Tag: Exploring Cape May NJ

The Cape May Lighthouse                                                      215 Light House Avenue                                                       Cape May Point, NJ 08212

The Cape May Lighthouse 215 Light House Avenue Cape May Point, NJ 08212

The Cape May Lighthouse

215 Light House Avenue

Cape May Point, NJ  08212



Open:  Tuesday-Sunday 10:00am-4:00pm/Monday 10:00am-4:00pm/Thursday-Friday Closed

Fee: $8.00 Adults/$5.00 Children 3-12/Military Free

TripAdvisor Review:


The Cape May Lighthouse

This historic site has been restored and administered by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities in conjunction with N.J. Department of Environmental Protection Division of Parks & Forestry.

The Cape May Lighthouse: Climb the 199 steps of this 1859 vintage tower for a breathtaking view of the Jersey Cape, where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean.

The History of Lighthouses in New Jersey

Over the past 30 years, MAC has totally restored the Cape May Lighthouse. A fully accessible Visitors Center is located in the adjacent Oil House as well as a Museum Shop stocked with lighthouse and maritime must haves.

The view of the beach from the lighthouse

The Cape May Lighthouse

Lighthouse information story boards

Lighthouse FAQ

Frequently asked questions about the Cape May Lighthouse

Questions about the structure:

*How Tall is the lighthouse? The lighthouse is 157 feet 6 inches tall from the ground line to the ventilator.

*How many steps are there to the top? There are 217 steps from the ground to the top with 199 steps in the tower’s cast iron spiral staircase.

The staircase going to the lighthouse lens

Looking down the stairs on the way back down

* How old is the Lighthouse? The Cape May Lighthouse was built in 1859 and is the third fully documented lighthouse to be built at Cape May Point. The first was built in 1823; the second in 1847. The exact locations of the first two lighthouses are now underwater due to erosion.

*How thick are the brick walls? The Lighthouse actually has two separate walls. The outside wall is cone-shaped and is 3 feet 10 inches thick at the bottom and 1 foot 6 inches thick at the top. The inside wall is a cylinder with 8.5 inch thick walls which support the spiral staircase. The walls were designed to withstand winds several times above hurricane force.

The view on the way up the lighthouse

*Is the beacon still working? Yes, The Coast Guard continues to operate the light as an active aid to navigation. The light is visible 22 miles out to sea and flashes every 15 seconds. A lighthouse’s flash pattern is called its ‘characteristic’, every lighthouse has its own light characteristic and exterior paint scheme (called a daymark) so that ship captains can tell them apart.

The lighthouse lens

The lighthouse lens

*What were the two small rooms on either side of the entrance hallway used for? They were storage rooms that held tools, implements and fuel for the lantern before the Oil House was built. The keeper also used one as a small office.

The lighthouse office

*Who owns the Lighthouse?  The State of New Jersey owns the Lighthouse but the Coast Guard maintains the beacon apparatus. The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC) in Cape May leases the Lighthouse from the State with the mission of restoring the structure and operating it as a historic site.

View from the top of the lighthouse

View from the top of the lighthouse

Cape May Lighthouse

*Questions about Lighthouse Keepers and their responsibilities

*Who worked at the Lighthouse?  The Lighthouse was staffed by keepers who worked for the U.S. Lighthouse Service. Cape May’s lighthouse generally had one head keeper and two assistants. They carried the oil to the top of the tower every day to power the light and kept the lens apparatus clean and in working order. Keepers’ pay averaged $600.00 a year around the turn of the 20th century.

*Where did the keepers live?  There were two houses built right next to the Lighthouse around 1860 for the keepers and their families. One has since burned but the other is still standing on the other side of the fence near the entrance to the tower.

Important Dates: Cape May Lighthouse

1853-First recorded lighthouse constructed. The 1823 tower was 68 feet tall and its location is now underwater due to erosion.

1847-The second lighthouse was built. It was a 78 foot tower located directly in front of the present tower, just beyond the present shoreline. It was replaced by the present lighthouse because it was poorly constructed.

