Cape May County Celebrities of Last Week, and Last Century

By Collin Hall

Header image: Congress Hall was once a vacation hot-spot for American Presidents. The building fell into disrepair during the 20th century before it was restored to its current glory.  

Tina Fey apparently loves to visit Cape May. She is pictured at the world premier for Muppet’s Most Wanted, where she played a Soviet gulag guard (her best role, bar none). PC: Photoflash Photo Agency through Shutterstock

It’s easy to submit to arrogance and think of Cape May County as my little shore area. But millions of people visit the county every year, and some of those people happen to be pretty famous. I used to think of celebrity gossip as low-brow and useless, but my very intelligent girlfriend has gotten me sucked into the world of celebrity happenings. A lot of it is brain rot, but just as much of it is like watching a very entertaining game of The Sims. You just never know what those little guys are going to get up to!  

  • Anne Hathaway’s mother, Kate Hathaway, is pretty involved with one of the local theater groups and is on the board of directors for Cape May Stage.  
  • Stedman Graham, Oprah’s long-time partner, is a Middle Township (Burleigh) native who recently helped fund 300 Years in the Middle, a documentary that chronicles Middle’s history.   
  • Anne Heche, who tragically passed away just this month, went to middle school in Ocean City and spent many of her childhood years in the county.  
  • Tina Fey, whose best role is inarguably her performance as a gulag guard at a Soviet facility for Muppets Most Wanted, shared stories about her vacations in Cape May in an interview with Jimmy Fallon. 
  • Miles Teller, who plays the cocky young pilot Rooster in Top Gun Maverick, was spotted here just last week at a tavern in Cape May.  
James Buchannan vacationed at Congress Hall in Cape May during his presidency. He is speculated by the Smithsonian’s literary magazine to have been America’s first gay president. He never married, and spent much of his life living with his long-term male “friend.”  
Ulysses S. Grant was known to vacation on the Jersey Shore. Fun fact: his first name is Hiram.

But those celebrities really don’t have anything on the cast of characters who used to haunt Cape May. 

Congress Hall, one of the largest and most intricate buildings on the island, has its name for a reason. It was once a premiere place for powerful politicians to visit when they wanted a reprieve from their exhausting jobs.  

Five American Presidents vacationed at Congress Hall: Franklin Pierce, Ulysses Grant, Chester Arthur (does anyone really remember this guy?), James Buchannan, and Benjamin Harrison. Harris went so far as to declare Congress Hall his “summer white house.”  

John Philip Sousa, a classical composer known for his military marches, wrote the “Congress Hall March” for the U.S. Marine band under Harris’ direction.  

Those presidents are just the tip of the iceberg. Cape May County has an incredible history that stretches further back than most places in America. We were settled by the British long before the Declaration of Independence was penned. Before Great Britain took the area’s land for itself, the Kechemeche tribe and other indigenous people groups called the county home.  

Thousands of Cape May Countians have since been born, celebrated, and now forgotten.