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Month: September 2008

Cape May’s Grande Dame: The Chalfonte Hotel

Cape May’s 132-year-old Grande Dame has been sold.

The venerable Chalfonte Hotel on Howard Street, known for its wrap-around porches and Southern comfort, has changed hands, but fear not, it has not gone into the hands of strangers.

Bob Mullock, longtime Cape May resident and owner of Cape May National Golf Club, became the hotel’s new owner at the end of July, making him only the third owner in the past 97 years. Mullock and his wife, Linda, are no strangers to the accommodations business. The couple, who were married at the Chalfonte Hotel in 1980, owned the Victorian Rose Inn on nearby Columbia Avenue for 16 years.

The first owner was Civil War hero, Col. Henry Sawyer. Sawyer built the hotel in 1875 and sold it in 1888. From 1888 until 1911, the Chalfonte changed owners six times, but there have only been two owners (now three) since. In 1911 the Satterfields of Richmond, Virginia bought the hotel and the hotel stayed in the family until 1983 when Anne LeDuc and Judy Bartella stepped in.

When interviewed for a feature carried in the July 2006 issue of Cape May Magazine, Anne LeDuc tried to connect the threads of her Chalfonte connection for the uninitiated.

Anne’s mother and Calvin Satterfield Jr. knew each other in Lexington, Virginia where Calvin attended Virginia Military Academy (VMA). It was Calvin’s mother, Susie Satterfield, who along with her husband Calvin, Sr., bought the Chalfonte in 1911. Calvin Jr. and his wife, Mary Morris (Meenie) Satterfield, bought the hotel from Susie in 1921. But it seems Calvin Jr. wasn’t such a good manager and the hotel was about to go to sheriff’s sale in 1933 when Susie came in and bought it back for $200. Determined that the hotel would be hers again, Meenie and Calvin Jr. repurchased it from Susie’s heirs in 1940. When Calvin died in 1943, Meenie continued to run the Chalfonte until 1983 when Anne and Judy bought the hotel “rather than see it go to strangers.”

When Anne, who is an octogenarian, and Judy decided it was time to sell, they both thought that, rather than see the Chalfonte sold to outside concerns, they would approach BobMullock. He knew exactly what he was in for with this purchase, but decided to take on the challenge just the same. “The Chalfonte,” he acknowledged, “is a major undertaking and will require years of dedication and hard work and investment. Anne LeDuc and Judy Bartella did a yeoman’s job in preserving the hotel over often very difficult times. Where many properties in Cape May were demolished or broken up into condominiums, they were true heroines in saving the hotel. Anne LeDuc and I have been friends for many years and [when] she approached me about this project, I recognized the work ahead.”

For Anne and Judy the sale of the beloved property did not come without struggle and uncertainty. But they felt the agreement to sell the Chalfonte to Mullock was a good match, philosophically and practically.

“My goal,” said Bob, “is to preserve the hotel’s structure, ambiance and sense of community that is so valuable and rare, while upgrading the accommodations which today’s guests desire. Another goal is that I want the hotel to be as green as possible in its environmental stewardship by its practices and supporting local farmers by purchasing produce locally. I look forward to employing the great talents of people in the community and my family to assist me in this effort. Also, the hotel has always supported the local arts and is one of the most unique hotels anywhere in the world.”

Anne has been coming to the hotel since she was two years-old. As a teenager she spent her summers working at the Chalfonte. In 1973 she and her colleague, artist Judy Bartella, took over the management of the hotel. Under their leadership traditions begun with the Satterfields continued and anyone walking into the hotel could feel the strength of these “Steel Magnolias” at the helm.

Each spring, for example, when the Satterfields came up north to open the hotel for the summer season and brought with them, Clementine Young, who worked as the hotel’s head chambermaid for over 60 years. Clementine would bring her young daughter, Helen, along. Helen started working in the kitchen in the 1920s when Meenie and Calvin Jr. took over the Chalfonte. Helen Dickerson’s daughters Dot (Burton) and Lucille (Thompson) also started working in the kitchen as young girls. And for 85 years Helen’s original recipes have been used in the hotel’s kitchen. Buttermilk biscuits, tasty dinner rolls and mouth watering Southern fried chicken have been the star of the evening menu and are still prepared by Dot and Lucille, with Chef Chris Cleary there to “help out.”

