Frequently Asked Questions
We receive a lot of questions about all kinds of things related to Cape May. If it has to do with Cape May, ask us on Facebook, on Twitter, or ask us online and we'll try to get you (and the rest of our readers) some answers!
Beaches / Things to Do
Dining & Shopping
History / Buildings
- "What ever happened to Shelton College?"
"My brother and sister-in-law currently own a second home in Cape May. The funny part about it is they purchased this home two years ago and 33 years ago my brother was attending Shelton College and renting a home two blocks away from his current residence. Cape May has come a long way since then. I remember visiting him with our parents and attending his college graduation. Do you have any information on Shelton College? I don’t think many folks are aware Cape May ever had a 4-year college across from the beach!"
The answer to your question comes form two sources. The first is Tommy’s Folly, authored by Jack Wright. The book provides a history of Congress Hall, America’s oldest seaside hotel, once owned by the Rev. Carl McIntire and currently co-owned by his grandson Curtis Bashaw. The second source is Rev. McIntire’s eldest grandchild, Norris Clark.
In 1963 Rev. McIntire, a Collingswood, NJ evangelical minister bought the Admiral Hotel on Beach Avenue and renamed it the Christian Admiral Hotel. "At the same time," according to Tommy’s Folly, "McIntire moved Shelton College, a Christian liberal arts school, from Ringwood, north Jersey, to Cape May, bringing upwards of 100 students to town for the fall, winter and spring."
Mr. Norris writes, "My understanding is that Shelton College, as a religious institution, never had regional accreditation but was rather licensed by the State of New Jersey until it moved to Florida in the early '70s to receive State licensure there. Shelton operated in Florida until the mid '80s when it operated in both in NJ and FL while still under the state of Florida.
"In 1987, I founded (along with Curtis and Michael Zuckerman) the Cape May Institute for Continuing Education as a separate educational entity, housed at the Shelton building, and dedicated to continuing education, mainly through week-long workshops. We co-founded the Cape May Music Festival, developed the Art Kane Photography Workshop with Kodak and held numerous classes in Music, Writing, Theater, Architecture, and Philosophy. In 1990, we had around 1500 people, mostly with Elderhostel, taking courses at the Institute and housed at Congress Hall.
"Shelton ceased operating all together in 1992, and the institute closed in 1993, given that the Shelton College property was tied into the overall bankruptcy of Christian Beacon Press. The Shelton College property was purchased by local hotel owner, Gus Andy, for $500,000 cash."
In early 2014, Shelton College collapsed following a storm. It was demolished later that year.
- "What are the shopping hours for the Washington Street Mall?"
- "Are there fireworks in Cape May on the 4th of July?"
Yes, Yes, Yes. July 4th, the show goes on - but from a distance. Cape May's pyrotechnic display has been moved out onto a barge 1/4 mile offshore.
The fireworks are sponsored, in part, by the good folks over at the historic Congress Hall Hotel.
Until 2004 when Congress Hall took over the event, Cape May hadn’t had a fireworks display since 1988. In 2004 however, they were shot from Congress Hall Beach.
Afterwards, Fire Chief Jerry Inderwies Jr. said he would oppose fireworks being shot from the shoreline. The problem has always been wind shift which occurs in the middle of the event. The wind shift last year sparked fears that the sparks might land on the Victorian buildings. So, bring in the barge.
Introducing the barge doubled the cost of having the fireworks. See, this is the same thing that happened in 1988. At that time the merchants decided it was too much money and too many headaches. This time around, however, the sponsors of nearby Lower Township’s July 3nd fireworks display, the Delaware River Bay Authority (DRBA), are offering to offset some of the cost in that both organizations are using the same barge company.
If you'll be bayside (Lower Township, including North Cape May & Villas), look for fireworks the day before or after Congress Hall's. Pick a spot on the beach. We recommend a chair or towel since the sand can be chilly after sunset! There are vendors galore and carnival rides, too. It's crowded, so expect to park and walk a couple blocks.
- "I was wondering about the place that looks like it was recently renovated called the 'Empress.' But I've never seen anyone around there. What's the story?"
The Empress sits at 501 Hughes Street, at the intersection with Decatur. This Cape May question is echoed by others like... Is it a Bed and Breakfast? If so, when is it opening? The restoration has been done for years. What does it look like inside? Is it as neat and mysterious as it appears?
The answers to these questions are a little complicated. Yes, The Empress was built with the purpose of opening as a bed and breakfast. And yes, it is as neat and mysterious inside as one would expect-- not that we've seen it first hand (the owner is out of the country) but we've chatted with a couple of people who have been inside and have had a look at the original blueprints. It has eight guest rooms, each themed after a queen - hence the name, "The Empress." Each guest room has its own luxurious bathroom, also themed with regard to European tiles and decor. At the ground level, blueprints show a spacious parlor with a fireplace, an adjacent living room, also with fireplace, a dining room and big gourmet kitchen.
