Cape May Point
Known for its brids, butterflies & Cape May Diamonds
Cape May Point, NJ is nestled at the very southern tip of New Jersey and still resembles the original settlement of Sea Grove, a Presbyterian retreat established in 1875 as part of a nation-wide temperance movement.
The original plot of ground, about 266 acres, was sold to the Sea Grove Association for $5 by Alexander Whilldin, a devout Presbyterian and cotton merchant in Philadelphia. Members of the Sea Grove Association were religious leaders and businessmen, including John Wanamaker, who supported a ban on all liquor and amusements. The 275 lots sold quickly and the little settlement became a thriving community. In 1878, Sea Grove was incorporated as the Borough of Cape May Point.
Wanamaker also built a summer cottage at the Point and later, when he was Postmaster General in President Benjamin Harrison's Cabinet, he invited the President and First Lady to visit Cape May Point and use Congress Hall in Cape May as the summer White House.
For years, the Republic, a side-wheeled steamer that carried passengers and freight between Philadelphia and Cape Island, the original name of Cape May, docked at the Point just to the east of Sunset Beach. Summer visitors then had to travel by carriage from the landing area along a shell-covered road called the Cape Island Turnpike, now Sunset Boulevard, to reach the grand hotels in Cape Island. A few years later, Jonathan Cone, who owned the Republic, decided to provide narrow gauge railroad service for the 2-mile trip from Sea Grove to the Grant Street depot in the resort.
Today, Cape May Point NJ is still a tiny community with no boardwalk, no motels and no liquor. It is well-known for a small gingerbread church, a lighthouse, a concrete ship that lies just off Sunset Beach and tiny pieces of quartz called Cape May diamonds.
In the 1920s, there was talk about a ferry service across Delaware Bay and plans were made to use a World War I concrete ship as a ferry dock near the old steamboat landing. The SS Atlantus, one of four concrete ships built as an experiment during the war when steel was scarce, was towed from Norfolk, Va. to Cape May. In a high wind, the ship slipped its mooring and ran aground just a hundred feet or so off the end of Sunset Boulevard where it quickly became a popular attraction. Although not much is left of the ship, it continues to attract visitors, especially those looking for the quartz pebbles on Sunset Beach, known locally as Cape May diamonds.
The Cape May Lighthouse, the third lighthouse to guard the waters where the ocean and bay meet, was built in 1859. It has been completely restored and is open to visitors, offering an incredible panoramic view of the Cape for anyone willing to climb the 199 steps to the top. Technically, the lighthouse and Sunset Beach are actually parts of Lower Township although they are most commonly referred to as being located in Cape May Point NJ.
St. Peter's by the Sea, a tiny gingerbread-adorned church was part of the Philadelphia Centennial in Fairmount Park in 1876. The building was purchased by the Episcopal congregation at the Point and moved here in 1879. The first services were held in July 1890 and have continued every summer since then, although the church has been moved several times from its original location to protect it from the ever-encroaching ocean. It is a favorite spot with photographers and artists. During the summer, a brief ceremony takes place every evening at Sunset Beach that includes patriotic music and the lowering of the American Flag at sunset.
Cape May Point State Park is a bird watcher's paradise, attracting naturalists from all over the world to enjoy the varied populations of birds and butterflies.