When talking about the future, Mullock said, “My goal is to preserve the hotel’s structure, ambiance and sense of community that is so valuable and rare, while upgrading the accommodations which today’s guests desire. Another goal is that I want the hotel to be as green as possible in its environmental stewardship by its practices and supporting local farmers by purchasing produce locally. I look forward to employing the great talents of people in the community and my family to assist me in this effort. Also, the hotel has always supported the local arts and is one of the most unique hotels anywhere in the world.”

Looking back on the long relationship with the Chalfonte, Judy Bartella said, “Anne and I are delighted to have found someone in Bob Mullock, who shares our interest in keeping the Chalfonte traditions and ambience alive while preserving the building and upgrading it with a few more creature comforts.”

“The last 26 years of owning the Chalfonte,” Anne said, “have been challenging, exciting, joyful and a true learning experience. Preservation and restoration of this 132 year-old marvel of a building is an on-going process. We fell in love with her so many years ago and are delighted her welfare will continue with Bob Mullock’s leadership. The Chalfonte is unique — it’s ‘family,’ food, fun and some hard work. Judy and I plan to stay involved as Bob makes this transition, and know that his love of the building and of Cape May will inform his stewardship of the Chalfonte.”

Fortunately for the Chalfonte, she will not have to depend “on the kindness of strangers,” as did Tennessee Williams’ Blanche DuBois.


Celebrating 10 Years of CapeMay.com

Well, strictly speaking CapeMay.com is over 13. I acquired the domain in 1995 when I was in charge of a “new media” company called North Park Studios, a spin-off of Digital Color Image, a printing company. That first www.capemay.com on the world wide web was just a single page, a photo-collage of Cape May. It was seen in 1996 by some 21,000 people. That number tripled in 1997, an indication that the name itself was drawing a good deal of attention; it was time for a real website.

In September 1998, coincidentally the same month that Google was created, CapeMay.combecame a website. At the time, Cape May had a plethora of printed pieces produced by non-profits and service organizations to promote tourism to Cape May. While some were surely effective, most came across as wordy sales literature. To us this was not truly Cape May. So we designed CapeMay.com to show Cape May through photography first and words second, emphasizing the beauty and the complexity of life here, the things that set Cape May apart from every other Jersey shore town.

To this day the opening picture on the home page says “This is Cape May”

In our first full month the website had 3,780 visits. Today, CapeMay.com is visited by nearly that many people on a single day in the spring and fall, and far more in the summer. Over a million visits have been logged on CapeMay.com each year for the past three years.

As the internet has evolved, so has CapeMay.com. People who found it 10 years ago may remember that it was primarily a pretty directory site for tourists, listing most of Cape May’s hospitality resources, with website links to those who were willing to pay for the traffic. (A tip of our caps here to our first real customers, Angel of the Sea and the Southern Mansion).

We learned quickly that on the internet “content is king.” It stimulates curiosity, triggers inter-activity and encourages return visits. So we introduced a Cape May quiz in our second year. Soon afterwards we included brief but substantive articles about Cape May. By 2000,CapeMay.com became “an internet magazine” with new features every month. Since then we have published scores of stories about life in Cape May. We’ve profiled buildings and people, reviewed restaurants, chased ghosts, explored nature, flown in a banner plane, taken the tours, posted reader memories, promoted events and always asked for readers’  feedback.

In 2003, we launched the “Picture of the Day” as a summer project. This was before we were equipped with digital cameras so we had to shoot film, get prints done overnight at Eckerds or Rite-Aid and scan them. Ugh! Then we invested nearly $2,000 in an early Nikon Cool-Pix and expanded the “Picture of the Day” to year-round. It’s now our most popular featurette, visited more than 205,000 times last year.

In 2004, we introduced a new accommodations section for posting privately advertised summer rentals. The section has since been spun off as CapeMayRentals.com, although there is direct access to it through CapeMay.com.

