchers.

hawkwatch2“People don’t have to turn to Antarctica or the Equator to see a great spectacle of nature,” said Dunne. “It’s right here in their own back yard. As we become more estranged from nature, there is more and more a need to integrate with nature. Here, on this observation deck, we can provide the mechanisms to bring people and nature together without the not-so-serious birder becoming intimidated.”

Dunne scanned the observation deck and pointed out those people who were seasoned birders (again that equipment thing) and those there for possibly the first time. “Everyone can enjoy this and maybe someone coming here for the first time will go back and buy a book on birding and become a little more curious.”

That is why, according to Mark Garland, the Observatory makes sure they always have two staff people in addition to the counter on hand to answer any questions.

As an example of what can await the patient observer, October 5th brought birders the chance to see 298 Peregrine Falcons cross the Delaware Bay. The Peregrine is the darling of bird watchers. Its species numbered between 30 and 40 back in the 60s because of the use of DDT.

birdboardAnd the Peregrine for thousands of years was considered the “sport of kings.” It is a powerful bird and one of the fastest in world. When stalking prey, it folds itself up like a bullet and swoops down on a flock of birds to attack traveling 150-miles an hour. The Peregrines threatened extinction became the symbol for environmentalists, not only as a sign of the environmental problems which caused its decline but also a sign that solutions are possible.

“Long term consistent data is so crucial,” said Garland. “Decision-makers need data.  In order to collect that data, we need  to save the habitat so the birds have a place to rest and refuel. Development is inevitable and we need to understand which areas are more critical for wildlife and keep those areas safe and protected. We need advocates  and that’s our purpose. We identify the problem and act a solution.”

As morning slips into the noon hour, Chris Vogel jumps off his observation perch moving swiftly across the deck. “Look. To the right of the cedars — a Red Shouldered Hawk.” Like an event out of synchronized birding, 150 bodies, arms upraised with binoculars in perfect eye-gazing position, simultaneously swing in the direction he is pointing to view the raptor. Almost apologetically, he looks back at the non-binocular people, “This is a good day.”


Long Gone but Refusing to Leave: The Ghosts of Cape May

All images were enhanced for this article. The woman on the bed is  not real nor was the picture taken in the Queen’s Hotel. CapeMay.com has not been able to catch any of the ghosts on film yet.

hotelmacomber-room10blkIt was a dark and stormy night…. well….it was dark. Desiree, our guide to ghostly apparitions, has already led us up Beach Avenue, along Jackson Street, over to the Washington Street Mall, down Ocean and, now, we stand peering up into the window of Room #10 at the  Hotel Macomber, formerly the Stockton Villa, circa 1914, on Beach Avenue and Howard Street.

The Hotel Macomber seems to be positively loaded with spirits from the beyond.

Desiree tells of radios going on in the shops beneath the porch –  the ghost seems particularly keen on Country Western music. There are tales of a woman “wearing a shabby waitress” uniform who likes to move about the dining room of the upscale Union Park Restaurant lifting table cloths from the tables, or roams the kitchen moving the chef’s vegetable knives from one spot to another, always when he is alone.

The lady of Room #10 is a particular favorite of Al Rauber’s who has been coming to Cape May for 28 years, generally staying at the Hotel Macomber. Rauber, an investigator of paranormal phenomena (something he does as a hobby) decided to share his findings regarding Cape May and started the Haunted Cape May Tour 8 years ago. He is assisted by tour historian Diane Bixler.

By Rauber’s definition, a ghost is an entity with an electromagnetic field of energy surrounding it and one which also has a level of consciousness. “For example,” he said, in the case of the ghostly sightings at Winterwood, a gift shop on the Washington Street Mall, formerly Keltie’s Newsstand, the mischievous sisters who supposedly haunt the building have been guilty in the past of knocking over shelves of books and, under the new owners, knocking over displays of Christmas ornaments. “The owners and staff who have been bothered by them have” from time to time “told the Knerr sisters (who operated a millinery store in the building) to stop and usually they do. That shows a level a consciousness which cannot otherwise be explained. A paranormal event is one which is unexplainable by natural laws as we know and understand them today. We don’t understand why it’s happening, but it’s happening.”

room10beds

Room 10

Desiree tells a story of an older woman whose children treated her to a stay at the Macomber the summer after her husband died. She continued to come summer after summer, always arriving with her steamer trunk and always staying in Room #10. “Apparently,” says Desiree, “she still comes back.”

People over the years report feeling a presence in the room, cold spots in the room, watches stop and start again when the guests leave the room. Doors slam for no apparent reason, There have been frequent reports in the dining room below of the sound of heavy furniture being moved, despite the fact that all the rooms are now carpeted and all the furniture wicker. “She seems to come about four times each summer,” says Desiree, “staying from Thursday to Thursday. Last year she only came three times.”

