Cape May History
Picturesque Cape May holds the distinction of being the oldest seashore resort in the United States and one of the most unique. First recorded by Henry Hudson, an English Sea Captain, back in 1609! In 1761 Cape May officially became the first seashore resort in America, stretching 20 miles out to sea, this oasis of ambiance is a refuge from the hectic 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.
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 restored houses throughout the city. The Victorian Era occurred from 1837 to 1901 when queen Victoria ruled over England. 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 period into the future.