The next year we expanded our local coverage to include news and photo essays relevant to the residents of greater Cape May. We called it “Around Our Island.” It has since evolved into the larger “Cape Island News” section on the site.

Also in 2005, we launched our first “Best of Cape May” survey to get visitor feedback about who in Cape May is doing well at pleasing the visitors who come here. This year we’ve expanded the survey and received lots more responses. The list of 2008 winners appears here.

Two-thousand six was our “year of living dangerously.” That was when we reached beyond the “cozy confines” of the internet and launched Cape May Magazine. It came into being largely on the talents of our staff, and on the archive of articles written for CapeMay.com.We took a leap of faith that the many people who say they love Cape May would actually buy a top quality magazine written about Cape May in the style that makes for an enjoyable read. In order to overcome the paradigm of “free” (every current periodical about Cape May except the Star and Wave is free for the taking) we had to design the magazine with the kind of beauty and print reproduction that would set it apart. The magazine  has readers in 43 states, all of whom now have a tangible way of staying in touch with their home away from home, Cape May.

Last year, CapeMay.com underwent some basic structural changes, making it even more useful to the visitor. We added a search feature for the site itself and started an email contact list. CapeMay.com has been at the top of Google and other search engines under the search term “Cape May” almost since the beginning. And we’re doing all we can to be sure it stays there.

Over the past ten years CapeMay.com has been buoyed by many talented contributors, both on-staff and free lance. Some of the early contributors included Judy Haas (writer), Jennifer Brownstone Kopp (editor, writer), Stephanie Madsen (artist, designer), Eric Avidessian (writer), Laura Albert (writer), Hal Robeteille (writer), Lisa Bernstein (writer) and Kelley Helbig (writer). More recently,CapeMay.com is the work of Susan Tischler (editor, writer), Lorraine Kiefer (writer, gardener), Jon Davies (writer, chef) and Jessica Leeburg (writer, current webmaster). Along the way, the site has benefited from the photographic talents of M. P. Myers, Erin Kirk, Sara Kornacki, and Macy Zhelyazkova.

One thing we have stressed over the last 10 years and the concept that remains today is this: Since the time it was inhabited by native Americans, Cape May has always been a special place, full of beauty and fun. It is regarded that way today by most visitors and residents and should be portrayed that way through the media, especially the website that bears the name, CapeMay.com.

So what’s next? Lots of changes – all good! If you make CapeMay.com your browser’s default home page you can be sure to keep up.

-Bernie Haas, founder


CapeMay.com Timeline

1995

Bernie acquires the domain www.capemay.com and creates a simple photo collage of Cape May. Over the next year, over 21,000 people visit the website.

1998

From our tiny office at 600 Park Boulevard (according to Fred Kuhner when he leased it to us it had been Bruce Minnex’s broom closet), CapeMay.com launches as a “real” website in September.

2000

CapeMay.com becomes an internet magazine with new features every month on everything from history to ghosts, from tours to birds and fishing.

2001

We move from our closet office to the ground floor of the Hotel Macomber, and we hire our first art director. Bernie gets his own desk!

2002

We move offices again, this time to 1382 Lafayette Street above the office of Century21/Gilmartin

2003

Our most popular feature, Picture of the Day, launches as a summer project. We shoot the pictures on actual film, develop them overnight at Eckerd, and scan them the next day. We later invest in an early digital camera and expand Picture of the Day to year-round.

We move from our space on Lafayette Street to our current offices on the Washington Street Mall, above the Original Fudge Kitchen.

Editor Susan Tischler joins the staff.

2004

Private rental ads join the accommodations section. This section soon spins off as CapeMayRentals.com.

In December, we begin our Love Cape May campaign, sending thousands of our heart stickers to Cape May fans all over the country.

2005

We tighten up local news coverage with Around Our Island, now Cape Island News.

The Best of Cape May survey launches.

2006

CapeMay.com’s sister project, Cape May Magazine, launches in April.

2007

We add a search feature, powered by Google, and launch our mailing list to keep thousands of people in touch with Cape May.

2008

Picture of the DayCape Island News, and Cape May Rentals go interactive. Site visitors can comment on pictures and articles, and rental owners can manage their own availability calendars.