1857-The Army Corps of Engineers began construction on the present tower, which cost $40,000 to build. The first order Fresnel lens, which is now in the Cape May County Museum, cost about $15,000.

1859-The Lighthouse was first lighted on October 31. The next year, two lighthouse keepers dwellings were built. The one remaining is now used by the State Park Service.

1893-The oil house was constructed.

The Oil House

1902-One of the keepers’ dwellings was enlarge to provide more space for housing the keepers’ families. Three keepers and their families. Three keepers and their families lived at the lighthouse site.

1902-An incandescent oil vapor lamp was installed and replaced the Funck multiple wick first order hydraulic float lamp that dated back to 1878.

1933-The light apparatus was electrified.

1936-The light apparatus was automated which eliminated the need for lighthouse keepers being permanently stationed at the tower.

1939-The United States Lighthouse Service was discontinued and its equipment and personnel transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard.

1941-The Lighthouse was darkened until 1945 because of the World War II. The Atlantic coast was on black-out due to the presence of enemy submarines.

1946-A DCB-36 rotating light (like an airport beacon) was installed. The original first order Fresnel lens was placed in the Cape May County Museum.

1986-The Lighthouse was leased to MAC by the State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks and Forestry, who in turn leased the structure from the Coast Guard.

1988-MAC undertook public safety improvements that allowed the public to climb to the top.

1989-A grant from the Bicentennial Lighthouse Fund underwrote the restoration of the Lighthouse’s windows and doors.

1990-The oil house was restored and adapted for use as orientation center and museum shop, with funding from the Bicentennial Lighthouse Fund and the New Jersey Historic Trust.

1992-The ownership of the Lighthouse was transferred from the Coast Guard to the State of New Jersey.

1994-Grants from the New Jersey Historic Trust and the federal ISTEA program administered by the State DOT funded painting of the tower and restoration of the lantern and roof.

1998-Grants from the same agencies funded all remaining restoration of the lighthouse structure.

2000-2001-A grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust funded the grounds restoration project.

2002-The Coast Guard installed a modern light known as a DCB-224. It uses parabolic mirrors to focus the beams rather than lenses.

2010-The Friends of the Cape May Lighthouse group was formed. You are cordially invited to join. Call 609-884-5404 or visit http://www.capemaymac.org.

2016-The Coast Guard installed a new, state of the art beacon known as VRB-25 (Variable Rotating Beacon) replacing the DCB-224 that had suffered irreparable damage due to a lighthouse strike.

2017-Lighthouse Tower was repainted with grants from the Cape May County Open Space Board, the National Maritime Heritage Grant program of the National Park Service and South Jersey Industries, augmented by the fundraising efforts of the Lighthouse Keepers and the Friends of the Lighthouse.

*Is the Lighthouse haunted? Exit Zero Ghost Writer and psychic medium Craig McManus has visited the Lighthouse and detected the ghosts of several former keepers and their families. Perhaps you may encounter them yourself on a Ghosts of the Lighthouse Trolley Tour!

Questions about Lighthouse Restoration

*Why is the Lighthouse leased to the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC)?

In the 1980’s , the Coast Guard began a nationwide program of leasing lighthouses to private organizations, like MAC, which are capable of preserving them. In 1986, the Coast Guard leased the Lighthouse to MAC, which assumed the responsibility for its restoration, maintenance and operation as a lighthouse museum. In 1992, ownership of the Lighthouse was transferred from the Coast Guard to the State of New Jersey in order to make the restoration project eligible for state historic preservation funding. The state monitors the historical authenticity of the restoration and also makes available to Lighthouse visitors the parking and restroom facilities of the adjacent state park.

The Museum at the bottom of the lighthouse

*What is MAC?

