Welcome To KEY TO THE CITY's Page For
Cape May County, New Jersey
Chamber of Commerce.
Cape May rescued its downtown for posterity with a farsighted move; in 1970-71 (dedicated June 24, 1971) the city closed Washington Street to traffic between Ocean and Perry Streets, filled in the street, placed park benches everywhere, and planted the newly created walking mall with trees, shrubbery, and flowers. Then, in May, 1976, the Secretary of the Interior designated the entire city of Cape May as a National Historic Landmark District; thus ensuring the continued protection of our quaint, historical, shopping mall. Today, it is a delight...to enjoy, to stroll, to shop; an old downtown that has turned its back on the automobile and maybe even on time itself.
The little downtown has been seriously threatened several times by devastating fires. The fire of 1878, which leveled five solid blocks of Cap May's oldest hotel and homes, took with it the Centre House Hotel (c. 1850) which stood on the ocean side of Washington Street between Jackson and Perry Streets. The Centre House Hotel was replaced with store-front buildings, extending the shopping district to Perry Street. Then, in December 1976, in the midst of Christmas revelry, fire destroyed the other side of the same blcok, taking 301 through 311 with it. The block was quickly rebuilt wiht attractive shops that were open for business-as-usual for the following summer season.
In addition to its charming old buildings, the Mall boasts several architecturally significant buildings, including; the New Jersey Trust and Safe Deposit bank building; 1895 (526 Washington); Saint Mary's Roman Catholic Church (Now Star of the Sea), 1911 (Washington and Ocean); and the Congress Hall Hotel, 1879 (Washington and Perry). In fact, the Washington street mall is situated one blcok from the ocean in the heart of the Cape May historical district. This district contains the largest collection of wealthy Victorian summer cottages and hotels in existence. Park your car and forget it; the entire area is ideal for pedestrian browsing, shopping, and sight-seeing with camera or sketchpad.
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