2009

Oops. we’re getting ahead of ourselves…


The Art of Tailgating

September first is here and brings the unofficial end to the summer season.

In three days the next big season starts, Football. Football seasons’ first weeks bring hope that this is finally your team’s year to win it all. This enthusiasm is manifested in many ways from wearing your team’s colors, face painting, bad bets, and most important Tailgating.

Jets Fans you may have Brett Favre, but you’re still the Jets and the only way you’re going to the Super Bowl is if you buy tickets. So don’t bet the house on it. Now, where was I?

Proper tailgating has been elevated to an art form by some fans. The preparation for the pre-game festivities lasts longer than the game itself. Gone are the days where you can get away with putting out a six-foot sub and a case of beer. I have been to tailgates with more elaborate food than some weddings. Only fair, since the festivities last longer than a Pamela Anderson marriage.

When planning a tailgate try and do your preparation at home and just reheat or finish foods on site. While some diehards tow smokers and grills the size of a 747 to the stadium, most people have more modest equipment to use. Although I am usually a strong advocate of charcoal or wood fired grills for cooking, since they produce better flavor. For tailgating, ease of use and cleanup, a small portable propane grill works well. There are many quality models available in the $50-$75 range. Look for one that is easy to setup and has sufficient BTUs to cook at high enough heat.

After selecting the equipment, it is time to select the beverage for early season games. Cold beer is necessary in December and January. Fortified coffees or adult hot chocolate can ease the pain especially if your team is out of the playoff picture and you are still at the game. Beer choices vary from region to region. Iron City is okay at a Steelers game, but may mark you as an outsider at an Eagles game. Word to the wise; don’t be marked as an outsider in Philly. This is, after all, the place where they threw snowballs at Santa. Just because they make light beer – even microbrew meist
er Sam Adams makes one (I think it’s called Samantha Adams. Perfect for lightweight Patriot fans) – doesn’t mean you should drink it. Choose a manly beer with flavor. Remember the ABCs, Anything But Coors. The Rocky Mountains may be refreshing, but Coors packs as much punch a John Denver Album.

The food should be hearty but can be fancy and cutting edge. For a twist, simmer your sausage in Chianti before throwing on the grill this allows you to pre-cook the sausages at home and be reheated at the game. Another favorite tailgate food is figs (Dried figs can be soaked in port wine to reconstitute if fresh figs aren’t available.) stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese and wrapped in prosciutto. This recipe can be found in the fall issue of Cape May Magazine. Crab and Artichoke dip with baguettes or pita bread scores well with the hometown crowd. As does a twist on classic gyros, grilled lamb top round sandwiches with smoked paprika taziki sauce. No matter you root for, cheering on a full stomach makes the game more enjoyable. Good tailgate food easily beats lukewarm $7 stadium hot dogs. As you pack up the SUV and head for your favorite stadium, take along these foods as well as your traditional favorites. Until next month, Bon Appétit.

Crab and Artichoke Dip

1 Pound crabmeat (Use claw, special or backfin for flavor. You don’t need to incur the expense of Jumbo Lump.)
2 Pounds Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1 Teaspoon Old Bay Seasonings
2 Cups chopped artichoke hearts
½ Cup Asiago cheese
½ Cup sour cream
½ Cup mayo
2 Scallions chopped
Splash hot sauce
Splash Worcestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients in top part of double boiler over medium heat. Cook until bubbling hot stirring occasionally to ensure even melting of products.

Ultimate Sausage and Peppers

  • 6 Each sweet Italian sausage links
  • Chianti to cover
  • 8 Cloves garlic
  • 1 Onion julienned

In medium saucepan, place sausage. Cover with wine. Add seasonings. Bring to boil. Reduce to simmer. Simmer 15 minutes drain and cool reserve liquid for peppers and onions

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Onions julienned
  • 2 Red pepper julienned
  • 2 Green pepper julienned
  • 4 Cloves garlic sliced
  • 1 Teaspoon oregano
  • 2 Teaspoons crushed pepper flakes
  • 1 Teaspoon black pepper

In large sauté pan, heat olive oil. Sauté onions until softened. Add peppers and seasonings. Cook five minutes on medium heat. Add one cup red wine. Reduce liquid until softened. Add peppers and seasonings. Cook five minutes on medium heat. Cool and reheat at the game

Toast hoagie roll on grill top with sausage and pepper mix. Shave Locatteli cheese on top.

