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Cape May History

Cape May is a city at the southern tip of Cape May Peninsula in New Jersey where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. It was designated in 1976 as a National Historic Landmark due to its concentration of Victorian buildings, making Cape May the only city in the United States wholly designated as such. That designation is intended to ensure the architectural preservation of these buildings.

Cape May Point about two miles west of the City of Cape May, borders the Bay, while Cape May City borders the Ocean. Cape Island Creek, a tidal "creek" and marsh, originally divided the site of the city from the rest of Cape May, but its southern end has long been covered with landfill. The Cape May Canal, built in 1942, now divides both Cape May City and Cape May Point from the rest of the peninsula.

Tourism is the dominant industry. Cape May's economy runs on shops, restaurants, lodgings, and tourist attractions on Washington Street Mall, along the boardwalk and elsewhere throughout town. Many historic hotels and B&Bs dot the landscape. Commercial and sport fishing are also important to Cape May's economy. The Cove Beach host hundreds of swimmers, sunbathers, surfers, and hikers each day. Located at the very south west end of town, with a totally unobstructed view each day of the sunset Marine mammal watching, bird watching, and other forms of eco-tourism have become equally important. A small wine growing area is adjacent to Cape May and tours of several wineries are available.

Cape May began hosting vacationers from Philadelphia in the mid 18th century and is recognized as America’s first seaside resort with numerous buildings in the Late Victorian style, including the Eclectic, Stick, and Shingle Styles, as well as the later Bungalow style, many with gingerbread trim. Following the construction of Congress Hall in 1816, Cape May became increasingly popular in the 19th century and was considered one of the finest resorts in America by the 20th century.

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