Picturesque Cape May holds the distinction of being the oldest seashore resort
in the United States and one of the most unique. Stretching 20 miles out
to sea, this oasis of ambiance is a refuge from the hectic 20th century American
lifestyle. It is a place to relax, to enjoy the Atlantic Ocean, the city's
charming Mall, and most of all, to view the largest collection of authentic
Victorian structures in the nation.
Cape May is rich in history. Among its famous visitors have been Maestro
John Philip Sousa; circus impresario P.T. Barnum; Civil War Generals Robert
E. Lee and William Sherman; Abe Lincoln before becoming president; Presidents
James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, Ulysses S. Grant and Benjamin Harrison.
In the same year that the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts, a Dutch
captain, Cornelius Jacobsen Mey, explored the Delaware River and named the
peninsula Cape Mey, after himself, in 1620. The spelling was later changed
to Cape May. Over a century later in 1761 Cape May became the first seashore
resort in America.
The most distinctive feature about Cape May is its Victorian heritage, carefully
retained in several hundred beautifully manicured houses throughout the city.
The Victorian Era occurred from 1837 to 1901 when queen Victoria ruled over
England. The impact of her reign was felt throughout the world and in Cape
May which was then considered to be among the top vacation resorts in the
Cape May has enjoyed a major renaissance in the last decade. Many Victorian
structures adorned with carved barge boards, ornate verandas and crowned
dormers, have been restored. Most of the homes, hotels, shops and other buildings
were constructed in the late 1800's at the prime of the Victorian era. Today
small gingerbread houses stand beside magnificent Victorian showplaces.
An important milestone was reached in the Bicentennial Year of 1976 when
Cape May was officially designated a National Historic Landmark City, only
one of five in the nation. That designation requires that the community must
retain all structures in their original form and design and will insure that
Cape May will remain within the architectural guidelines of the Victorian
Cape May is a real life picture postcard of the past. In the summer and the
rest of the year it is shared by hundreds of thousands of visitors in an
atmosphere that can only be found in this southernmost New Jersey community,
situated below the Mason-Dixon line.