Fresh Lamb Gyro

1½ Pound lamb top round in garlic herb marinade
Cook over medium high heat for 10-15 minutes per side. For medium rare, let rest. Slice paper thin. Place 4-6 slices on warm pita. Top with taziki and cucumber salad.

Cucumber Salad

  • 1 Cucumber seeded and peeled and sliced
  • 1 Red onion sliced
  • 1 Tomato cut into ⅛ cut in half
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ Cup feta crumbles
  • 1 Teaspoon oregano
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients. Chill two hours before serving. Store in non-metallic bowl.

Smoked Paprika Taziki Sauce

  • 1 Cup plain yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 Cucumber peeled seeded and diced
  • 1 Teaspoon garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Ounces feta, optional

Best of Cape May 2008

Last month, we asked you to vote on your favorites in Cape May, from beaches to brunch, in our annual Best of Cape May survey. These are this year’s winners, as voted by you, the readers of CapeMay.com.

The Best Places to Stay

Best B&B

The Queen Victoria

Best Guest House

The Columbia House

Best Hotel

Congress Hall

Best Campground

Seashore Campsites

The Best in Customer Service

Best Restaurant Service

Washington Inn

Best Accommodation Service

Congress Hall

Best Store Service

Whale’s Tale

Best Overall Customer Service

Bath Time

The Best in Shopping

Best Clothing

Free Shop

Best Beach Wear

Dellas 5&10

Best Jewelry

Whale’s Tale

Best Bargains

Dellas 5&10

Best Accessories

Kaleidoscope

Best Gifts

Whale’s Tale

Best Candy & Fudge

The Original Fudge Kitchen

 

The Best in Dining

Best Coffee

Wawa

Best Pizza

Louie’s

Best Hamburger or Sandwich

Jackson Mountain Cafe

Best Fine Dining

Washington Inn

Cheapest Breakfast

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House

Best Brunch

The Mad Batter

Best Ice Cream

Kohr Bros.

Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House

Best Overall Restaurant

The Lobster House

 

The Best Activities

Best Thing to Do on a Rainy Day

Shopping

Best Movie Theater

Beach Theatre

Best Kid Activity

Mini Golf

Best Festival

Lima Bean Festival

Best Birding Spot

Cape May Point

Most interesting tourist spot

Lighthouse and Sunset Beach

The Best in Beaches

Best Beach for Families

The Cove

Best Surfing Beach

The Cove

Best Beach for Tanning

Steger’s Beach

 

The Best in Nightlife

Best Place for a Cocktail

The Brown Room

Best Music Venue

Carney’s

Best Nighttime Hangout

Cabana’s Beach Bar & Grill

 

The Best About Town

Best Place to Meet People

The Washington Street Mall

Most Likely Place to Meet a Local

The C-View Inn

Best Victorian Building

Emlen Physick Estate

Most Interesting Architectural Building

Congress Hall

Best History Tour

Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts

Best Ghost Tour

Ghosts of Cape May Trolley Tour

Best Photo Spot

Sunset Beach

Best Bicycle Route

Sunset Boulevard

Best Cape May Publication

CapeMay.com / Cape May Magazine


End of Summer Gardens

Sometimes I feel like a character on little house on the prairie when I am in my garden at dusk. Gardens and sunsets are timeless.

As we approach the end of the summer, gardens in southern New Jersey are more colorful than ever. Zinnia and marigolds pop from their foliage and look great on a kitchen table. Hopefully you have some nice fruits and vegetables to harvest. Even those who do not have a specific garden can have grapes, blueberries, cranberries, beach plums, elderberry, raspberry and blackberry plants in shrub borders or as landscape plants. These are very easy to grow and are not bothered by pests when planted in a yard. Most county extension offices have pamphlets on the best way to grow, prune and harvest the above.