MAC is a non-profit organization with nearly 4,000 members that was founded in 1970 to save and restore Cape May’s Physick Estate and operate it as a historic house museum. The Physick Estate is also home to the Carroll Gallery with an array of changing exhibitions, a museum shop and the Carriage House Café & Tearoom. MAC has also restored the World War II Lookout Tower (Fire Control Tower Number 23) located nearby on Sunset Boulevard. In addition, MAC promotes Cape May’s Victorian heritage through a year round schedule of special events and trolley, walking and historic house tours. MAC is also one of the area’s leading sponsors of the performing arts with its Cape May Music Festival every May and June. Please call 609-884-5404 for details on MAC’s calendar of events or visit our website at http://www.capemaymac.org.

*How much did it cost to restore the Lighthouse?

Since 1987, closed to two million dollars has been spent to restore the Lighthouse and oil house and allow the public to climb safely to the top.

*Is the Lighthouse open to the public?

Yes, Hours of operation vary throughout the year. The tower is open daily, April through November and on weekends most of the rest of the year. The grounds ground floor, tower and watch room gallery are open to the public. All tours of the tower are self-guided.

Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities

P.O. Box 340

1048 Washington Street

Cape May, NJ  08204

(609) 884-5404


Disclaimer: This information was taken directly from a pamphlet from the MAC Cape May Lighthouse Museum. Please call the above number or email address for more information on the site. It is well worth seeing just for the view alone.

Emlen Physick Estate                                                               1048 Washington Street                                                         Cape May, New Jersey 08204

Emlen Physick Estate 1048 Washington Street Cape May, New Jersey 08204

Emlen Physick Estate

1048 Washington Street

Cape May, New Jersey 08204

(609) 884-5404



This historic site is administered by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities

TripAdvisor Review:


The Physick Estate at Christmas time

Dr. Physick and his family

I have visited the Physick Estate for a third time, three times for the Christmas decorations and the other times to take the house tour with a different theme. It is an interesting place. The whole house was decorated with garland and trees done with a Victorian theme of the time period. The home is always so beautifully decorated for the Christmas holidays and should not missed.

The entrance hall at the Physick House decorated for the holidays

The house is set up for Christmas Day and their are actors portraying the Physick family before the holidays. They explain why the house is set up the way it was for the Christmas holidays and who will be coming for dinner. All the rooms are decorated which would not happen in a normal Victorian home but the society shows how each room would have been interpreted for the holiday festivities.

We started the tour on the first floor touring the Entrance Foyer, the Living Room, Dining Room, Music Room, Sewing Room and Library of the home. Since privacy was the order of the day in a Victorian home, all the rooms were connected by the entrance foyer and closed off with a series of doors so that the occupants could have privacy.

We started first in the foyer, with the tour guide describing the architecture, decorations and fixturing of the lamps and chandeliers. We discussed the make of the fixtures and the type of materials used to build and decorate the house.

The ceiling and fixturing of the hallway. The Chandelier was created with both gas and electricity when it became available. When the ceiling had to be repaired, the members had to use different materials to match what was already on the ceiling and you would never know the difference.

The fixturing of the house went from gas to electric

We next moved into the Living Room where the formal Christmas tree would be placed. During the early part of the century, the family like most Victorians would have had a tabletop tree but as time went on decorations became more elaborate.

The elaborate decorations of the full Christmas tree

The Living Room was so beautifully decorated

Elaborate China wedding gift

You can see the bedrooms with clothes and accessories, the game room with the billiards and work out objects and the living room, dining room and music room and library. It is how a proper Victorian home was set up at a time when families wanted privacy. The tour took us to each room where it was explained its purpose in a wealthy Victorian home. Most houses at the time would not have been this elaborate.

The Music Room would have been another place where the family gathered for entertainment long before the use of TV and radio. Family members would play instruments and sing to entertain guests who came to visit.

The Music Room

The decorative greens around the fireplace in the Music Room

The Table Top Tree would have been one of the first Christmas trees in Victorian times. Gifts, candies and cards would have been attached to the tree and would have been taken apart on Christmas day.

The beautifully carved fireplace in the Music Room

The beautiful flowers in the Music Room

The Parlor on the other side of the hallway was for more informal get togethers and for sewing. This is where the family would do more informal entertaining and use on a day in day out basis.

