- Cape May NJ Travel Guide and Vacation Planner Blog

Month: February 2005

Cape May Beach Replenishment

My assignment this month? To update all of you out in cyber space on the Beach signsReplenishment Project going on. Don’t go away. When have I ever bored you? Well there was that piece on the Phragmite Project – but this is different. Don’t you want to know that St. Mary’s By The Sea Convent won’t be St. Mary’s In the Sea? I do.

Never fear. I am Johnny on the spot and immediately run out to look for the changes. Since the beach replenishment project started in Cape May at the beginning of 3rd Avenue (The Cove Beach) and then traveled east to Central Avenue in Cape May Point, I jump in the car and head straight for The Cove. I jump in the car because it’s freezing cold outside. So don’t yell at me because I’m not walking.

The first thing I notice is that The Cove Restaurant is becoming one with the newly formed sand dunes. This problem actually started long before this most recent Beach Replenishment which began in mid-November. Before the newlycove2 improved dunes came along, you could sit in the dining room with the picture windows and you had a lovely view of the beach, the ocean and Cape May Point’s lighthouse. Now – well you’ve got to see it to believe it – it’s a wall of sand and if someone doesn’t do something, it will soon become a mountain of sand.

So, the good news is those folks who like The Cove Beach now actually have a beach to sit on instead of the postage stamp-sized beach that was there before. The bad news is the owners of the Cove Restaurant, Paul Johnston & family are not happy to have their business turn into a mirage. Surfers and jetty fisherman are not happy. Ordinances were introduced this past summer, and later compromises made, regarding fishing on the jetty and surfing at The Cove.
Why? Because where there once was no beach now there are beachgoers who get in the way of the fishing lines and the surfing. The city fathers must have had visions of sunbathers tangled up in fishing line dancing in their heads and decided to put a stop to all this fishing nonsense then they found out just how serious a fisherman or a surfer can be and quickly backed off that plan.

beachview5So, moving right along… I took a ride out to the lighthouse at Cape May Point State Park. Oh my gawd. You’ll never believe how funny this is. At the southern observation deck, you know, the one facing the beach and the ocean, there are two binoculars. You put a quarter into them in the hopes of getting a better view of the ocean and the horizon – right? Well, if you put a quarter into the meter now, guess what you see? Yeah– sand. The Army Corps’ suggestion is to put a longer neck on the binoculars.
Yeah. Right. And then what? ‘Cause you’ll need a giraffe to get you to the top of the binoculars. In fact, you need a giraffe just to see the ocean. Yes, I’m officially done whining because you know what the good news is? Once you do get a peek over the mounds of sand, there’s a beach where once there was none.

I wonder what it looks like in front of St. Mary’s By The Sea. Holy large beach!! No. Really. You remember what it looked like? Any kind of serious storm and the convent was going to be floating out to sea.

stmarys6It’s fabulous what they’ve done in two months. There are rows and rows of tiny fledgling grasses holding on to dear life as the wind whips across the beach. And I remember when they planted the grasses on Cape May’s main beaches. See the grasses take hold and the dunes form and everything creates a kind of barrier protecting the beach from further erosion and from saltwater coming in where it’s not supposed to which threatens the wildlife refuge and plants which are supposed to be growing there.

Long story short – That’s why you can’t step on the dunes. And you really needdunegrass2 to stay away from the cute little grasses that are trying to take root. So, behave.

I drove around Cape May Point looking at all the other beach paths and each one has changed thanks to the Army Corps of Engineer’s Beach Replenishment Project.

Actually, the fact that there are beaches where there were none is really thanks to the perseverance of Cape May Point Mayor Malcolm Frasier who began his push to replenish the beaches back in 1991 when he met with former U.S. Rep. William Hughes, D.-2nd. Initially the tiny borough of Cape May Point was ineligible for federal money – the small population did not justify the use of federal funds. But also in 1991, President George Bush issued a directive allowing the Corps to consider beach projects to protect natural areas. As any good birder knows, Cape May Point plays host to one of the greatest migratory shows in the world each spring and fall because of an internationally significant wetlands complex. This distinction made it eligible for the federal sand dollars.

Now the details.
According to the Army Corps of Engineers’ feasibility report: “The complex interaction of the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean has led to persistent shoreline erosion within the study area. This has been aggravated by the construction of the Federal navigation project at Cape May Inlet, with resultant erosion along the Meadows shoreline averaging 15 feet per year. This unstable shoreline has necessitated repeated local action in the form of construction and rehabilitation of numerous groins, beach nourishment, and dune construction since the 1930s.”

dunegrass1The project benefits the City of Cape May, beginning at 3rd Avenue heading nearly 2 miles west to Central Avenue in Cape May Point. The project also benefits the neighboring land-locked borough of West Cape May which has fallen victim to many a costal storm over the years when the ocean comes up and floods the borough. The last time this happened was in 1985 during Hurricane Gloria.

