Cape May, a picturesque coastal town located at the southern tip of New Jersey, is known for its beautiful beaches, charming Victorian architecture, and rich history. Many visitors to Cape May may wonder when this historic town was founded. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating story of Cape May’s origins and uncover the answer to the question: When was Cape May founded?
The Early Years
Cape May’s history dates back to the early 17th century when European explorers first set foot on its shores. The area was originally inhabited by the indigenous Lenape people, who called the region “Kechemeches.” In 1609, the Dutch explorer Henry Hudson sailed along the coast and claimed the land for the Dutch West India Company. However, it wasn’t until the mid-17th century that European settlers began to establish a permanent presence in the area.
The Founding of Cape Island
In 1620, the Dutch West India Company granted a trading license to Captain Cornelius Jacobsen Mey, who was tasked with establishing a trading post on the southern tip of New Jersey. Mey named the settlement “Cape Mey,” after himself, and it soon became a haven for traders and fishermen. However, due to conflicts with the local Lenape tribes, the settlement was abandoned just a few years later.
The Birth of Cape May
In 1685, the English took control of the area and renamed it Cape May, after the Dutch captain who had founded the original settlement. The English saw the potential of the region as a strategic location for trade and defense and began to develop the town. Cape May quickly grew into a bustling port and a popular destination for wealthy travelers seeking respite from the heat of the city.
The Golden Age
The late 18th and early 19th centuries marked the golden age of Cape May. The town’s popularity soared, and it became a fashionable resort destination for the elite. Wealthy families from Philadelphia and New York flocked to Cape May to enjoy the cool ocean breezes and indulge in the luxurious amenities offered by the grand hotels and beachfront mansions.
The Devastating Fire
However, Cape May’s prosperity came to a halt in 1878 when a devastating fire swept through the town, destroying much of its Victorian-era architecture. Despite the setback, the resilient residents of Cape May quickly rebuilt, using fireproof materials such as brick and stone. Today, Cape May boasts one of the largest concentrations of Victorian buildings in the United States, earning it the designation of a National Historic Landmark.
Conclusion: A Town Steeped in History
Cape May’s founding can be traced back to the early 17th century when European explorers first arrived on its shores. Over the centuries, the town has experienced highs and lows, from its early days as a trading post to its golden age as a fashionable resort destination. Despite facing challenges such as conflicts with indigenous tribes and a devastating fire, Cape May has persevered and evolved into the charming and historic town that it is today. Whether you are interested in history, architecture, or simply enjoying a relaxing beach vacation, Cape May offers something for everyone. Visit this enchanting town, and you will be transported back in time to a place where history and beauty converge.