Door to Room 10

Door to Room 10

Rauber decided to test the waters in Room #10 by checking into the room last summer with his wife and a friend. “I made sure the windows were closed,” he said “It was June and still cool at night. I didn’t want any outside sources to interfere with what was going on inside the room. When we went to bed, we made sure the bathroom door was shut. At about 2 a.m. we woke up to the sound of a double slam.” When Rauber jumped out of bed, he ran to the bathroom door and noticed the mirror on it was still moving. “It was a heavy wicker mirror. When we tried it, we discovered that if the bathroom door were closed with enough force the mirror would also slam against the door itself. So, a double slam.”

queenshotel

The Queen's Hotel

The  Queen’s Hotel, at Ocean Street and  Columbia Avenue, circa 1876, has been the source of many weird tales as well, but not so much under the ownership of  Dane and Joan Wells, who also own the stately  Queen Victoria, circa 1880, just across the street. Dane Wells said they took over the Queen’s Hotel, then called the Heirloom, in November of 1994 and, after extensive renovations, reopened Memorial Day weekend 1995.

According to Maria Walters, the hotel manager, most of the tales have been confined to a third floor room called the Plum Room under the previous owner. The building originally was the site of Ware’s Pharmacy, which was also used as a front for gambling activities and possibly a brothel.

Could there really be ghosts at the Queen's Hotel?

Could there really be ghosts at the Queen's Hotel?

“I know prior to our ownership,” said Dane Wells, “there were several reports of guests sensing a presence in the room, followed by the smell of a woman’s perfume, and sometimes the impression of someone sitting on the bed.” Vacuum cleaners supposedly would come on with no one in the room and various other electrical mishaps. “I’m pretty familiar with the electrical wiring in that building,” said Wells, who is neither a believer nor a non believer of ghostly occurrences, “and those types of things are easily explained. However, I had one incident there in which the guests were locked out of their room and I’ve never been able to explain it.”  Each room at the Queen’s Hotel has a privacy lock, so that no one can enter the room, including the staff, without a special pass key. “Now in some instances,” he said, “there is a gap between the door jam and lock, so, one could speculate that the privacy lock had been inadvertently tripped. On this particular door, however, there was no such gap. It was a snug fit, and I could never quite figure out how the door got locked from the inside.” He does not however, have any recollection of a woman being locked out of her room and having to spend the night on the landing, as one story goes.

Maria Walters said the workmen who did the renovations named the ghost “Martha” and like to think of her as a “working girl.”  Paranormal experiences, said Walters, who spends 12 months of the year at the hotel, are for the most part “far removed from our experience.” She does cite one particular October fours year ago when something seemed afoot. “The full moon coincided with a full eclipse of the moon. That weekend I had three different guests tell me that they felt a presence in the house. And one woman said she definitely sensed someone on the bed with her.”

windward

Windward House

Not everyone is accepting of the ghost tales of Cape May. Walters said they’ve had a few cancellations, and one incident when the guests checked out after inadvertently hearing the lady on the landing story. “We can’t pretend the stories don’t exist,” she said, “but we don’t play it up either. We know that sometimes these things can be offensive to people.” Are all the ghosts of Cape  May female? Al Rauber nods, “It does seem that way. You have to understand that hauntings are emotional energies looking for a source.” Most reports of hauntings, he said, occur during a renovation of the property when energy is being released from the building or a change
of ownership, or during a time of emotional stress. “In Cape May,” he said, “we had a lot of girls coming over from Ireland to work as domestics in these hotels. They were young girls, sometimes 13 or 14. They were alone and generally, they stayed on the second or third floor rooms. Can you imagine the loneliness? And there is so much about Cape May which we’ll never know because of the fires and floods which destroyed records that could tell us more.”

“We call our ghost Bridgette,” said Sandy Miller, owner of Windward House, circa 1905. Sandy and Owen Miller took over the inn in 1977 and did not become full time residents until 1983. Sandy Miller speculates Bridgette was Irish, hired as a servant and stayed in the third floor room. Prior to remodeling, Miller said the room in question was the hottest and most uncomfortable room in  Windward House. “It’s on the backside of the building, away from the ocean breeze. Of course there was no air conditioning. It was very, very hot up there.”

Although she herself never had a sighting, there have been numerous reports of them, particularly before the rooms were redone. She estimates 6 to 8 reports a season in the first 10 years of her ownership. “I’ve been told, ” she said “these occurrences are more frequent when a new owner takes over. The spirit is unsettled by the change and as they get more comfortable with the new owner the reports start to fade away.”

womanghost

Is there a female presence at the Windward House?