Beach construction began in mid-November and approximately 1.4 million – that’s MILLION- cubic yards of sand was dredged in. The Corps expects to replenish the beach with another 650,000 cubic yards every 4 years.The cost bunkerof the project can be divided into two phases. Phase One pumped in 850,000 cubic yards of sand for a total cost of $5.1 Million in federal money. Then, a funny thing happened – the Corps ran out of money. They needed an additional $3.9 million to finish pumping in the remaining 600,000 cubic yards of sand.
A spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Philadelphia District said the Corps found moneys from other areas in the country which were “reprogrammed” so the project could be completed without any further complications. Had the project been delayed, an additional cost of $1 million would have been needed to remobilize the dredging company.

Now the good stuff.
This summer’s tourists will be delighted to find beaches where once there were stmarys2none or very little of one. The towns of Cape May, West Cape May and Cape May Point are deliriously happy because the tourists will be delighted and will want to come here more and stay longer. Yes, there are a few merchants and fisherman who aren’t thrilled with the changes but in the final analysis the changes will have been for the greater good and for the preservation of our little piece of paradise.

Love Among the Innkeepers

If you come to Cape May for Valentine’s Day, chances are you’ll be staying at a Bed & Breakfast or a Guest House because it’s just about THE most romantic thing you can do. Imagine a cold blustery night by the fireside, or in your suite surrounded by antiques and old world charm. But what do the innkeepers do on Valentine’s Day? Well, we decided to poll a few of them and see what their responses were to a few probing questions. One thing for sure – in addition to keeping their own Valentine’s happy, they’ll also be working.

Laura and Jim Zeitler- owners of The Columbia House on Ocean Street How long have you been married?

Laura: Since May, 1989 Where did you meet?

Laura: Ocean City, Md. Jimmy was a scoper. You know, one of those guys who takes pics of chicks in bikinis. I decided to go down there for the summer because it was my last summer in college. We met on the beach. We called it our summer of love. Why did you become guest house keepers?

Laura: Because we love the beach and we always hoped to get back. What is the one thing you love most about your mate?

Laura: He is truly a one of a kind individual, in my opinion there are only a handful of men on this planet that are like him. He’s a wonderful father and a wonderful husband. They broke the mold with him.

Jimmy: You know when we were younger and we’d go to weddings we’d laugh at people who put “Today I married my best friend” into their vows. But as we get older, we realize we really are each other’s best friend. Laura’s beautiful, funny and smart. The longer we’re together the more special she becomes. There’s still a fire that burns.” What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?

Laura: Nothing special. Work. We’re open that weekend. Probably have a quiet dinner. We have our little rituals that we do daily that show our love for each other.

Chip and Barbara Masemore – owners of the John F. Craig House

chipandbarbara How long have you been married?

Barbara: Six years Where did you meet?

Barbara: We both lived in Gettysburg, Pa. We met in 1987 but we didn’t marry until ’98. We decided to get married at a drive thru in Las Vegas called the Little White Chapel Tunnel of Vows. We never got out of the car. Chip loves old cars and we were married in a 1972 Cadillac Convertible. He gave me replica of it (complete with Elvis in the car) for our first wedding anniversary. Why did you become innkeepers?

Barbara: We were trying to figure out how to live in Cape May. Chip is a contractor and can work anywhere but I’m an interior designer and there’s really no work like that for me here. We knew this was the place we wanted to be. There is a quiet peacefulness here. What is the one thing you love most about your mate?

Barbara: He centers me. Chip & I have lived together and worked together for 14 years and when we work together, especially in the morning, it’s like a dance. I sometimes get a little hyper and he centers me even when we disagree. Of course, we can’t bicker when we’re preparing breakfast because we have guests. So, when we disagree, we end each sentence with Darling or Sweetheart. And the more we disagree, the ooeyier and gooeyier we sound.”

Chip: She’s so dedicated to doing the right thing and doing her best by her family and our business. No matter how she feels, she could be on her deathbed and if the doorbell rang, she’d answer it. What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?

Barbara: Probably work. We hope the inn is full. Later we’ll go to dinner somewhere.

John and Lisa Matusiak – owners of the Bacchus Inn and The Brass Bed Inn

lisa_john How long have you been married?

Lisa: Two years. Where did you meet?

Lisa: In Cape May – at a wedding. The reception was at Carney’s. We met at the bar. I was a friend of the bride’s and John was a friend of the groom’s. We were married in Cape May at the Sunset Pavilion and had our reception at the Hotel Alcott. Why did you become innkeepers?

