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Cape May Things to Do: 75 reviews and 123 photos
One reason for visiting Cape May during Christmas week this year was my desire to visit the annual "Designers' Showcase House." This year the featured house was the "Memucan Hughes" house at 608 Hughes Street. Built in 1847 for Hughes, a ship pilot, this house had many Federal architectural features and had been added to or renovated several times over the years. It seemed odd at first that the house was not a Victorian, but it was beautiful nonetheless.
For this showcase, each room had been decorated by a different designer, and almost every room had been decorated for Christmas as well. The house is extremely large featuring 11 bedrooms and 6 baths alone, but we were not allowed in the private rooms. What I did see were the library, parlor or living room, kitchen, enclosed sun porch, basement spa room, and wine cellar with dining room, the upstairs dining room, one bedroom and 2 baths, and the home theatre and game rooms on the top floor of the house. The necessary places had obviously been updated but the rooms sported beautiful furniture sprinkled with just the perfect antiques, inviting linens, fireplaces, and cozy spaces throughout. The many tasteful Christmas decorations and Christmas trees were the icing on the cake.
Also located on the property and to the side of a very good size backyard was a renovated Carriage House which had no less than 3 bedrooms and 2 baths itself!
This fabulous property was for sale, furnished for the amazing sum of $3.8 million dollars including the Carriage House. If interested in the Carriage House along, the asking price was $890,000!! Much too rich for my blood, but I still dream of owning a Victorian cottage here in Cape May some day!
There are several ways of seeing Cape May other than on foot. Cape May offers trolley tours on cars that look somewhat like cable cars found in San Francisco, but Cape May's are not on rails and are not limited to specific patterns. There are also specialty trolley tours which visit natural habitats, the Coast Guard Base, Ghosts of Cape May and the Physick Estate. Evening trolley tours might interest you, so you might consider a "Gaslight Trolley Tour" or "Romantic Moonlight" Trolley tour which will take you to the 1859 Cape May Lighthouse where you will have a panoramic ocean view under starlit skies!
Picture from the Estates website
The Emlen Physick Estate is a grandios mansion built in the Victorian "Stick Style" of architecture. Built in 1879 and attributed to the noted architect, Frank Furness, this jewel was saved from the wrecker's ball, and now has been fully restored and is home to The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts. This Center for the Arts was formed for the specific purpose of saving the Physick Estate.
This estate on 4 acres of grounds was built for Dr. Emlen Physick. The never-married Dr. Physick was descended from a wealthy Philadelphia family, and was the grandson of the noted, Dr. Philip S. Physick, known as the Father of American Surgery (1768-1837). The younger Physick lived on the estate with his widowed mother and his aunt. On a tour there several years ago, we found the mansion and outbuildings to be a treasure trove of antiques and stories of Physick and his family. It is an entry to the world of the wealthy Victorian and the way of life in Cape May during that time period.
Be sure to call for admission times and prices and other special events which are scheduled there throughout the year. Also visit their Twinings Tea Room.
Address: 1048 Washington Street, Cape May
The sea air flattened my curls!
Though not a typical "boardwalk", the oceanfront promenade is a great place to soak up the sun and do a little people watching. Virtually no building has been allowed on the beach side of Ocean Drive so you have a clear view of the water. (I think there may be one very small set of shops on the waterside.) Cape May requires that a "beach tag" be purchased (around $10) if you care to do a little swimming but you can walk on the beach on the northerly end and collect shells for gratis! The beach here is white sand, wide and clean!!
Get yourself a little bag of "saltwater taffy" candy and dream the day away. One of the great things about Cape May is the instant feeling of relaxation you get upon entering this charming little town.
The Passing Parade
Here is another example of the artwork to be found during the outdoor, art shows on the Cape May boardwalk. I found this painting very appealing. This lady and her furry companions watch out of an apartment window as a parade passes by below. I always felt as if this is a scene from Philadelphia as they have alot of parades!!
I loved this painting and I don't know why I didn't buy it --no money I guess!
Me one day???
I'm not sure if it is still a yearly event, but Cape May used to host art shows every spring on the oceanfront boardwalk (promenade). You'll see pictured here a "soft-sculpture" of an elderly couple that almost looks real!
This enjoyable boardwalk art show is hopefully still a yearly event as are many other free events such as concerts at the gazebo just behing the pedestrian mall.
Every summer, several houses and bed & breakfast cottages throw open their doors for tours. This is actually a fundraiser with tickets being sold to benefit a local cause. Tickets are sold around town and at the kiosk at the end of the pedestrian shopping mall in the center of town.
Many lucky people are fortunate enough to own private, summer homes in Cape May about the size of the one pictured here. It may have a small lot, but don't be fooled. Houses of this size could cost probably around $400,000 (2005) or more unless they are in need of major repair. On our recent visit to Cape May (7/4/05), we found prices have sky-rocketed on the Jersey shore. For a somewhat larger Victorian with several bedrooms, and a larger yard than pictured here, you can expect to pay $750,000 and up if it is located near the center of town. The more Victorian detailed homes are the most sought after.
It is unfortunate that the accompanying picture of this little house doesn't reveal just how special it is in shades of cream, mauve and purple with hanging flower baskets of the same colors. I especially love the little window with lace curtains and shutters high up on the second story. (It's a girl thing!) Too bad it doesn't have a large yard, but I will wager that it has a lovely garden in the back.
Bed & Breakfast
This beautiful house is another example of the ornate, wordwork trim called "gingerbread" which is the signature feature of houses and often hotels in Cape May. During the 1800's, well-to-do families from Philadelphia and other areas, sea captains, and captains of industry marked Cape May as a summer retreat and built magnificent summer "cottages" here on the Jersey shore. Today, many of these cottages have been preserved and are reborn as Bed & Breakfasts lodgings. You'll pay a fair penny to stay in one of them.
You can imagine the upkeep of these buildings is definitely labor intensive due to the constant wear of the salt air, and intense sun which can prematurely deteriorate the woodwork and paint.
Oceanfront Cape May
While not the only terrific thing about Cape May, the Victorian architecture at Cape May is definitely a highlight. These cottages, while not nearly as large as the "cottages" in Newport, Rhode Island, are substantial structures. The ones pictured here have the added feature of facing directly on the oceanfront. These cottages are privately owned, but may often be rented for summer months--not for those with light wallets!
Address: Ocean Drive, Oceanfront Cape May
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