Blueberries are one of the easiest and can be planted now. Acid soil, part shade, lots of leaves, sounds familiar? Wouldn’t it be great to find an easy to grow plant that would flower, have great fall color and even yield about 8 quarts of fruit each season?

Well, blueberries, Vaccinium corymbosum, just might fit the bill. These tasty, succulent tasty fruits will thrive in almost any kind of soil as long as it is acid (4 to 5 pH). They flourish in sandy soil, heavy soils and even in bogs when there is lots of humus, from decaying leaves and other organic materials. A woodland plant, they need a good leafy mulch to have healthy roots. One of the nice things about blueberries is that they are not demanding and they encourage us to reduce lawn and make natural plantings under and around oak trees. They look great in borders as well as in a garden or flowerbeds. Here in southern New Jersey the sandy acid soil is just what the plant is most often found growing in its natural environment. Just think you won’t have to rake leaves under these plants! Just pretend it is the woods and let them thrive!

Blueberry bushes have white, sometimes pink tinged bell-like blooms in May. Many times the plants are completely covered, usually just before the leaves come out and also while the leaves are unfurling. Soon light green berries replace the blooms and the plants are just covered with clusters of them. As the season progresses they gradually turn to light and then dark blue. They can be picked for pies, jams and fruit cups and also shared with the birds.

The fall colors of the plant are often a blazing red, orange and copper combinations of hues. This alone would make the plant a desirable landscape addition to most yards. Then in winter the branches are often yellowish green and as well as red tinged, which give this shrub a year round landscape value.

The plants need very little care, but if any pruning is done, it should be done immediately after fruiting so as not to cut off next year’s flower buds.

There is high bush blueberry, the one most often seen in the trade, and the one usually grown for the most fruit. This plant can grow to about six feet high, but can get higher if never trimmed and can also be kept smaller if pruned regularly. There is also a low bush wild blueberry that can sometimes be found. This one is a short, scraggly shrub, often not getting any taller than two feet. It’s most often found growing in very sandy, almost sterile places in Maine and other coastal regions. There are many of these in southern New Jersey, some in the Pine Barrens. They have a smaller berry.

I have found that blueberry plants respond best to compost and organic materials added to the soil, rather than lots of fertilizer. The birds get more from my few bushes than I do, we added several new plants under some fruiting pie cherry trees so that there will be enough for us all.

We also have black berries, raspberries and beach plums (Prunus maritime) along the south side of my garden fence. All of these like more sun than shade. They all do well in our lousy sandy soil outside the garden fence. In fact peach plum grows in sand at the shore. We like to pick beach plums and freeze each handful until we get enough for jam. The plants were covered with fruit this summer but the birds are getting it as fast as they ripen. We also picked blackberries and raspberries and put them in a bag in the freezer so we can add to it each day. When there are enough we will make jam. It is fun to make sparkling jars of jelly and jam and we know ours has less sugar and more fruit than commercial products.

As I said, it is a fight to get the fruit before the birds do, but most of the plants have pretty flowers in spring, colorful fruit in summer and a troupe of birds dancing in their branches all the time eating the fruit as well as any insects that might accompany them.

There are beautiful fields of grapes at the Cape May wineries. Each year when I participate in the food and wine festival in Cape May I get a chance to visit the wineries and taste the wine. It is a treat to have such good wineries here in southern New Jersey. The lush grapes growing there prove that they do well in our area. This year’s food and wine festival begins September 21, see you there!

Visit Lorraine at www.Tripleoaks.com.


Storm of the Century

By all accounts, Monday, March 5, 1962 looked like nothing unusual would occur in Cape May. The forecast called for cloudy skies and a chance of rain. But two storms, a new moon, and a spring equinox formed to create a colossal three day assault of winds averaging 55 knots, and 25 to 35 foot waves which battered the Jersey coast knocking out heat and electricity and destroying forever the landscape of Beach Avenue. By Ash Wednesday, March 7, the Nor’easter of 1962 caused more damage than any other single storm in Cape May’s history.

Cecilia Love, a young widow living on Benton Avenue, in the Frog Hollow section of the city, was alone in the house with her twin daughters. This is her account of the storm.