Bridgette has been seen wearing a dress of shiny gold fabric. “I did have a report about month ago from a guest who said she felt a female presence in the room. I’ve had three or four women tell me of placing a pair of earrings on their bed stand before they went to bed. In the morning the earrings were gone and the guest would ask me to alert the staff in case they found them.

By the time the guests returned to their room that night, the earrings would be exactly where they remembered leaving them.”

None of the innkeepers reported being particularly frightened by their ghostly visitors but rather sensed in reports from their guests and their own findings that the apparitions were non-threatening. A little girl ghost, named Elizabeth by the wait staff at the Washington Inn, used to cause quite a fright when she would call out their names in the dining room or kitchen, always when the person was alone. In recent years, however, her presence has faded, particularly since the Craig family, owners of the prestigious restaurant, removed the center staircase from the house.

Michael Craig does remember an incident occurring during children’s Nutcracker tea two years ago which the inn holds every Christmas. “The mother of one of the children,” he said, “stepped back to take a picture of her daughter who was sitting at the corner table. When the pictures were developed she called me right away. ‘You have to see this,’ she said. Next to her daughter was the image of another 7-year-old jacksonstreetgirl standing by the table. And we could find no explanation for this.”

When Rauber is called in to investigate a paranormal activity, he does not, he says, use an isolated incident. “We look for building blocks of happenings. Repeated occurrences that cannot be explained given what we know today. Listen, a ghost has no energy. It must draw energy from one of two sources. Either it uses an electrical source or our emotions. That’s why there are so many incidents of people feeling a cold spot, because the spirit is draining our energy. The more frightened we are, the more energy it drains. I’m 85% to 90% sure that ghosts do exist. Either they exist,” he says “or there is some part of our mind which tells us they exist.”

And as the tour brochure says of these residents, “long gone but refusing to leave. Cape May has been described as heaven on earth. Perhaps they don’t know the difference.”


Inside Cape May’s Wineries

It’s harvest time in Cape May. Not tomatoes, corn or lima beans but grapes. Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, White Rieslings, Merlots. Grapes from which fine wines are made.
harvesting

Vineyards are popping up in Cape May County. The look is unmistakable. Rows and rows of wooden framed wire fencing with green vines stretching across them. You can see them driving along Seashore Road, Townbank Road, Jonathan Hoffman Road and Railroad Avenue in Rio Grande.

It all started in the late 1980s, according to Bill Hayes, of Cape May Wineries, when Dr. Joe Fiolla from Rutgers University’s Cook College presented findings that the soil in Cape May County tested well for suitability in growing a variety of grapes. “I had already retired from the Coast Guard,” said Hayes,crushing9 “and we owned Howey’s Nursery in the Villas.” Looking for another challenge, they sold the nursery and started planting grape vines on their 10-acre Townbank Road property.

“We started out with 7 rows of experimental planting and opened up July 1st, 1995 as a commercial winery.” Currently, 8 of the 10 acres of land are planted. “It costs $20,000 to plant one acre of grapes and that’s just getting it into the ground. Then there’s the processing.”

“It’s a labor of love,” said Joan Hayes, “And a tough way to make a living. It took six years before we realized a cash flow on the positive side.”

Recently, recognition is flowing their way. Cape May Winery’s 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon took the gold in the 2001 New Jersey Governor’s Cup competition. Their wines have been lauded in Forbes Magazine and the National Public bottles2Radio broadcast of “Splendid Table.” They are not daunted by competition as new vineyards crop up. “We’d like to seem more vineyards come here and use the land for agriculture not condominiums,” she said. “There’s plenty of room for all of us. Wines are distinctive. Some may like the taste of ours and some the taste of someone else’s. We’re glad to see the other growers are planting grapes to make premium wines not hybrids.” In other words, a cheaper and mass marketable brand.

Such is the case with Sara and Salvatore Turdo, who just harvested their first crop last month. In 1999 they cleared 4.5 acres. That translates to 4,500 vines of the finest European grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Viognier (a grape similar to Chardonnay). He has also planted grapes from his native Italy – Nebbiolo and Dolcetto from Northern Italy and Sangiovese from  Tuscany.

Unlike Cape May Winery, their site at Jonathan Hoffman Road will not have a tasting room. “We are really interested in wholesaling our wines to local restaurants. We’ve planted fewer grapes in the hopes of making a name for ourselves and to produce the finest wine possible.”antiquegrapechrusher

Having recently received their winery license, the Turdos will market their wine under the name “Turis.” The Chardonnays should be ready, he said, by early June. The aging process will require another 18 months for the reds to be saleable.

