Monday, November 29, 2010

Cape May man fulfills dying wishes of his former captain, restores tuna boat he worked on as a boy - pressofAtlanticCity.com

Read this to feel good about life.

Levy-Neafie House ~ Skinner House

The house pictured above, located at 28 Congress Street, is one of the more interesting looking homes on the island. Known as "the Skinner House," a/k/a the "Levy-Neafie House," I encourage you to read more about the history of the house by clicking here. From the history:

In the late 1800's John Levy, a very prominent Philadelphia businessman and controlling partner of the Levy-Neafie Shipyard, built this elaborate twin structure. His partner, Jacob Neafie occupied #30 Congress St. while Mr. Levy occupied #28 Congress St. These men operated one of the country's largest shipyards during the Civil War Era known as the Levy-Neafie Shipyard. Mr. Levy died shortly after the structure was finished and sadly was not able to enjoy the summer home for very long. This shipyard has an illustrious history of famous war ships and early submarines. Mr. Neafie is credited for inventing what would become the modern day propeller for the shipping industry. The railings are taken from ship rails and the italianate design is intended to soften harsh lines as your eye is drawn up to the cupola through the decorative gingerbread and curved arches.
Across the street the very wealthy and successful businessman E.C. Knight owned one of Cape May's premier summer homes. Gifted to his daughter, Annie Knight, she became the famous owner of the neighboring Congress Hall Hotel.

The Skinners purchased the property from their own ancestors who had first purchased #30 Congress from the original owner and later were able to acquire the adjacent home. R.W. Skinner became the personal attorney for Miss Annie Knight who resided across the street, on Congress Place, facing Congress Hall.

Neighborhood Highlights - Miss Knight not only owned the grand Congress Hall Hotel, but many other properties throughout the town. Among the many properties she owned, included the 7 Sisters facing the beach front as well on North and Windsor Ave. She also controlled Cape May politics. She was considered the most powerful woman (not to mention the wealthiest) and ran the town. Annie Knight's fortune stemmed from a Cuban sugar company. She was a colorful figure, who drove her own horse carriage and held teas and dances in the Congress Hall for the young ladies and gentlemen to learn ballroom dancing and the genteel arts.

When Miss Knight died in the late 1930's, she endowed many hospitals and societies for the poor. Her brother moved to Newport, Rhode Island and the memories of her influence in Cape May are now held only by a few, those who have remained here over the generations.

The view from the Levy-Neafie House is largely thanks to Miss Knight, for she forbid anything to be built on the grand lawn of Congress Hall which overlooks the ocean. This lawn was to remain a "pleasure ground and a parade ground" for the public to enjoy. One of the memorable events of the neighborhood was the required attendance at Annie Knight's weekly ballroom dance classes. Intimidatingly formal, this was a daunting event for toddlers, who were required to wear their Sunday best, including their starched dresses, patent leather shoes and gloves. After curtseying to Miss Knight in the Congress Hall ballroom, the children proceeded to learn their steps.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Santa Comes Early

Santa Visits Congress Hall

According to the above video courtesy WMGM TV, Santa made the Cape May rounds early this year. Can't figure out how to embed, so click the link to see some shots of Congress Hall this season.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

from your Exit Zero Blogger. I'm thankful to the men and women of EZ magazine for giving me a chance to blog under their umbrella. And I'm thankful to you for visiting. Have a wonderful holiday with your friends and family. (and if you didn't know that this blog could also be found at Exit Zero, well, now you know. Check that blog out at: this link. I've been a fan of Exit Zero for years and I'm thankful to be a small -- very small -- part of their team.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Wreck of the Lady Mary Revisited

The Fisherman's Memorial, Cape May Harbor.
Photo by Mark Miller

Longtime readers of the blog know that I followed the sinking of the fishing boat Lady Mary (in Spring 2009) from basically the inception of the blog. You can read my prior posts about this disaster, which cost several Cape May fishermen their lives, right here.

The Newark Star-Ledger has put together an in-depth investigative report about the disaster at sea. To read this excellent example of old-school journalism, click here for chapter 1, here for chapter 2, here for chapter 3, here for chapter 4, and here for chapter 5.

I recommend reading the whole thing, and here's a snippet so you can see how much work went into this story:

The preponderance of opinion, and much of the evidence found by the newspaper, point to a collision with another, much larger vessel — something powerful enough to bend and rip thousands of pounds of steel and send the Lady Mary to the bottom of the sea before she could even shoot off a flare. Navigation records from that night show there was only one such merchant ship in the area at the time — the 728-foot-long container ship Cap Beatrice.

an expert’s opinion

William Garzke is a pioneer in the field of shipwrecks. A long-standing member of the Society for Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, Garzke is also founder and chairman of SNAME’s renowned marine forensics committee, which devotes its time to the scientific investigation of sunken ships. He has consulted on a number of Coast Guard investigations and is probably most well-known for his work analyzing pieces of the Titanic, after which he concluded a flaw in the design of the hull’s joints likely doomed the "unsinkable" ship.

