Driving and wandering through sinuous, captivating Cape May made me marvel at the fierce concentration of Victorian Homes. These were homes like I had never seen (they were functional and aesthetic at the same time, and it wasn’t hard to see the upkeep). During my brief brush with the Victorian homes, I drank in every style of architecture: houses with the standard green trim, Queen Anne Revival style homes, and also those that wanted that edgier, post modern touch with Italianate Gothic trim and colors from a pale banana to mandarin orange.
Architect lovers can walk easy here. Cape May has the highest concentration of seaside Victorian homes in the country, and it was the first developed seaside resort town. You’ll get more than your fair share of Kodak moments. Don’t be surprised to see the sprinkling of IFederal style and Mansard style homes too.
Here are some of the styles of homes you can expect to see if you do the audio walking tour (you can rent the audio devices from Emelen Physick Estate):
Italian Gothic Italian Trim
This house features Italianate Gothic Revival trim. Gothic architecture itself was developed in the 12th century, and in this example, while most of the house is formal, the gables are beautifully detailed and ornate. Italian Gothic architecture itself prided itself on clean gables that got progressively ornate as the centuries went by. Most of the Cape May homes were reminiscent of the early and late Victorian periods, so it’s not surprising to find homes stylized by several architectural periods.
Queen Anne Revival
The Inn of Cape May (1894) has Queen Anne style towers and is a summer hotel. It was quite small when it started and added a wing later on. This was so sprawling and magnificient, sitting on a corner block barely yards away from the ocean that it reminded me partly of a Hitchcock setting.
Modified Queen Anne Style: The Merry Widow Guest House
The Merry Widow guest house started its life as a simple farm house and arguably one of Cape May’s most colorful structures. I loved the Mansard style roof, the carefully painted shingles, and its impressive castle turrets. This is now a fully functioning guest house with four suites. It was formerly the J. Henry Edmonds House and built during 1875.
Pure Victorian Architecture (Stick Style): The Empress Inn
Beautifully restored by an architectural firm that took great pains to be as authentic as possible when it came to furnishings, paint and trim, The Empress Inn is an excellent example of classic Victorian architecture that stands true to its 1880 style with additions. It was meant to be open to the public as a bed and breakfast but apparently the owners are still up in the air about its plans.
And these are just a smattering of some of the impressive homes in the area. During our brief tour we were mesmerized by the beauty of several other homes that I just wished I had enough money to own:
If “Hansen & Gretel” took place in Cape May, this is probably where the kids would end up?.