Lisa: Well, we bought the inn in 2001 before we got married. We were looking for an investment property in Cape May and The Bacchus Inn was a good deal. Last summer we bought our second property, The Brass Bed. What is the one thing you love most about your mate?

Lisa: His energy. His passion about things. He gets very excited about something and puts all his energy into it.

John: We complement each other. My wife’s the more structured, meticulous one. I’m more flighty, yet more motivated. We balance each other out. What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?

Lisa: Working at the inn.

Doug and Anna Maria McMain – new owners of The Queen Victoria Bed & Breakfast and The Queen’s Hotel

Anna_Marie_and_Doug_McMain-2 How long have you been married?

Anna Maria: Seventeen years. Where did you meet?

Anna Maria: We were both working in Michigan. Doug’s from Reno, Nevada. I’m from the Cherry Hill area. We moved back to New Jersey 16 years ago. We moved to Cape May 7 months ago to become innkeepers. Why did you become innkeepers?

Anna Maria: We always wanted to be innkeepers. We’ve been thinking seriously about it for the last 8 years. When the opportunity to buy the Queen Victoria came up, we decided not to wait for retirement. What is the one thing you love most about your mate?

Anna Maria: I like the fact that we can work together as professionals and still be husband and wife.

Doug: She’s a lot of fun. What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?

Anna Maria: We got engaged Valentine’s Day so that has always been a special day for us. The inn will be open and I’m sure booked but we’ll sneak away for a romantic dinner in town to celebrate.

Bob and Linda Steenrod, owners of the Billmae Cottage Guest Suites and The Billmae Cottage,Too How long have you been married?

Bob: Nineteen years. Where did you meet?

Bob: At a libation location. Why did you become guest house keepers?

Bob: We loved the idea of giving people and dogs a place to go, and we love Cape May. Linda’s been coming here since she was three years-old and I love the ocean. We bought our first guest suite in 2001. What is the one thing you love most about your mate?

Bob: I love her drive and her love of people and animals.

Linda: I love his energy and enthusiasm and support. What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?

Bob: We’ll just be returning from a romantic vacation in St. Martin’s and when we get to Cape May I’ll buy her a card and take her out to a romantic dinner.

Monique Greenwood and Glenn Pogue, owners of Akwaaba by the Sea, West Cape May How long have you been married?

Monique: 15 years. Where did you meet?

Monique: At a nightclub in New York City. Why did you become innkeepers?

Monique: Our first B&B experience was in West Cape May at the Buttonwood Manor B&B. We fell in love with the idea and made it an annual Christmas tradition to come to Cape May. We lived in Brooklyn two blocks away from our dream house. (When the house went on the market) We figured if we could turn it into a B&B, we could afford to live in the house. That was 10 years ago. Before we became innkeepers I came down and took the INN Deep Workshop (offered by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts). The people there took me under their wing and we able to launch our first B&B. A How did Akwaaba by the Sea come about?

Monique: I came back to Cape May to celebrate by 40th birthday. I checked myself into a B&B there and I was the only person invited. Actually, I did cancel a big party we were planning. I just felt that I needed to change my life and recreate it. I was the editor in chief of a major magazine (Essence). I had an 8-year-old daughter. I was writing a book (Having What Matters). I was an innkeeper. I owned a restaurant (Akwaaba Café in Brooklyn). Before leaving Cape May I went to a realtor and told him I wanted to buy a summer cottage but when I filled out their form and they asked what my occupation was I put innkeeper, not editor. When Tim McBride (the realtor) saw innkeeper, he said why not buy an inn and run it until you’re ready to retire – then you’ll have your cottage by the sea. So, four years ago we bought the former Annabelle Leigh B&B on Broadway. But you now have four B&Bs, that doesn’t exactly sound as though you’ve slowed down.

Monique: We bought Akwaaba DC a year ago October and Akwaaba by the Bayou Thanksgiving. When we retire, we want to spend a different season in a different location, so we bought a B&B in four different states. We plan to retire when our daughter Glynn graduates from high school, five years from now. What is the one thing you love most about your mate?

Monique: Glenn’s sense of whimsy. I’m really planned oriented, focused, sometimes, I just get anal. He’s more of a whimsical guy and it’s a nice balance.

Glenn: Monique is a dreamer and a doer. Her ability to make a plan and meticulously execute it is extremely sexy. I love watching her make her magic. What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?

Monique: Working.