When Garzke and the 14 other members of the forensics committee, at The Star-Ledger’s request, examined the video and photographic evidence of the Lady Mary and analyzed Coast Guard documents and navigational records, they all agreed about the damage to the fishing vessel.

"It’s hard for me to believe it was just the sand that caused it," Garzke said. "(It) was a collision with another object. That’s the likeliest possibility."

It's rare these days for a newspaper to do an in-depth investigation and then state its own educated opinion on what caused an accident (and in this case, a tragedy). Kudos to the Star-Ledger for taking on this yeoman's effort.

Cape May Theatre Presents the Little Prince

Considering that I am a fan of good theater, it's strange that I've never featured the Cape May Theatre previously. The Stage is putting on The Little Prince, a highly anticipated puppet show. Read more about it here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Vote in Favor of Replenishing the Cove

The City Council has re-voted and the Cove shall be replenished, per this story from the Herald:

City Council in a unanimous vote Mon. Nov. 20, reversed a decision it made one week ago not to sign a state aid agreement to receive beach replenishment on Cove Beach.

Council did not want to run the risk of finding Cove Beach closed to bathers if a nest of piping plovers appeared and voted 3-2 Mon., Nov. 15 not to approve a state aid agreement with the Department of Environmental Protection for beach renourishment from Third Avenue Jetty through the Lower Cape Meadows to Cape May Point. Council’s earlier decision could have halted beach replenishment to Cove Beach this winter.

Council spent an hour in closed session beginning at 10 a.m. Monday, recessed and resumed the meeting at 4 p.m. Council passed a resolution approving a state aid agreement with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

All's well that end's well, I think somebody smarter than me once said. And perhaps in homage to the occasion, the Internet Gods gave us this on-point poem about Cape May and the Cove today:

Cape May

Take my hand, walk with me.
Listen to the wetlands and the sea.
A sandy cove full of wild life and flora.

A painted turtle does a flip to show his coat,
A pair of swans glide gracefully upon the moat.
The foliage is full of honeysuckles.

The lighthouse is nearby staring down upon our path.
A small rabbit makes a dash up ahead makes us laugh.
We head for the beach pick up shells along the way.

Just another day with my sweetheart, in Cape May

You can find this poem at the poemhunter.com website.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christmas by the sea

photo courtesy Jack Fichter/Herald

Seems like Christmas is coming earlier this year... here's a nice in-depth article in the Press about the history of the Mid-Atlantic Center and Christmas: Christmas by the sea a Cape May success - pressofAtlanticCity.com. And to read the Herald's most recent Christmas and Cape May stories, click here and here.

A Sunday Nature Post

photo by Mike Crewe

I'm always raving about Mike Crewe's Cape May birding blog and his most recent post, a rundown on the amazing birding migration this Fall, does not disappoint. I always love his photos, like the one above.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Replenishing the Cove? Part Three

The AC Press lets us know that the city has scheduled a 10 AM Meeting this Monday to discuss the beach replenishment project. Thanks to Jack Fichter at the Herald, I can also tell you that the meeting will take place at the City Hall Auditorium,
643 Washington St.
It's unfortunate that these meetings are not broadcast on the internet for all to see/hear. For earlier coverage of whether the city should agree to accept replenishment funding in exchange for potential loss of authority over the Cove, click here and here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Replenishing the Cove? Part Deux

Unbeknownst to me yesterday, Dredging Today was not the only media outlet covering the controversy over replenishing the Cove. Click HERE to read Jack Fichter's excellent story in the Herald, and click HERE to read Shore News Today's version of the story. In fact, it was the last story which brought to my attention that the city would have kicked in $214k towards the cost of replenishment under the rejected plan. The feds and the state still were responsible for the lion's share of the funding, but yesterday I may have misstated that (I have since corrected yesterday's post).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Replenishing the Cove?

As I often say, there are few more interesting on-line publications than Dredging Today. After I read the morning NYTimes.com, I always turn to Dredging Today.

And lo and behold, I open the website for my daily read and there sits an article about the fight over whether to okay replenishment of the Cove.

According to the article, which I encourage you to read, city leaders are arguing over whether to agree to a Cove beach replenishment that would allow the state to close the Cove if piping plovers (birds) decided to make the Cove their home. The feds and the state are willing to pay most of the costs to replenish, but the city's not sure it should agree.

That's an interesting spin on the libertarian kind of angle that has been percolating lately in the American electorate. On the one hand, the city and the Cove need the replenished beach for tourism dollars. But on the other hand, if the Cove was shut down for birds, would that hurt tourism?

