Gallery: the Painted Ladies of Cape May
‘Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike…’Paul Simon
Until I visited, all my images of New Jersey came from song lyrics – Paul Simon’s traffic-clogged turnpike and Bruce Springsteen’s urban working class childhood.
So Cape May came as quite a revelation. This seaside town is noted for the large number of Victorian houses that line its streets. Popularly known as ‘Painted Ladies’ because of their elaborate trims, they present a beautifully harmonious appearance, despite each one being unique at least in its detailing. These houses have led to the town being designated a National Historic Landmark.
The preponderance of these houses is actually the result of a disaster. In 1878 a fire wiped out 30 blocks of the town, including a number of elegant hotels. These dated back to the start of that century when Cape May first began to attract visitors (it claims to be the earliest seaside resort in the country). To replace these a massive building programme was initiated. And for the most part what was built were individual family homes, naturally in the fashion of the day. That meant one of two popular Victorian-era US architectural styles: Stick-Eastlake homes with angled wooden framing and decorative trim, or Queen Anne ones with round towers, lots of ornamentation and gabled roofs. Only San Francisco has a greater concentration of Victorian buildings in the United States.
The Painted Ladies today
In the 1970s these beautiful houses were under threat of demolition; with changing times very few families wanted or could afford such large and grand homes. Luckily, although quite a few were lost in the push to modernise, very many more were saved. And as they were too large for today’s lifestyles, most have been turned into inns, bed & breakfast accommodation or apartments; so today Cape May can continue to welcome visitors. There are larger hotels, but it is these wonderful ‘Painted Ladies’ that give the town its real charm and character.
I visited Cape May in 2008
such pretty houses
As always, beautiful photos.
In 2014, I made a trip from Maryland to Vermont to see my grandson who was in Vermont. I took the chance of going up the coast of New Jersey visiting lighthouses. I had heard about Cape May so we drove up through Delaware and took the Cape May ferry from Lewes and spent the night at a hotel there before we started our lighthousing. Originally I was going to stay in one of the “painted ladies” but it wasn’t possible to get a ground floor room so we stayed in a larger hotel with an elevator. The next day we visited the lighthouse and park. The next lighthouse was the one in North Wildwood (Hereford Inlet) which is also a Victorian house.
We visited the lighthouse while staying here. I was very pleased that I managed to climb it! The views were great from the top 🙂
Some years ago now , when I was at uni, I spent a summer working at Wildwood, a seaside town not far from Cape May. I recall visiting here one day and the beautiful Victorian houses. Thanks for brining back wonderful memories.
Ah, we did the opposite Albert – drove over to Wildwood to explore and take photos, including Under the Boardwalk, of course 🙂
The Lolipop if I remember correctly, Albert?
Your memory is perfect Sylvia !!!!
Looks like such a beautiful place to explore. I love the colours that these houses are painted.
Yes, they’re all beautifully painted. I found myself picking out my favourites and pondering what colours I would choose!
I love the photos, Sarah. So many of my friends who, like me, grew up in Philadelphia, spent many days in this beautiful town. The houses remind me, too, of the neighborhood where I grew up…. old Victorians.
Thanks, June, I’m pleased my photos brought back happy memories for you 🙂
I remember when you were there, it seems like another lifetime now.
Yes – we had hoped to meet up but you and D were still on your travels somewhere in the US!
The painted ladies are beautiful and it’s great the way they are being well kept and converted into B&Bs, hotels, etc.
I think you’d like it here Nancy – I know you admire pretty gardens and well-kept beautiful homes like these 🙂
Found you! In the middle of cooking supper now
Its funny…the USA is loaded with great properties like these amidst our bad urban areas. Cape May has the CONCENTRATED in one place. I went here summers with my drum and bugle corps…it was out vacation/practice. 2 weeks of great views and even Better foods! Its amazing YOU recognise Cape May…..its a keeper!
Thanks so much Michael 🙂 As I said to Malcolm above, I found out about Cape May while researching places to combine with a visit to NYC, and it made a perfect contrast to our time in the Big Apple!!
Cape May sounds sublime. I wasn’t aware of how lovely this part of the East Coast could be. Another great addition to your blog Sarah 🙂
Thanks Malcolm 🙂 Cape May took us by surprise too, when I started to research the area. We were looking for somewhere to stay as an add-on to a New York visit and this made a great contrast!
Cape May, probably my favorite place in the world! Cape May has nearly everything I love — a glorious ocean-side location and stunning beach, an abundance of Victorian architecture, restaurants, stage productions and themed weekends, nearby natural areas for migrating birds and sea creatures, and the perfect summer hometown feel (retro). Sarah, thanks for bringing Cape May to light and for the excellent photos — it may be even prettier now than when you visited!
Thank you Sylvia – I thought of you while posting this because of the pretty ‘Painted Lady’ in the postcard you sent me from Cape May, and because I know you love the town 🙂 I agree, it has so much to offer, and we had a lovely week there 🙂