Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Hotel Cape May

In the early twentieth century there was an attempt to turn the undeveloped area of east Cape May into the Newport RI of NJ.
It was an overly ambitious effort and eventually went bust.

The plan involved dredging the harbor so larger ships could travel to Cape May, build mansions ( a few still exist like the Peter Shields Inn ) and the jewel in the crown was the Hotel Cape May.

As early as 1901 the local newspapers began mentioning the project but work did not begin until the Cape May Real Estate Company was formed in 1903 and Peter Shields was the director.

While Cape May development in the past had been driven by Philadelphia investors this time around major money came in from Pittsburgh and the papers quickly referred to the new group as the "Pittsburgh Syndicate."

The promoters envisioned a modern city with connections to the major railroads and a new harbor that would rival the ports of Philadelphia and New York.

The million dollar Cape May Hotel along with the harbor with a water area of 500 acres and a depth of forty feet ( the promoters promised it was deep enough to accommodate the largest ocean steamships ever built) were the 2 centerpieces of the project.
The Hotel Cape May opened to great fanfare in 1908. The celebration included a visit from the governor of New Jersey and an automobile rally from Philadelphia to Cape May.

Unfortunately the new development plans were built on a poor foundation of insufficient funds and six months after the celebration the Hotel Cape May mysteriously closed for repairs. Directors resigned and new people stepped into to jump start the harbor East Cape May project. It was not to be.

The ill-fated Hotel Cape May never fulfilled its promise to restore Cape May to the throne of Queen of the Seaside Resorts.. It remained empty for years.

The hotel was later acquired by the Admiral Hotel Company which attempted to operate it as a hotel.
The effort failed and the city took the hotel - The Admiral -over for back taxes in 1940 and it was sold to a group of developers that intended to convert it into a senior citizens home. During World War two it served temporarily as a military hospital.
Fundamentalist preacher Carl McIntire purchased the hotel and saved it from the wrecker's ball in 1963.
He changed the name to the Christian Admiral but the hotel was doomed from day one.
It was razed in 1996 when a deal was cut between the city that was owed back taxes and the owners of the hotel that also owned Congress Hall. Seaside lots were sold for McMansions and the money was used to restore Congress Hall that was also in need of restoration. It was a good plan since both hotels were key landmarks in Cape May and the sacrifice of one saved the other.
Now you know the story.


  1. As one who loves Cape May, this site is always informative and enjoyable. Keep up the great work and keep posting pictures........thank you!

  2. Linked from FB. Did I do good?

  3. Nice story, thanks Emil. Speaking of the Peter Shields Inn, how about the ghost stories that go on there? I met a sweet worker at one of the B&Bs a few years back who spent a summer working there and refused to go back because of all the ghost stories and weird happenings there.

  4. Go on now...make me feel young again..Thanks

  5. linked from FB
    great story...thanks

  6. Emil, I've been a FB friend AND a follower of your blog almost since the are a professional and FB should leave you alone and let you continue to do what you do!!! Can't they tell that you are "AUTHENTIC" ??? Please don't leave us!!! CJ

  7. Hi Emil followed your fb link to blog. Whatever fb does I'll still follow you now that I found you. What an innocent and romantic time you describe even on your blog. I thirst for more. So many more places to learn about all the way up the coast. I loved the buildings in Ocean Grove and so sad to use past tense in saying that. Many great years at the Queen. Too many Hotels, great design and architecture to list along the whole shore. If fb wants to be small minded it tells us who they are! I've already recommended the fan site to others of various ages. I enjoy everyone sharing their own history at the shore as well as the buildings and town stories. This is what the world should know of The Real Jersey Shore and NOT the image that television has given of NJ and the people. Doesn't someone out there know a screen writer who can develop a tv series around these romantic places? I hate that people think of us 'NJ lifers' with the image of mobs, drunks and foul mouthed kids. NJ should tap into you (Emil) for marketing. If you ever finish the shore?....Write about the inlands, OUR history in the revolution alone, the buildings, the mountains,lakes, famous people who have lived here and those that do live here. NJ should celebrate itself! It is beautiful!!!!! One of the wealthiest couples in the world (hint: SHE IS A TRUMP) who could get married ANYWHERE chose NEW JERSEY for their classic wedding!!!!! Thanks Emil you are refreshing in a world of synthetics you are real!! fb whould have a great loss. Sorry I don't fit your options so, just a fbfan. R. O'Connor.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. ^That's me...Thanks for the pictures! - Michele