Today in 1878, fire broke out in the Ocean House on Perry Street. Less than twelve hours later, it had destroyed forty acres and destroyed commercial properties including Congress Hall, Ocean House, Centre House, Columbia House, Atlantic House, and Merchant’s Hotel. The total loss was estimated at $400,000. Arson was suspected, but the suspect was found innocent due to insufficient evidence.
The outlined area above, on this 1878 map that appeared in the Philadelphia Bulletin just days after the fire, shows the extent of the devastation caused by the blaze.
Read more about the Cape May fire
The Gallagher House still stands today at 45 Jackson Street. In this photograph, a Miss Taylor occupies the upper level, and the Gallagher family the lower.
Washington Street, circa 1900
Vintage photograph of the Cape May Beach Patrol, courtesy of the Steger family.
The Liberty Theater, on the 500 block of the Washington Street Mall, where Liberty Way is located today. Dellas General Store is located on the left, where it still stands today.
Long before whalers and yeomen of European descent came to New Jersey’s lower cape peninsula, Native Americans lived on its sandy shores. He recently gave a fireside lecture on the history of Native Americans in the county, held at the Museum of Cape May County.
As a tribal legend keeper, Chief Robert Redfeather Stevenson, of Townbank, has spent decades sharing the oral history of his tribe and Native American culture throughout the area. His tribal affiliation is with that of his mother, the Montaukett. His father’s people were Lenni Lenape.
Honored for his work in preserving the Native American history, Redfeather holds his audiences spellbound with stories that explain the history of Native Americans.
“In order to belong to a land,” stated Redfeather, “the roots of the tree of your life must grasp the rocks and soil.”
According to Redfeather, the history of Native Americans in Cape May County is a fascinating one that has never been explained. “There are remnants of the Lenni Lenape people still here in the county today,” Redfeather, an octogenarian, said. “The Creator saw fit to leave some of us.”
Photos and historical information appear courtesy of the Museum of Cape May County
The Lafayette Hotel cottages were originally named the Weightman Cottage. It stood at Franklin and Washington Streets, the current site of the Cape May Post Office. It was constructed for Philadelphian chemist William Weightman, Sr. and moved to Ocean and Beach Avenue in 1881. It operates today as Angel of the Sea Bed and Breakfast.
Information from Summer City by the Sea by Emil R. Salvini
Cape May’s Iron Pier, constructed in 1884 by the Phoenix Iron Company, extended over 1,000 feet over the ocean. Its 8,000 square-foot pavilion provided dancing space, with sport-fishing facilities on the lower level.
Photographs: Source unknown. Information on the pier taken from Summer City by the Sea by Emil R. Salvini.
Seagars, at 411 Washington Street, and Brown’s Millinery and Dry Goods. This is the block where Beach Bums and Casale’s stand today. Based on the car out front, we estimate this photograph is approximately 90 years old.
The Cape May Daily Wave office stood at 512 Washington Street (where Kohr Bros and Coldwell Banker are today). According to the Library of Congress, the Daily Wave published from July 1865 to 1907, under publisher C.S. Magrath. [source]