Then in the mid-1700’s, the island began to emerge as a resort for visitors from Philadelphia. Visitors first traveled here by horse-drawn wagons and stagecoaches. As transportation options evolved, they came by steamship and railroad. By the 1830’s, Cape Island began to attract the elite of New York, Baltimore, and Washington in addition to Philadelphia. Hotels, music pavilions, and a grand boardwalk emerged.
And then in 1878, a devastating fire destroyed 35 acres of downtown and burned down many of the grand hotels and private cottages that had been built to accommodate wealthy travelers. After this historic fire, Cape May decided to rebuild itself in the architectural style of the day, Victorian.
Following WWI and WWII, the opening of the Garden State Parkway in 1954 gave Cape May a tourism boost. It ended the city’s former isolation as automobile travel to the NJ shore increased dramatically.