The architectural firm Olivieri, Shousky & Kiss in Collingswood, NJ handled this restoration of the former "Bell Shields House," circa 1880, which according to architect Paul Kiss, operated as a B&B right up to the sale of the stick-style house to its current owners F & L Victorian Investments located in Mays Landing. An elaborate wrought iron stairway leads to the Victorian lounge. As with the bathrooms, the floor is handmade porcelain tile imported from England. An antique ice cream bar along with an antique box office lead into a modern theater to accommodate 16-20 guests for a private screening. The Bell Shields had a couple of additions dating to the 1930s and 1950s. Those were demolished with the present reconstruction. The Empress as we see it today is composed of the original 1880 structure plus the additions constructed a la 1880 Victorian stick.
The colored glass windows at The Empress are a particular point of pride for architect Paul Kiss. Each of the building's special colored glass windows were rebuilt as authentic reproductions of the original. Kiss said the Historic Preservation Committee (HPC) were involved in the process. The architectural firm also went looking for authentic Victorian furnishings to complete the look and feel.
And now for the complexity. No, it will not be opening as a bed and breakfast at this time. It seems the owners put so much time and love into the project (it took nearly six years to complete) they can't bear to give it up to "guests" other than their own family and friends just yet. So look from afar, my cyber space friends because that's as close you're going to get to this elusive Empress.
- Can I tour St. Mary by the Sea?
We receive a lot of emails about St. Mary by the Sea! Here are a couple recent ones:
Does this place still exist? Can people go on retreat? Please send details! I couldn't find a website; just a news story.
Linda M. from Mechanicsburg, PA wrote to us,
Been trying for 2 years now to get information on the 100th celebration of St. Mary's by the Sea , but still have found no information. Cape May Magazine had an article 2 years ago about this celebration coming up this year, but still no other information. There is to be an open house scheduled too, but still no information on this. Will be down in September & would love to actually tour St. Mary's.
St. Mary by the Sea, located in the old Shoreham Hotel in Cape May Point, has been privately owned since 1909 by the Sisters of St. Joseph, who use it as a religious retreat. We understand that their religious retreats are open to all women, and there are very few spots available for men. Please visit the Sisters of St. Joseph online at http://www.ssjphila.org
We called the sisters at St. Mary's early in 2009 regarding their 100-year anniversary. Though they had planned to initially, they are not having any public celebrations this year; they had a private one instead. They may have a public celebration in 2010, but it has not been announced. If we hear anything, we will be sure to include it in our events calendar.
As far as we know, they do not offer public tours.
- Why don't you have a Cape May webcam?
The simple answer is that we don't have the resources to broadcast video across the web 24/7. We don't have plans to offer a webcam in the future, but we regularly feature video clips on our CapeMay.com Page on Facebook.
You can see new pictures of Cape May in our daily photo blog, Picture of the Day.
- Where is the nearest Sam's Club or Costco?
The nearest Sam's Club is in Pleasantville, NJ, outside Atlantic City, roughly 45 minutes from here. The nearest Costco is located in Stafford Township, about an hour and a half drive, north of Atlantic City. We'd recommend scheduling these stops into your drive down.
Sam's Club (31.2 miles north)
1025 Black Horse Pike
Pleasantville, NJ 08232
Costco (57.9 miles north)
245 Stafford Park Blvd
Stafford Township NJ 08050-2734
Now, here’s the thing: all of the shops in Cape May are independently owned and operated and, as such, open and close at their discretion.
Please don’t be confused by the term "mall." When we talk about Cape May's Washington Street Mall, the term is used as in the second definition of the word: "an urban street lined with shops and closed off to motor vehicles." It is an outdoor walking mall spanning three blocks, with brick pathways, decorative fountains, and wooden benches surrounding garden planters.
Shopping in Cape May is basically concentrated on the Washington Street Mall, the Washington Commons, Carpenter’s Square Mall (located behind the Washington Street Mall on Carpenter’s Lane), the beachfront, and West Cape May, primarily where West Perry Street meets Park Boulevard.
Carpenter’s Square Mall and City Centre Mall (located in the 400 block of Washington Street) are enclosed malls comprised of somewhere between 10 and 20 small boutique-type shops. Cape May’s historic Congress Hall Hotel also offers guests, as well as visitors, a selection of independently owned retail stores as well. Visitors will also find some very unique shops at the top end of Jackson Street and on Washington Street near City Hall and the post office.
Aside from the CVS in West Cape May, the only chain stores we have are WaWa (a convenience store on Texas Avenue) and a grocery store (Acme). Swain's Hardware is a locally owned Ace Hardware store.
As far as hours go, during the summer months of mid-June to Labor Day, most stores are open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. After Labor Day and right up to Victorian Week, October 8 through October 17, most of the shops are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with longer hours on Friday and Saturday. Some stores, particularly those on the Washington Street Mall, remain open at night; however, after Oct. 20th most close at 5 or 6 pm, and many then only open on weekends.
Our advice? If you have a favorite store, give them a call.