An electrical contractor in Bergen County, NJ, Turdo hopes to retire to Cape May in two years and devote all his energies to making wine as his father did before they came to America.
“You know,” he said, “when you get to be 40, the taste of beer becomes boring. I started to long for the wines I grew up with. I remembered a lot from my childhood and started making wine at home. But to grow your own grapes and make a vintage wine. That’s a goal!”

As it is now, he admits “It’s a challenge. It’s just me and my wife coming down on weekends, mostly and looking for help for the harvest. Mr. and Mrs. Hayes have been very helpful.” As Sara harvesting3Turdo gets on the bullhorn announcing to the grape pickers that lunch is served, her husband looks over his vineyard. “It’s very hard down here because the state of New Jersey doesn’t offer the help that other states like New York and Pennsylvania do for their wine makers. I know for a fact that New York offers grants. We seem to be on our own down here.” The Turdos picked Cape May County over Long Island because of the extended growing season here and an already entrenched tourist trade. “Right here in Cape May,” said Turdo, “you have the longest growing season in New Jersey with temperatures that don’t drop below freezing until November. It’s perfect for a large variety of grapes.”

Arthur “Toby” Craig, owner of the prestigious Washington Inn Restaurant, already known for having one of the largest wine cellars in Southern New Jersey, has also planted a vineyard this spring. Five acres of Chardonnay and Merlot are already planted with plans for other varieties of French and Spanish grapes. “Really,” said his son Michael Craig, “The vineyards [act as] anbsgrapes ambiance for the grounds which we intend to use for catering weddings and other functions. We’re about two years away from our first harvest. We haven’t really decided which direction we’re going.”

Acres of vineyards stretch along the back of the Craig property. A large barn was built on the site to accommodate gatherings. A small pond and herbal garden separate the grounds providing guests with a bucolic backdrop for mingling, strolling and enjoyment. Craig also agreed that although Joan and Bill Hayes as well as the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Agency have been helpful, “You are out there on your own,” when it comes to information and advice in deciding how best to proceed.

One of the reasons for this isolation is that there are so few vineyards compared to the number of vegetable farms, according to Russell Blair, the Cape May County Extension Agent. The research, therefore, tends to be in the area with the largest concentration of farms. “In New Jersey’s case,” he said, “that would be vegetable crops. Pennsylvania research specializes in field crops, and yes, New York has a very large concentration of vineyards and commercial wineries, so they offer far more resources in that area.” Additionally, when someone leaves a position,vines Blair said, it takes a long time to replace them. “My own position,” he said, “was open for two years”.

In the case of finding a wine specialist or small fruit researcher, the position could take even longer to fill. Dr. Fiolla has since left Rutgers for a position in Maryland. The closest wine specialist today is Dr. Larry Pavlis in Atlantic County. “As it stands now,” said Blair, “the only winery in Cape May County is the Hayes’ Cape May Winery. Another one is scheduled to come on board soon in Green Creek. I believe the Turdos just received their winery license and three other vineyards are being planned.”

“That’s another reason why we’d love to see more vineyards come to Cape May,” said Joan Hayes,” or, for that matter, the state of New Jersey. As we grow, so will the dollars spent on research. The vineyards in New York are well supported by Cornell University and we hope someday we’ll have the same relationship with Rutgers here in Cape May County, but that takes time.”

manontracktor3Pointing to the lush acres of grapes before her and the tractor pulling a wagon filled with buckets of White Riesling grapes, Joan Hayes, says, “Shouldn’t we do everything we can to encourage use of the land for agriculture? Don’t we have enough condominiums?”

If you go…

The Cape May Winery and Vineyards are located at 709 Townbank Road in North Cape May. Phone: 609-884-1169. The winery is open Monday though Saturday from 11am – 5pm for sales. Wine tasting hours are Friday and Saturday from 11am – 5pm. Please call ahead if you are inquiring about sales.


Beach Drive or Beach Avenue?

beachavenuearial

“It’s Beach Drive, not Beach Avenue. Our family has been here for sixty years and it’s always been Beach Drive. It’s only recently they started calling it Beach Avenue,” so says Robert Fite, former owner of the Colonial Hotel, circa 1894, now called the Inn of Cape May at Beach Avenue and Ocean Street. The hotel is still a landmark on Beach Avenue in the heart of Cape May.

horsesonbeachaveOpinions run strong and memories deep among those whose families have lived in Cape May for the most of the 20th century. The history of Beach Avenue is rich with tales of fires, storms, innovations and a lifestyle now nearly forgotten. An 1850 street map of Cape Island shows five hotels running along the avenue. They were Congress Hall, Old Atlantic, New Atlantic, Columbia House, and the Mansion House. The next year, 1851, Cape Island incorporated and became Cape Island City. According to The Summer City by the Sea, by Emil R. Salvini, the Cape Island Turnpike Company laid out a road connecting the steamboat terminus to Cape May in 1852, known today as Sunset Boulevard.

