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There is no better way to see America than on foot. And there is no better way to appreciate what you are looking at than with a walking tour. This walking tour of Cape May, New Jersey is ready to explore when you are. Each walking tour describes historical, architectural landmarks, cultural sites and ecclesiastic touchstones and provides step-by-step directions.
Every tour also includes a quick primer on identifying architectural styles seen on American streets.
In 1620, the same year the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts, Dutch Sea captain Cornelius Jacobsen Mey sailed into the Delaware Bay aboard his ship “Blijde Boodschap (Good Tidings).” Mey and his crew surveyed the Delaware River and traded for furs with the local Indians. He also named the prominent peninsula at the southern tip of what would become New Jersey after himself. Decades later the spelling would be changed to Cape May.
Wealthy Philadelphians began building summer getaways around Cape May in 1761 and it became the first seashore resort in America. By the early 1800s the largest hotels in the world were being built along the wide, white Cape May sand beaches. Presidents James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce vacationed here. Abraham Lincoln was a visitor before being elected 16th President of the United States.
On November 9, 1878, at seven o’clock in the morning, fire broke out in a hotel attic near the center of town. Winds at over 50 miles per hour allowed the fire to jump over roads from one block to the next. The fire department did not have enough water – as a bucket brigade stretching from the ocean to the water was their main supply. Sadly a request for more funds to buy more fire-fighting equipment had been denied only a few months earlier.
The fire (hereafter referred to as the “Great Fire”) raged for over eleven hours. When dawn broke the following day, 44 acres of downtown Cape May were destroyed. Although other resorts at the time were built in a more modern fashion – Cape May officials decided to rebuild in the same traditional Victorian style of the hotels that the fire had destroyed. This decision has reverberated ever since - Cape May has the greatest number of picturesque Victorian structures in America and in 1976 the entire town was officially designated a National Historic Landmark City, one of only five in the nation.
Our tour will start at the Mid-Atlantic Center For The Arts at 1048 Washington Street, site of the Emilen Physick Estate, five blocks north of the Cape May’s commercial center...