Thursday March 8, 1962

Greetings from the “Disaster Area!”

Television reception here is terrible so I can’t half see what newsreels you’re getting about this storm. From what I can see on TV, though, it looks mild compared to what it is. Then again, the impression is “complete” devastation when actually the destruction is quite localized. Our whole beachfront seems devastated but parts of it are still standing “almost” intact behind debris of broken pavement & boardwalk. Other parts are so completely devastated that only someone who knew what it looked like before could realize what the angry ocean had claimed.

Beach Drive is no more. In some parts, it’s just completely gone; in others, it’s sunk to beach level; and in still others, it’s covered with mountains of debris. Of all the boardwalk stores, only the ones in front of Convention Hall and Frank’s Playland remain. Convention Hall itself is dragging its tail end in the ocean.

The street in front of the house that Steve Steger built was eaten away. As the foundation of the house became undermined, the house itself collapsed.

Unlike hurricanes, we had no warning and so nothing was battened down. The streets are full of garden furniture, for example, which would have been safely stored or fastened down. Because of the strong wind, places were torn apart and everything floated away. There are refrigerators, mattresses, oil tanks, etc. strewn all over.

No one is allowed into these towns unless they own property here and can prove it. State police are all over. As usual, Cape May was a little late and the motels and stores were looted of salvageable articles before the state police took over.

We are now on a high part of Cape May and it doesn’t seem possible that just two blocks away the water is knee deep and that we still had about six feet of water in our “Hollow” at high tide today.

Cape May was luckier than Wildwood as far as electricity is concerned. Many people whose heaters are not working are able to stick it out with portable electric heaters and gas or electric stoves. In our section, the fuses blew so that when electricity was restored we couldn’t use it.

We were luckier than some of our neighbors in that we were able to maintain a 56° temperature with the fireplace. All of my supply wood floated out of the basement when the doors were blown down, but I managed to fish enough floating driftwood to keep the fireplace going for almost 24 hours. I had enough dry wood to start it but after that we threw soaking wet wood in and it burned slower but hotter. We had a picnic lunch in our living room of the best baked beans and hot dogs you ever tasted.

Bunsen is boarding at the SPCA and we’re hoping that she won’t die of loneliness. She’s such a baby now – second childhood, I think.

Since our fuses blew it is quite certain that our wiring was wet and therefore it will have to be dried thoroughly before our electricity can be restored. I’m staying with our electrician so I’m hoping that we can have our wiring fixed. Don’t know how my priority rates with the plumber. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we don’t have sub-freezing temperature which would freeze the pipes before either the heater is rehabilitated or the system can at least be drained.

Friday, March 9, 1962

Cape May has recently added a vocational school which includes Beauty Culture in its courses. The school was open today and the twins and I took advantage of the low-cost, no-appointment service to get shampoos and sets. We had bathed the night before for the first time since Monday and were quite refreshed, even if we didn’t have fresh clothing to get into. How little we appreciate common every day conveniences until we lose them.

On our way to the school we drove past our neighborhood. It was still quite deep in water. At noon, the sky became dreary and it began to rain. We headed straight home. I spent the afternoon playing chess with the two boys aged seven and nine and was amazed at their proficiency. I felt relaxed for the first time since Monday night.

At 5 o’clock Pick called to tell me the good news that the water was only between the first and second step. By 9 o’clock the center of the street was drained. I almost felt like celebrating. Even the prospect of work I’ll have and the cost of repairs didn’t daunt my feeling of elation. I mentally mapped my activities for tomorrow.

Right now I’m baby sitting for the people at whose house I am staying – the least I can do. Karen went to sleep early with a headache. She is now running a temperature and babbling away deliriously at intervals. It’s the doctor’s day off so I didn’t call him at this late hour. Instead, I’m giving her the medicine he prescribed for me yesterday when I went to his office for treatment.

We’re really quite fortunate to have been offered this place for refuge. We have a room with three beds and a private bath and as a matter of fact we have the whole second floor to ourselves. There’s another empty bedroom here and Karen moved there last night because she said I snored.