That same year talk began regarding construction of a railroad linking Camden City to Absecon Island, but the rail lines did not come to Cape May until the Civil War years in 1863. With the railroad, came more tourists, and in 1869 the Stockton Hotel opened taking up the entire block between Howard and Gurney streets and Columbia Avenue and the Atlantic Ocean.

In the sitting room of the two-story home Fite shares with his wife Betsy, he recalls the “halcyon days” of Cape May in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. “Our house was where the horse stables for the Stockton Hotel were situated,” said Fite. “The stables were demolished prior to WWI.”

Raymond Fite (Robert’s father) along with his wife and family, two sons and a daughter, took over the Colonial Hotel from Wil Church, the original owner, in 1927.

Robert remembers, “in those days people came with steamer trunks and they stayed at least one week, most often more. And, of course there were no restaurants. The hotels all had their own restaurants. We baked our own bread, made our own desserts, and all that time I bet we didn’t have more than four chefs. We had a children’s dining room where a paid attendant watched over the children while their parents ate in the big dining room.

stocktonbathhouses

Stockton Bath Houses

Everyone dressed for dinner. The men in coats and ties. On Saturdays the women would be in evening dress. After dinner they’d go across to Convention Hall for dancing. That went on until the 1940s when people still went dancing but things gradually started becoming a little less formal.”

Bathhouses were common along Beach Avenue up until the ‘ 60s. The Colonial alone had 1,000 bathhouses lined along its property. The one-story buildings had showers, hooks for clothes and beach towels. Day-trippers, or “shoobies,” – those who took the train to Cape May for the day with their lunch in a shoe box – could rent a woolen bathing suit if needed.

Mrs. Steger

Mrs. Steger

“Back then,” recalled Betty Steger, whose father-in-law Steven began Steger’s Beach Service in 1930, “hotels had strict rules about being seen in the lobby with bathing attire and you couldn’t bring all that sand into the hotel rooms, so everyone who owned a hotel or concession along the beach had bathhouses. We had boys who would go along the bathhouses and gather up the towels and bathing suits. We’d wash them and hang them up to dry on the rooftops of the buildings. I remember one woman insisted we put up galvanized hooks in her bathhouse so her clothes wouldn’t get rusty on the hook.” As a view of the ocean from the hotel rooms became more of an economic edge and insurance on the bathhouses began to climb, the structures gradually were torn down. “And, you know,” said Fite, “People just quit using them in the ’60s. We saved as many of them as we could. One was moved down to Poverty Beach (at the east end of Beach Avenue) and is being used as an office for The Beach Club. Another one was eventually moved up to Lafayette Street and is currently a gift shop [Tradewinds] situated next to Elaine’s Restaurant.

The landscape of Beach Avenue has always been unique compared to that of other shore towns.trolleyonboards

“We’re one of the few places,” said Fite, “that has a road going along the beach.. It’s always been like that. The trolley ran along the boardwalk until the 1920s when the tracks washed out.” The trestles for the railroad were still in existence along the avenue until the Nor’easter of ’62 swept them away.

The railroad/trolley line started at Sewell’s Point amusement pier, which is now the site of the U.S. Coast Guard Base, and ran along Beach Avenue’s boardwalk into South Cape May (so named because it faced south) to the lighthouse at Cape May Point. The borough of South Cape May ran from 7th to 21st avenues. Chartered in 1894, it is currently under the sea. Many of its Spanish cottages built along Beach Avenue were either destroyed by storms or moved into Cape May proper. The Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 put an end to South Cape May.

Betty Steger remembers as a girl of 14 watching from their Grant Street apartment the onslaught of the Great Atlantic Hurricane. “You didn’t hear warnings about storms the way you do now. It must have happened on a Monday because I remember my father getting on the train to go to work that morning. He came down from Philadelphia to be with us on weekends. The hurricane seemed to come out of nowhere later that afternoon. I’ll never forget it. I saw three big tidal waves that just lifted the boardwalk up crashing it onto the football field where Summer Station and the Oceanview Restaurant are now. I was so frightened.”

Storms and time have altered Beach Avenue more than once. The Nor’easter of 1962, a March storm stormbeach which coincided with a full moon and high tide, again destroyed thirteen blocks of the boardwalk spewing debris all along Beach Avenue, and marked the end of a the traditional wooden boardwalk. A concrete promenade was built in its place along Beach Avenue with a sea wall to try to protect the beach front from future storms. The ’62 Nor’easter proved to be a precursor for many other changes that were to affect the way Beach Avenue would look.