I guess the majority of city leaders this it would hurt too much to even risk a shut-down of the Cove, and they're not willing to cede local authority over the Cove in order to protect the Cove.

I'm not sure that calculation makes sense. Would shutting the Cove down to tourists hurt more than if the Cove simply washed away? At first blush, I don't think possibly closing the Cove for birds is as bad for tourism as if the beach washes away. If it washes away, will the Cove come back? Probably not (I mean, can we replenish South Cape May? I think not.)

If the Cove is shut down for birds on the other hand, it could always be re-opened, I would suspect.

So the choice is the permanent loss of the Cove (if it washes away) vs. the possible loss of the Cove for beach lovers if piping plovers make it their home.

I'm not sure about this, I'm just thinking aloud. I suppose to really make this comparison one needs to understand the likelihood of the Cove just washing away in the next few years. Certainly, Cape May survived for decades with little beach between the arcade and Poverty (other than at the jetties around Philadelphia Beach, etc.) So perhaps the loss of the Cove wouldn't be so bad.

What do you think?

[this post updated to reflect that the state and feds agreed to pay most of the costs, but not all the costs, of replenishing the beach.]

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bug Eric Hits Cape May

"Bug Eric", an entomologist, visited Cape May and gives us a few nice reads here and here. (Of course I linked to the earlier of Bug Eric's two blog posts this past Saturday right here, but just in case you didn't read this weekend I give it to you again!

And it's monday so here's a sign for the day:

Have a great work week!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Frank Investments Works Toward Demolishing a Piece of Cape May's History

The crusade to tear down the movie theatre continues. Like the Convention Hall travails, I will try to keep you abreast of how this crusade continues, or is stopped. Thank you to Jack Fichter of the Herald for the in-depth review of the latest meeting regarding the theatre, in which meeting Frank Investments suggested the movie theatre had no historical value and was not worth renovating..

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day 2010

I realize this post is a bit late, but I did not want Veteran's Day to pass without noting it. Please read my post from last year about a Cape May hero who gave his life for our country. If you don't want to click the link, here's the story:

LOWER TOWNSHIP — Michael Scusa’s two silver dog tags dangled from his mother’s neck as a 21-gun salute broke through a rainy silence outside Lower Cape May Regional High School.

Cynthia Woodard sobbed gently as she and others planted a tree in her son’s memory on Wednesday morning — Veterans Day — on a grassy patch in front of the auditorium.

Army Sgt. Scusa, a 2005 graduate and former Villas resident, was one of eight soldiers killed Oct. 3 in Kamdesh, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked their outpost.

“Michael was very well-liked. It’s an honor he made this kind of an impact,” Woodard said.

Scusa, who was posthumously promoted from the rank of specialist, left behind his wife, Alyssa, and 1-year-old son, Connor, in Colorado, where he was stationed.

Woodard said she is keeping clips in a memory book for Connor, who shares a striking resemblance to his father and seems to display his mannerisms, too.

Scusa was killed on his second tour overseas. During his first tour, which was 15 months in Iraq and before his son was born, his vehicle ran over a triple-decker explosive device that for some reason never detonated, Woodard said.

“I think it was because he was supposed to have Connor, he was supposed to have his legacy,” she said.

She added, “He’s my only link left to Michael.”

Woodard had stayed in touch with her son over the Internet. His last message to her was on a Friday, shortly before he died.

“He said he was just getting ready to go on duty,” she said. He signed off like he always did: “Love you, mamma. Bye 4 Now.”

“I didn’t get him long enough,” said his mom, wiping away tears. “I wanted him longer.”

Scusa’s high school held the tree ceremony for Scusa and his family.

A school choir sang the Star Spangled Banner, and a bugler from the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, which also sent the honor guard, played taps beneath a flag flying at half-staff.

Principal Joseph Castellucci told the students gathered around him Wednesday that Scusa was like them — a student who walked the halls of the school.

“Those of us who knew Michael knew all too well about his dreams to become a soldier,” Castellucci said. “We share the loss with all of us who knew Mike.”

Castellucci said the tree planted in Scusa’s memory could be used as shade from the sun, as place to stop for a moment or as a place to remember.

“This tree will grow and flourish long after most of us are no longer a part of this school,” he said, adding, “It will always serve as a reminder to those who pass it, that this is Mike’s tree.”


Thank you, Michael Scusa, for your bravery. And God bless your family and the son you left behind.

Convention Hall Demolition Moving Along

Read about it here in the Herald.

Things I Miss

Yesterday's mention of Stumpo's made me think of other things in Cape May that are, unfortunately, gone forever.

