Buying a Historic Home in Cape May

Buying a Historic Home in Cape May by Edward Connolly

There are many homes of historical significance in Cape May reflecting architectural styles spanning over two hundred years.  It is home to one of the largest collections of nineteenth century buildings in America. Over the past several decades preservation efforts have intensified and have led directly to a positive effect on the city’s economic growth. The historic district is defined by its architectural character in its entirety.  It is comprised of individual, commercial and residential structures. The relativity of scale, proportion, materials and streetscape provides commonality among a diversity of style and features.

Cape May’s architectural heritage led to its designation as a National Historic Landmark District in 1976. City Council underscored this honor by establishing the Cape May Historic Preservation Commission. The Commission is involved with conducting surveys and setting design standards for exterior alterations, new construction and demolition. With the increase of traffic generated by tourism and the demand for new construction it is the charge of the Commission to oversee these developments, ensuring that the design standards are adhered to.

In Cape May City properties are designated as either Key, Contributing or Non-Contributing.  A Key property demonstrates outstanding quality and state of preservation; Contributing properties are integral parts of the historic ambiance in a historic district; Non-Contributing properties do not add to the historic theme of a historic district. When considering a property in Cape May work with your agent to determine the designation of that property. You can also contact the HPC for this information.

When you are ready to make an offer there are several things to consider in order to maximize your investment; have a full understanding of what you can and cannot do to the property; hire a home inspector preferably with experience in this area; obtain estimates from contractors with experience in historical restoration to gauge costs. It is also a good idea to engage an architect to formalize your project into plans that you will need for your presentation.

Ed Connolly Broker Associate Coastline Realty 609-884-5oo5 x111; cell 609-602-3089

Source: City of Cape May HPC Design Standards

Cape May Restaurant Weeked is Upon Us / Victorian Foodies

Victorian Foodies by Edward Connolly….
Cape May is known for many things not the least of which is the eclectic variety of its restaurants. Fine dining was an integral part of the Victorian lifestyle as well. Private homes or hotels were the usual dining venues with restaurants becoming popular in the latter 1870s. Food was one thing but the Victorian dining experience was as much about showing your station in life as it was about anything else. Leisure time and disposable income were the main ingredients for the elite when they dined. When entertaining at home meals were served by numerous servants giving the hosts ample opportunity to show their guests how many servants they had. China, silverware and glassware were also on display. Careful consideration was given to the menu and to the accompanying beverages. A typical Victorian dinner would include 10 or more courses each with its own place setting. Over 100 pieces of silverware, a few dozen plates and a dozen glasses made up the service for a single guest. An elaborate floral centerpiece graced the table and would be narrowed at eye level to facilitate conversation. The conversing was more important than the consuming. This was an example of Victorian networking and diners took small bites and quick sips in order to be ready for a verbal response.
The same rules of etiquette and decorum applied when dining at a hotel or restaurant. And the particular spot, such as Congress Hall, the Stockton or the Columbia, added to the prestige of the experience. As restaurants appeared they were judged not only by their cuisine but as the “place to be” as well.
Attire at the dinner table was an important consideration for the Victorians. Options for a gentlemen were few; black or white tie with a tux or proper evening suit. Women needed to select a formal gown that had not been seen in that particular season. Summer whites were not considered proper dining apparel.

Cape May Restaurant Weekend is November 2nd – 5th. You can see participating restaurants by clicking here.

Post written by Edward Connolly, Broker Sales Associate and Cape May Local.

Edward Connolly, Broker Sales Associate

Of Ghosts and Mansions

In 1863 the structure now known as the Southern Mansion was built by wealthy industrialist George Allen. The beautiful beige mansion sat on a huge parcel of land and had extensive Italian gardens. Allen’s niece, Ester Mercur and her husband were the last of the Allen family to be in residence. After Ester passed her husband sold the entire estate with furnishing for $8000. The new owners turned the property into a boarding house. They painted it white and converted the interior into several small rooms. Fifty years later the mansion was in disrepair due to lack of upkeep and the conversion to small rooms had weakened the structure. The boarding house license ceased in the 1980’s. The current owners bought it in 1994 and over the course of the next 18 months fully restored the building. 130 years of Allen family furnishings yielded several fine pieces that were put back into the house. Gas fixtures, walls, ceilings, floors an windows were restored to their original state.

The grounds and Italian gardens were replanted and cultivated.

Restoration of old buildings often bring strange happenings. Apparently, Ester was happy with the work and decided to again take up residence in ghostly form. She has been observed as a well-dressed female and her perfume wafts through the rooms. Her laughter is heard as her apparition dances through the house. She loves being in the kitchen keeping her eye on the meal preparations. One particular room causes considerable tension because of a possible death therein. The South Jersey Ghost Research team investigated the mansion on 2 separate occasions. Positive images were obtained with orbs and several EVPs (electronic voice phenomenons). Investigators sensed many presences and were touched gently by them. Cold spots were detected in many rooms. On one occasion a door locked by itself after investigators verified that it was unlocked.

Post written by Edward Connolly, Broker Sales Associate and Cape May Local.


Is Lower Township the Next Beach Resort?

Is Lower Township the next beach front resort? As a lifelong resident of Cape May County, one is starting to believe so. It has all started with the economic growth and desire to own a piece of history in Cape May. Cape May boasts some of the states and countries best restaurants and beaches, nominated and placed on many lists for vacation and retirement. Now it is a growing trend among Lower Township businesses to market the well known Cape May name. If you take a look at Lower Township it is a sprawling area with waterfront properties and views that stretch from Shawcrest on the west side of Wildwood down along to a portion at the end of Wildwood Crest. Then one cannot forget about the marina district which is home to the Lobster House and Lucky Bones with some amazing homes that offer boat slips along the back waterways. Not to forget about all the beach front property from North Cape May, Cape May Beach, and Villas. Something that was once slightly overlooked is now being bought up in high demand, from million dollar homes that sit in the dunes to amazing steals around $150,000 beach bungalows for quick trips to the shore.

A quick run down of this year already in Lower Township there are currently 163 active listings with a high of 2.4 million and a low of $35,000. The average list price is $250,984 which puts a lot of these homes only blocks from the beach and in many homeowners budget. Since the beginning of the year there have been 116 transactions with the highest being $690,000 all the way down to $25,379. The average property sold is $175,654.

With all of this being said, one can easily see the transition that areas along the Delaware bay have seen. Homes have been purchased for a variety of reasons with one of the largest draws being proximity to the water. The little bay communities from the ferry all the way to the north end of Villas are being transformed into affordable summer getaways, retirement homes, and primary residences. I lived a block of the bay for a few years and still miss the enjoyment of the sunsets, and ability to walk a block to the beach with your family and enjoy what it has to offer. With Lower Townships plans to enhance the Bayfront along the North Cape May Portion to the Cape May – Lewes ferry with a promenade and parking it will only make the ability to enjoy easier.

So if your looking for a beach home don’t forget to give the many areas in Lower Township a look you might be surprised. Each one has a different feel, but they all offer access to what the area has to offer. Tai Menz is a New Jersey Licensed Real Estate Agent and member of the National Association of Realtors.