Robert and Anna Bundschu were the proprietors of the Jetty Motel from 1971 until last year. The Jetty was built on Beach Avenue in the late fifties and along the with the Cove Restaurant and the Second Street pavilion marks western end of Beach Avenue today. The Bundschus, who came to Cape May from Wildwood Crest, said that the biggest change in Cape May came with construction of motels in the 1960s.

“Before the ’60s,” said Anna Bundschu, “Cape May was known for its grand hotels and its elegance. I think once the motels came, you had more tourists staying shorter times. Then so many of the fine hotels went into disrepair, like the Windsor Hotel. Well, eventually that burnt down and [the land] was sold for condominiums.”

Robert Fite agreed, “In the ’60s people’s lifestyles changed. We went from quoting weekly rates to daily rates and so many new restaurants and gift shops opened. People weren’t as dependent on the hotels for all their needs, but I think Cape May has aged gracefully and still retains much of the old elegance.”

“Many of the old places we used to go to are gone,” said Betty Steger. “I remember the Green Mill Club awalkingtheboardst Beach and Howard. It was a place for teenagers to go. They had a Ping-Pong table, a soda fountain. This was in the 40s. They had dances and a woman who ran it kept an eye on everyone. I was there every night. And where the movie theater is, used to be a McPherson’s Horse Back Riding. That would have been in the ’30s and early ’40s. I used to love to go there too.”

And about that pesky name? Beach Drive or Beach Avenue?

“Oh yes,” said Betty Steger, “We’ve always called it Beach Drive. It’s only recently that the street signs say avenue. In fact you see, I have some old stationary that says … oh… it says Avenue.”

Bouy on Beach Avenue at Ocean marks the Southernmost spot in New Jersey

Buoy on Beach Avenue at Ocean marks the Southernmost spot in New Jersey

Mayor Jerome Inderwies says no doubt about it, it is Beach Avenue. “And I’ll tell how I know. I always called it Beach Drive. We had a tax assessor for years by the name of John Dollinger, and one day he corrected me. ‘It’s Beach Avenue,’ he said. ‘Always was, always will be.'”

Fast Facts on today’s Beach Avenue

Beach Ave runs 2.2 miles from Wilmington Ave. at the north-east end (Poverty Beach to Second Avenue at the south-west end.

On the Atlantic Ocean side of Beach Ave, there are 8 structures built into the sand. These buildings house 2 restaurants, 2 arcades, 2 candy stores, 2 pizza shops, 1 gift shop, 1 clothing shop, 2 comfort stations, a life guard station and Cape May’s Convention Hall.

On the city-side of Beach Avenue, there are 19 motor inns or resort hotels, 3 historic hotels, 19 restaurants, 7 condominium complexes, 24 shops and galleries.


Fishing: More than just a hobby in Cape May

feastTo call fishing a pastime, or hobby, is an understatement in  Cape May . For many, it’s an entire life. Families live by the sea — their livelihood dependent on Mother Nature’s good will. Their lifestyles are different, reliant on weather, tides, seasons.

Most are born into fishing families, many lose loved ones to the sea. It’s difficult for one to become a fisherman, it’s either in the blood or not. Oh, one can go out and buy a rod and reel, even a 110’ fishing boat, but to really feel the sea, live and die by it, is something else entirely.

I know this first hand because I just ain’t got it in me though I should as I’m surrounded by it. But learning through osmosis doesn’t work. By now I should at least understand some of the lingo — fishermen speak a different language — and be able to catch a fish. I can do neither.

Crab and lobster traps are called “pots”. The “canyon” is a place to fish, not climb. Ropes are sheets and of course the bathroom is called the “head”. Fishermen also tend to drop the “g” from most verbs ending in “ing” and usually omit pronouns or anything that gets in the way of fish.

For example:
Question: “Catchin?’”
Answer: “Caught some weakies yesterday.”
Question: “Keepers?”
Answer: “Nah.”

Translation:
“Have you caught any fish lately?”
“We caught some weakfish.”
“Were they big enough to keep?”
“No.”

WAcatchThe ability to keep a fish depends on size. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in Massachusetts sets limitation on various species which are over-fished or likewise, under-fished. Serving as a sort of scale, the NMFS promotes ecological balance deep beneath the waves. A current point of issue is a proposed ban on catching white marlin. For tournament and sports fishing, this ban is an annoyance and inconvenience which could also be financially devastating to some sports fishing captains and marinas. These captains make their living from charters. And here in Cape May , the South Jersey Marina hosts the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 tournament — the marlin most sought after. Fortunately, most fishermen understand the need for regulations — the striped bass being a prime example.