I have written about Steger's a few times but I don't believe I have previously mentioned the Steger's Store that used to sit next to the Akroteria. Actually, a better way to put that would be to say that I don't think I've mentioned the Steger's Store on Beach Drive which used to dominate the block of Beach Drive on which the Akroteria also sat (and still sits). I suppose the store must have gone away sometime in the early 90s, as I can't remember it in the late 90s but I do remember it in the late 80s. What a beautiful, ramshackle mess that store was! I remember the slate sidewalk in front of the store, the skinny round poles which held up the quasi-awning in front of the store, and all the junk in the store, particularly the great blue canvassy rafts. Steger's sold suntan lotion, film, beach mats, umbrellas, any sundry with beach applicability you could imagine. At any moment, the sundries appeared ready to cave in and bury the place forever.

I have not found a photo online of the Steger's store, so that photo above of the Steger boy working the Steger beach hut will have to do. And if any of you have a photo of the old Steger's Store, I implore you to share it!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A new blog, and other stuff

GrowingUpCapeMay is a new blog started by Rene Cordes, who apparently spent part of her 1980s childhood growing up on Jackson Street. You can read her first three posts here, here, and here. She laments the loss of Stumpo's, writes about fixing up a dilapidated home on Jackson Street, writes about the dangers of Ocean Putt Golf (hence the photo above) , and most of all implicitly promises to create what looks to be like an interesting blog to follow.

In other Cape May-related news, Steve Ingraham has graced the web with another amazing shot from a porch at the Montreal:

another great shot by Steve Ingraham.

Check out his Zeiss blog, or his Pic of the Day Blog, for more of his great nature photos.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Virginia Hotel Featured on Decorator's Blog

The Connecticut Gal Blog recently visited The Virginian. You can see her blog post on the hotel right here, along with several photos of the hotel's interior.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Peak Inside the Mainstay

photo courtesy Michelle Collins (Stuebing)

The blogstress of Painted River spent the past weekend in Cape May, and she shares many nice photos of different places in town at her most recent post entitled, On the Way to Cape May. Here's an example of a few of those photos, the first from inside the Mainstay and the second a photo of the well-lit Peter Shields:

Check out her post for a nice but brief look at why people visit Cape May.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

owl-birding in the Point

I previously linked to an interesting story about Katy Duffy, a woman who bands owls each Fall at the Point. That story was good, but this video of Ms. Duffy at work is better, really fun to watch, and certainly showed me a world far beyond my knowledge previously:

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cape May parking meters going back into place after kiosks prove too confusing - pressofAtlanticCity.com

Cape May parking meters going back into place after kiosks prove too confusing - pressofAtlanticCity.com This Press of AC article is interesting in that it has generated two pages of comments in just two days. I can't remember any AC Press story related to Cape May receiving more comments. People care about parking meters apparently.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dan Leo's Railroad Train to Heaven

Dan Leo of Philadelphia has been writing an on-line fiction set in Cape May -- here's chapter one of what has grown to over 220 chapters -- for as long as I can remember. But this week he has generously shared a little about his non-fiction life and why he knows Cape May so well. Click the link, it's worth a read.

Why there is suffering

This video has nothing overtly to do with Cape May. I will say that the beauty of life that these people describe is in some indescribable way captured in Cape May, or at least is found in CM by me. The video is worth watching in its entirety if you start it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Convention Hall News, etc.

Read about the city awarding the Convention Hall demolition project to a local business HERE in the Press or Here in the Herald. And, for something completely different, read about Katy Duffy, a naturalist who tracks owl migration through Cape May, right here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mike Crewe, British Bird Blogger of Cape May

Mike Crewe, the British Bird Blogger of Cape May tends to one of the best Cape May related blogs on the net: Cape May Birding and Wildlife. Mike has been writing about Cape May birds, butterflies, and nature for over a year now. His most recent post, about this past weekend's magnificent bird migration through town, is a must read. And even though he wrote primarily about the bird migration in that most recent post, he threw in that great sunset photo up there to boot. Thanks, Mike!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


The blog Twinned Lenses visited Cape May this past weekend. Photos with an interesting perspective, like the one above, and this one:

can be seen at his most recent posts HERE and HERE.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Emil Salvini's Blog

Emil Salvini is a well-known jersey-shore-related author; he wrote Summer City by the Sea, a book that arguably led to a rebirth in books about Cape May. His blog is called Tales of the Jersey Shore and its Environs and he often features stories about Cape May on the blog. For his most recent blog entry, about the Southern Mansion, click here.

Since it's Monday, the start of a long work week, I should give you a nice photo to take your mind elsewhere. Well, Steve Ingraham -- who I featured this weekend -- has posted another nice Cape May photo, this time of sunrise as seen from the Montreal Inn. Here is that great photo:

To read about this photo, click here. Happy Monday!