Monday, March 27, 2006

Ghosts of Cape Mey

In need of human contact, I decided to go down to "the island" on Sunday morning and join a $20 walking/brunch tour of Historic Cape May. It was slightly drizzly and there were only six of us interested in being there. I surveyed my companions: a grandmother/mother/daughter group in from Maryland and a lovey-dovey couple in matching Nascar jackets. Intellectual stimulation seemed far off.

Mary Lou, our tour guide, was erstwhile and she knew her architecture. She and her husband had retired here from Philly, and were so in love with the place they want to give back. We set out to Hughes Street to take a look at the first houses on the tour. And the modern day world of automobiles and cellphones began to melt away as my mind wandered back to 1620 when Captain Mey of Holland discovered this peninsula...and then to 1820 when Captain Hughes built the house we're looking at. Ghosts of Victorians in carriages streamed by from the steamship landing to their hotels that were later burned down in a November conflagration that took out a third of the town. U-boats hovered at the mouth of the Delaware Bay during World War II and the canal that marks a shortcut from the ocean to the bay was cut to provide a safe haven for the merchant ships headed to the refineries at Philadelphia. The doldrums of the 50s and 60s set in and nobody wanted to come here so the historic nature of the town was preserved from rampant redevelopment.

Then fast-forward to the 80s and 90s and 00s. Suddenly Cape May is hot. Houses cost a million dollars. People paint their Victorian gingerbread in a thousand lurid hues, colors that would make those old Victorians blush. Mary Lou was unabahshed about her disdain for the over-the-top colors people are using today: "Less than twenty years ago, most of the houses in Cape May were painted white."



At 6:53 AM, Anonymous z said...

Beautiful photo.

At 12:41 PM, Blogger Michael Nolan said...

Thanks, Z, but I can't take credit for it. It came from a Cape May tourism site!

At 10:31 AM, Anonymous ste!!a said...

I can remember when they were painted white; well maybe some were grey. It was peaceful. I usually spend my time in cape may in the off season. It's been a while though.

Geeze that pink is frightening.


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