They say that good deeds pay off. I always believed it but now have proof. The girl at whose house I am staying is one with whom I have worked on church bazaar committees for several years. We worked well together and always made a profit for our booth. Outside of that we were strangers. She is a long-time resident of Cape May and knows just about everyone in town. Her father, at one time, was president of the Chamber of Commerce. She called us at a time when we knew we had to leave our house but didn’t know where we would go. We had made arrangements to leave at low tide and it was only shortly before our deadline to leave that Christine called. I had never done her a good turn, but by working on a church committee which meant my time and energy, I had made her acquaintance. Of all the hundreds of people in Cape May, I’ll never know why she called me. But I do know that it was a Godsend to be able to make ourselves at home in a warm, clean home which had enough space to accommodate us without inconveniencing anyone.

While downtown today I couldn’t help but feel that the town was full of walking zombies. People were starry-eyed, so preoccupied with their own problems, I guess, that they weren’t conscious of their surroundings. Most of the people looked as if they’d slept in their clothes and probably had because there are few people whose heaters weren’t damaged. I really don’t know how the plumber and electricians will get around to everyone.

Cape May was lucky in another respect. We had no serious fires. At one time, Wildwood had 45 fires raging at one time and no way to fight them. It is my own idea that some of these fires were deliberately set because the owners figured that although their insurance covered fire, it did not include loss or damage from flooding. When our own fuse box started to smoke my first idea was that at least a fire loss would be compensated by insurance.

This is the fourth time I have gone through this experience in Cape May. Always before, there was something we could laugh about. There are only two things that tickled my funny bone this time.

The first was a call from Sue after she was settled away in her temporary shelter. She started her conversation with, “Cele, isn’t it wonderful to be able to sit down on a toilet without freezing your fanny?” This probably wouldn’t be funny to anyone unless they had suffered the agony of delaying nature’s call to the point of being willing to sit down on a toilet in a 35° room temperature bathroom.

The only other humor is my spotting trash cans floating all over town and deciding they are mine. I’ve been sorely tempted to get out and pick one up but the twins always manage to shame me into not picking it up. They’ll be sorry when I take the cost of a new trash can out of their allowance.

-Cecelia Love

The Aftermath

Damages from the Nor’easter were estimated in excess of $3 million ($20-$25 million in today’s dollars.) Beach Avenue was almost totally destroyed. Convention Hall was rendered irreparable – the present Convention Hall was built as a “temporary measure.” Save for two blocks, the boardwalk was destroyed. The concrete walkway, now known as the promenade, is evidence of how the city tried to protect itself from another devastating storm like that one. The Red Cross reported that a total of 1,259 dwellings in Cape May County were destroyed in the ’62 storm. Virtually every hotel and motel along the two-mile beachfront was damaged or ruined.

Among Cape May’s lost treasures were Hunt’s Pier, a landmark in Cape May since the early ’20s, Bertha Lear’s Yarn and Gift Shop, Sagel’s Candy Store and Fountain, and Ricker’s Boardwalk Gift and Toy Shop. All ended up in the sea. Sagel’s reopened across the street at the Beach Theatre. Ricker’s reopened on the newly constructed promenade and remained in business until 2006. And we’re not sure of the fate of Bertha’s yarn shop; we suspect she did not return.

Now, over 45 years later, the physical destruction is no longer evident. But the storm’s effects still linger in the memories of those who lived through the unfolding chaos and its aftermath.

What is a Nor’easter?

Like a hurricane, a nor’easter is a cyclone, with a center around which winds whirl, but in a counter-clockwise direction. Nor’easters generally track southwest to northeast along a coastline. What nor’easters lack in the wind-speed of hurricanes they make up for in duration. The storm of ‘62 blasted Cape May for the better part of three days. Nothing like it since has besieged the Jersey shore, but there’s always the chance others lie ahead.

1962 Nor’Easter Photo Gallery



For the full article, including more interviews with storm survivors, please pick up the Fall 2007 issue of Cape May Magazine.

Our thanks to Karen Love Farrell, who generously shared her mother’s journal.
Photographs appear courtesy of the Cape May County Museum.