Franklin Street School: The Past and the Future

Alumni and descendents of alumni attended the dedication of an interpretive sign in front of the Franklin Street School in April 2004.  Left to right:  John Nash, Emily Dempsey, Wanda Evelyn, Dorothy Jarmon, Robin Wise, Shirley "Becki" Wilson

Alumni and descendents of alumni attended the dedication of an interpretive sign in front of the Franklin Street School in April 2004. Left to right: John Nash, Emily Dempsey, Wanda Evelyn, Dorothy Jarmon, Robin Wise, Shirley "Becki" Wilson

Emily Dempsey doesn’t remember her first day at Franklin Street Elementary School. “But I do remember my mother holding my hand on my way to school and I remember that my (older) sister Florence took me to school shortly after that.”

Emily Dempsey doesn’t remember any one particular day at Franklin Street School but she remembers all the days there as being very special.

“I remember that the school was very clean and organized. I remember a brick building and wooden floors that sometimes creaked when you walked across them.”

“We didn’t feel deprived at all,” she remembers. “Our teachers never missed a day of school. They were all so dedicated.”

She remembers her teachers most of all– all three of them. There were only three classrooms in the segregated school. Mrs. Cordelia Howard taught grades K through 2nd franklinstreetschool1agrade. Mrs. Florence Porter taught grades 3 through 6th. And the principal, Mrs. Owens, taught grades 6, 7, and 8.

Mrs. Owens also taught Emily’s mother, Sarah, nee Bose who will be 89 Feb. 2nd. Sarah was in the first Franklin Street School graduating class – Franklin Street Elementary was built in 1927 as a segregated school. Emily’s older sister, Florence (by two years) was in the last graduating class in 1948. That was year the state of New Jersey outlawed segregation. Emily was in the sixth grade and ended up graduating with an integrated class.

When her class made the move to the integrated school, Emily said “I remember our teachers telling us ‘Put your best foot forward because you’ll have to do twice as well to succeed.’ ”

However, the subtleties and in some cases, not so subtle aspects of segregation were not lost on the small Afro-American community. Franklin Street Elementary, for example was a much newer building than Cape May High School, located around the corner on Washington Street. Franklin Street School was built with a beautiful gym. But that gym was meant for the white high school students next door. The kids at Franklin Street Elementary School were not permitted to use the gym except on rainy days at recess. Even then, they had to go outside to gain access to the gym.

In fact, according to Steve Bacher, executive director for the Center for Community Arts, which hopes to call the Franklin Street School home by 2008, the school was designed architecturally so that no door could be used to connect the school to the gym. The gym, he said is on the ground floor but the classrooms are on the upper floors. Any attempt to connect the two would result in a door leading to nowhere. And to drive home the point – the city had two separate grand openings in 1927. One for the segregated school and one for the gym.

And that’s how it was back then.

SignInstallationAfter 1948, Franklin Street School was relegated to what Bacher refers to as a “precursor to the vo-tech schools.” Subsequently, care of the school came under the city government’s jurisdiction. It has been used as a municipal storage area and has fallen into a steady state of disrepair ever since.

Advocacy efforts by the Center for Community Arts led to New Jersey designating the school an African-American Historic Site. In January 2002, the Center signed a 25-year lease of the school from the City of Cape May. Currently, the Center is working with the City to rehabilitate the school for community use. By 2008, the Center expects to completely rehabilitate the Franklin Street School and reopen it as a community cultural center.

The school will house the Center for Community Arts programs, including its Youth Arts Programs, Community History Program, Artist-in-Residence Program, programs for seniors, and a Community Media Technology Center.

It will also house the Center’s John and Janet Nash African-American History Archives and the archives of the Greater Cape May Historical Society; recreational programs of the City of Cape May’s Department of Civic Affairs; community meeting, classroom, exhibit and rehearsal spaces; and a permanent exhibit of the history of the School and Cape May’s African-American community.
The project is expected to cost $2 million.

In April, work began on Phase One of the project which included removal of all environmentally hazardous materials and stabilizing the building until repairs can begin.

John Nash

John Nash

John Nash is both a Franklin Street graduate and a collector of local African American history. While his health permitted, Nash kept a close eye on the progress being made at the school this summer. For example, contractors erected temporary gable vents to replace the plywood used to board up the windows for years. Later, the vents will be replaced by historically-correct windows. Some of Nash’s and Dempsey’s memorabilia is currently in display in the Carriage House Gallery, on the grounds of the Emlen Physick Estate.

The exhibition entitled “Two Women, Two Worlds” is a collaborative exhibit with the Center for Community Arts (CCA) and the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts. It examines the fashions, accessories, activities and lives of two classes of Victorian-era women in Cape May-the upper class and the working class. Photographs, artifacts and oral histories from Cape May residents are included. The exhibition runs through May 15th.

Similar exhibitions and memorabilia will be on display permanently when the Franklin Street Elementary School re-do is complete in 2008.