Cape May’s historic district was designated a National Historic Landmark on May 11, 1976, and is a showcase of late-Victorian-era architecture. Take your camera on a stroll through town to capture these beautiful preserved buildings from the 1800s.
According to the archived form prepared by Carolyn Pitts, the architectural historian who nominated the historic district for recognition by the National Parks Service in the ’70s, these buildings reflect the fashion of the times. They incorporate improvised elements from various traditional architectural styles such as Gothic, Queen Anne, Italianate, and Greek Revival. “Many of the buildings in Cape May must have been designed by creative local carpenters using the handbooks of construction that were standard reference,” Pitts wrote. As such, the architecture here isn’t strictly traditional. It’s a reflection of late-Victorian trends interpreted by local builders.
Tours through the historic district are available through Cape May MAC.
What buildings are in the historic district?
This is not an all-inclusive list, but some buildings that contributed to Cape May’s designation as a historic landmark include:
- The George Allen House (known today as The Southern Mansion) at 720 Washington Street
- The Carroll Villa Hotel – 19 Jackson Street
- The Chalfonte – Howard & Sewell
- The Colonial (known today as The Inn of Cape May) at Ocean and Gurney
- Congress Hall on Beach Avenue
- Cook’s Villa (known today as The King’s Cottage) at 9 Perry Street
- Jackson’s Clubhouse (known today as the Mainstay) at 635 Columbia
- The Baronet at 819 Beach Avenue
- The Emlen Physick Estate at 1048 Washington Street
- New Jersey Trust and Safe Deposit Company at 526 Washington Street (you might know it as Winterwood)
Also included on the original list was the Windsor Hotel, circa 1879, a second empire style hotel designed by Stephen Decatur Button. The Windsor burned down in 1979.
Where exactly is Cape May’s historic district?
Here is the description of the historic district’s boundaries straight out of the February 10, 1976 nomination form prepared by :
Beginning at the point where the incorporated city boundary meets the Atlantic Ocean shoreline at the west end of Cape May City, the national historic landmark boundary follows the shoreline in an easterly direction to the west boundary of the U.S. Coast Guard Receiving Center; thence north along the west Coast Guard property line to the shoreline of Cape May Harbor; thence westerly along the shoreline of the Harbor to the mouth of Cape Island Creek; thence southwesterly along the incorporated city boundary line, which follows the center line of the Creek, to the north property lines on the north side of Myrtle Street; thence northwesterly along these property lines to their intersection with Park Boulevard; thence south along the east curb of Park Boulevard to the intersection with West Perry Street; thence westerly along the southern curb of West Perry Street (Sunset Boulevard farther west) to the west property lines of the properties on the west side of the last residential street on the west end of Cape May City; thence southerly along the west property lines to their intersection with the incorporated city boundary; thence southwesterly along the incorporated city boundary to the beginning point.