The Parlor Room for sewing and reading and informal entertaining

The comfortable seats in the Billiards Room

The Sewing Kit in the Parlor

The formal dining room was set for Christmas Dinner and you get to see the kitchen and where everything was prepared for the family.With the house being set up for the holidays, you can see how elaborate the preparations would have been and how the table would have been set and the food would have been served.

The Dining Room at the Physick Mansion set for Christmas dinner

The table was set with the best china, crystal and silver for the holidays

Food would be served from the Dining Room sideboard by the servants

The elaborate sideboard

The sideboard for drinks and dessert

The Dining Room Table set for Christmas dinner

The kitchen was set up for the cooking of the Christmas dinner along with the foods that would have been served and the recipes that would have been used to prepare them. Entertaining during the holidays would not have stopped with just a family dinner as people would be entertaining neighbors, friends and relatives. There would have been teas and receptions on top the formal Christmas dinner to prepare for in a Victorian home.

The Kitchen during the holiday season

Preparations for Christmas dinner

The Christmas Day menu

The coal burning stove in the ‘modern’ kitchen

The smaller original kitchen

Preparations for Christmas dinner and holiday gatherings

Holiday dishes being prepared

Getting the laundry and dishes done

Upstairs are the bedrooms and the Billiard Room that was used for entertaining as well. Men and women would relax and enjoy more informal entertainments. The bedrooms were prepared for the members of the house dressing for dinner, leaving for holiday visits and entertaining.

Mrs. Physick’s bedroom with clothes laid out for dinner or visiting

Christmas presents to family members

Mrs. Physick’s bedroom

Mrs. Physick’s dress

Mrs. Physick’s closet

Dr. Physick’s room with clothes laid out for the evening

The Servants Room

The Modern bathroom with indoor plumbing

The Servants room for mending

The Billiards Room would have been used for light entertainment and after hours play.

The Billiards Room on the Second floor of the Physick House

The Billiards Room

During the warmer months, they have a cafe and an afternoon tea for visitors to the home and more outdoor activities.

The Mansion’s Publicity Pamphlet:

Celebrating our history….Enriching your life

Emlen Physick Estate

Lovingly restored to its original splendor, the 1879 Emlen Physick Estate is Cape May’s only Victorian house museum. The 18 room Physick House was built in the Stick Style of architecture, with trademark design features of renowned Philadelphia architect Frank Furness. The Estate provides an in-depth glimpse of the period and offers year-round tours and unique living history programs.

The elaborate woodwork in the Physick House

The new theme for Physick Estate Tours in 2017 is “Let’s Go Shopping! Victorian Consumer Culture.” Revolutions in American industrializing, merchandising, advertising, retailing and consuming in the Victorian era forever changed how people shopped. Take a guided tour of the 1879 Emlen Physick Estate with this new theme for 2017 and you’ll discover how consumer culture has changed since the late 1800’s. The house is air conditioned and the first floor is fully accessible.

The Carroll Gallery and Carriage House Café & Tearoom

On the grounds of the Emlen Physick Estate. The estate’s 1876 Carriage House now houses a gallery featuring changing exhibits throughout the year and a charming museum shop as well as the Carriage House Café & Tearoom. Dine in the Carriage House or outdoors beneath the gaily-striped tent overlooking the gorgeous gardens. Enjoy a hearty lunch from our Café menu or a traditional English Tea Luncheon or afternoon tea with tea breads and scones freshly baked in our own kitchen. Open late April through October. Air conditioned and fully accessible.

The Emlen Physick Estate in Cape May, NJ

The entrance to the home

MAC is committed to making its programs accessible to as many individuals as possible. For information or if you require assistance, please call 609-884-5404 in advance so we may accommodate you. New Jersey Relay Center for TTY customers, please call 800-852-7899. MAC’s public history programs are funded in part by the New Jersey Historical Commission in the Department of State Restoration work at the Physick Estate has been funded by the New Jersey Historic Trust, the New Jersey Cultural Trust and the 1772 Foundations.

Disclaimer: This information was taken directly from the Emlen Physick Estate pamphlet. Please call the Estate at the number above for more information.