“That’s good eatin’” everyone says of the striped bass or “striper” in fishermen lingo. Because this fish was such good “eatin’” it was over-fished for years heavily depleting the species.

After a size regulation was placed by the NMFS, there was a lot of grumbling, but as little as two years made a difference in stock quantity. Today the size regulation has been minimized and there are plenty of “stripers” frying in pans across Cape May County .

The commercial fisherman feels these regulations a bit differently. Lives depend on “the catch.” It can be feast or famine. Unfortunately, and certainly unintentionally, endangered fish can get snared inside nets or dragged fishing lines, and are killed. Hence, commercial fishermen face stricter rules and regulations, and livelihoods suffer.

commercialAs the non-fisherman-type, I should be lauded by the NMFS. If I had to live on the fish I catch, well, you’d all be saying your adieus to me. I went once on what’s called “the mackerel trip”. It’s the first catch of the spring season, and sports fishermen stock up on mackerel to use as bait for the summer season. Each rod is loaded — I know that’s the wrong lingo, but what the heck — with six or seven, even up to nine hooks and fish are hauled in such. It’s a lot of hard work, but well worth the effort. Summer charters mean money.

I’m not sure why I was along, I rocked back and forth, green at the gills standing mostly in everyone’s way. Perhaps it was to take photographs. If it was, there weren’t many pictures taken that day.

Nevertheless, I was determined to do my share. I cast my line, tugging the pole like the others, and caught nothing. Meanwhile, fish after fish were landed on deck and promptly put on ice. I recast my line, still hopeful — how hard could it be? — and suddenly felt a tug. I had a fish! Perhaps a whole school of fish! I reeled and reeled in the line, ecstatic in my victory, when there at the end flayed one little fish. A tiny fish, certainly not a mackerel or anything like one.

“She caught a herring!” everyone laughed. “Look at the little herring!” That’s when I learned that herring “run” — a real fishing term — with mackerel. And that’s when I knew I had a lot to learn about fishing which might take a couple of lifetimes of experience to even catch up with these folks.

I haven’t caught a fish since, though I’ve tried. Fly fishing off the beach and off the jetties (called “rocks”). It’s a bit ironic, any fish caught would be thrown back. Catch and release. If only they knew.

Sea Star

Sea Star

But I’m not the only hard-luck fisherman out there, but maybe the only truthful one. I could tell you about “the one that got away” — that quintessential avowal one uses when asked “catchin’?”

Martin Dipper, captain of the Sea Star, told CapeMay.com of his “secret” spot. “I always tell my charter we’re going to a secret spot. Then we don’t find any fish, and I tell them that’s the secret!”

Dipper is a bit sarcastic and a bit of a joker. The Sea Star fleet has been operating for at least 20 years and is one of Cape May ’s most popular charter fleets along with the Miss Chris boats. They do catch fish.

As did Bob Pacilli, owner the sports fishing boat, The Penguin, who told CapeMay.com of the 615 pound marlin he caught this summer, though he laughs when he says he caught it “before” the Mid-Atlantic tournament he participated in.

A highlight of the Cape May fishing season is the “Special Kids Fishing Day” sponsored by organizations like the Cape May Marlin Tuna Club and the Elks Club. Last year 47 vessels were donated allowing more than 200 developmentally-disabled children a chance to “hook the big one”.

miss_chris

Miss Chris

Captain Jim Heinhold chairs the event and told CapeMay.com he has used his own vacation time to organize the Association of Retarded Citizens (ARC) clients since 1990. Ironically, despite one of the driest summers on record, the event was canceled due to a northeastern storm. Says Heinhold, “It’s not the rain that cancelled the day but the wind. And I hate disappointing the kids.”

But fishing has been good this summer in Cape May despite — or maybe because of the weather. Flounder has been abundant, as has bluefish, marlin and tuna. The only fish that has been rather sparse is the weakie, that no one has been catchin’.


The Sea Mist

seamistheader2aIn a 1996 article, the New York Times called The Sea Mist “the architectural equivalent of a Sousa march.” Fitting if one takes into consideration composition, transition and above all, an era. Built as part of the 1873 Cape May Beach Land Company’s marketing promotion, lots along the beachfront were sold for as little as $1.00 in effort to settle the area. Not far down Beach Avenue, John Philip Sousa was playing his “Congress Hall March” in front of summer guests — visitors enjoying cool sea breezes at the height of a hot summer. Families who might consider owning a summer house as an indispensable retreat.

beachtoseacThe Sea Mist today looms large on the Cape May beachfront. Whether viewed from land or sea, this red and white “steamboat-style” building with its unique widow’s walk is one of Cape May’s most photographed houses. Originally two stories tall, and used as a summer house, its subsequent nine owners built upwards and around and behind the building each adding his own “harmonic chord.” One can see the different stages of outside development through its porches and windows and inside still stand one section of the original dove-tailed wooden exterior.

