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Remembering the “new” Convention Hall

Originally published in the August 2010 issue of Cape May Magazine. Text by Frank Gauvry, Cape May City mayor 1964-1972. Photographs courtesy Frank Gauvry.

Mayor Frank Gauvry, center, at the 1966 Convention Hall ribbon cutting.

It was a time when the city had no Convention Hall due to the previous one having been washed away in a storm when Dave Teel, our city manager, came to me and said, “Mayor, how would you like to have a new Convention Hall?” Further, he stated that we could build it with money we had on hand ($250,000) and city workers. It would not be as grand as the demolished one, but it would suffice. We decided to go ahead with our project even though we had low income housing being built and we were negotiating to construct the Acme shopping center as well as getting the Urban Renewal project off the ground.

We hired a construction engineer. He drew the plans and we went out to bid. We had one firm bid on the project and we accepted his bid. Remember, we only had $250,000 to build a new hall. The only other piece of equipment we had to rent was a pile driver, operated by “Spats” McDuell, our Superintendent of Public Works at the time.

During construction, half the population were “sidewalk superintendents” who voiced their opinion on how long the structure would stand. The nay-sayers decided it would collapse before the structure was completed, fall in when the roof was put on or collapse when the public was admitted. One councilman even resigned rather than be tagged with the failure of the structure. Well, the nay-sayers are all dead and buried, and the Convention Hall still stands.

We have had some grand entertainment there; the Army Thunderbirds, antique auto shows and who can forget the Reverend Robert O. Davis’ wonderful choir over the years? The many dances, roller skating and so many things for the young people would have been missed if we had not done what we did.

The picture above shows me cutting the ribbon to open the new Convention Hall in 1966.

It would be hard to imagine planning, building and bringing to fruition a project of that nature today. But we adopted the Nike slogan a long time ago…”Just do it.”

The construction of Convention Hall in 1965.

Circa 1965.

For more on Convention Hall, read Growing up on the Pier by Robert W. Elwell, Sr.