50s_b-wA summer house well into the 1960s, subsequent owners turned the building into efficiencies and apartments delighting guests with ocean front views and summer breezes. Current and tenth owner Fernando Tamilio continues this tradition each year improving and upgrading the building’s efficiencies and apartments and have now turned it into a year-round facility promoting the off-season as well as the summer.

originalexteriorThey call the building “the Miracle on Beach Avenue.”

Fernando and his family spent 30 years in the home improvement business in North Jersey and at least 20 vacationing along the coast. When The Sea Mist came up for sale, Fernando jumped at it combining his former experience and what he calls his “credible feel for people.” He told CapeMay.com that he’s “having a ball” with the old house and hopes to make The Sea Mist “family-friendly”.

Fernando Tamilio

Fernando Tamilio

“We’ve been improving each and every accommodation with private baths, fully-stocked kitchens and cable television just like your own home,” he said. All but two units offers an ocean view. The Sea Mist also provides beach showers, grilling facilities, a bike rack and that ever-so-important personal parking space. “Park your car and your done for the week” Fernando’s brochure boasts. With its convenient location to the boardwalk and downtown, it’s not such a bad idea.

Inside The Sea Mist is an eclectic array of memorabilia — from stuffed animals to nautical items, historic and new photographs, and objects like Christmas trees hung upside down, a Victorian tradition. Fernando calls this “bright, cheerful, festive Victorian charm.”

victThe Sea Mist is decorated year-round for Christmas with lights and angels and trees. Said Fernando, “The town and Sea Mist are even more spectacular at Christmas time. We offer a Christmas special hoping families can take advantage of off-season events, tours and shopping.”

view2seamistAnother special plan of Fernando’s is to join Cape May’s ghost tour. For yes, according to Fernando, the building is haunted. “You either believe or you don’t,” he said, “but from what I’ve experienced here, I believe.”

Slamming doors, locked doors, sightings, footsteps — he’s experienced them all. The building is 129 years-old after all, one must expect that not all who have graced the floors have checked out.

Fernando says the best place to feel Victorian times is the six-story high widow’s walk. “Wonder what it was like when a lady went to the widow’s walk to see if she could catch a glimpse of her husband returning from sea, not knowing if indeed he would return.” He adds one must feel the wind wreaking havoc, and worried women wandering back inside, some to courageously live out their days alone.

seamistwsnowTruly a Cape May landmark, The Sea Mist reminds one of the Cape May of yore. The old-time ambience, the smell of the ocean air mingling with bed linens, children happily — albeit tiredly — returning from a day at the beach.

In Fernando’s two years of owning the building, hundreds of families have book return visits. Upon leaving, Fernando wishes them health, happiness and prosperity. Said Fernando, “They come to escape their concerns and breathe in a little sea mist.”


The Past and Present: Congress, Gurney and Howard

The juxtaposition of decades-old photos with the same scenes to be found today is meant to emphasize the sense of timelessness that Cape May offers to her visitors and residents alike.

congressstreet1910 congresssteast

Congress Street in 1910. Notice the horse and buggy heading towards the Windsor Hotel. To the right is the American bracketed villa with its ornate two-story porches and striped cupola roof circa 1865. The sundial is on the property of Nelson Z. Grave’s.

The sundial is missing as well as the Windsor. But if you peek through the bushes on the right side corner you will still see the beautiful American bracketed villa.

columbiaandguerney1909 columbiaandguerney2002-2

A picture of Columbia and Gurney taken in 1909 really captures the beauty of 1869 landmark building now know as the Abbey Bed and Breakfast.

93 years later the trees have certainly grown and a monument has been built breaking up the two roads. (Editor’s note: the War Memorial isn’t leaning; it’s the effect of the photographer’s wide angle lens)

guerneyst1918 guerneywithabbey

This postcard circa 1918 shows the view from Gurney to Convention Hall. Note the vacant Stockton Hotel lot and the “new” Convention Hall.

Today the view is much different. The empty lot is now full and houses block the view of today’s Convention Hall.

howardst1909 howard02

Howard Street 1909. The hand-drawn arrow reading “Stopping here” is pointing to the Chalfonte Hotel.

As you look down the row of homes, except for the height of the hedges, and the addition of poles and wires, Howard Street seems to have been frozen in time.