In his revolutionary novel 1984, George Orwell stated “He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.” What better time to truly get in touch with our area’s history than a lazy rainy day? We here at BLAST! have decided to outline a few of Cape May County’s history hotspots so you can learn about our rich past and thus gain more understanding of our looming future…
1. Naval Air Station Wildwood
Naval Air Station (NAS) Wildwood Aviation Museum is a non-profit museum located at the Cape May Airport inside historic Hangar #1. Commissioned in April 1943, NAS Wildwood served as an active dive-bomber squadron training facility during World War II. Today, Hangar #1 has been restored and transformed into an Aviation Museum that houses a number of aircraft, engines, special exhibits, and educational interactive displays. The museum’s mission is to memorialize the 42 known airmen who perished here while training during World War II, educate the public, and restore Hangar #1. The museum invites visitors to explore aviation, New Jersey, military and WW II history through “hands-on,” fun and educational activities for the entire family!
2. Cape May Lighthouse
The Cape May Lighthouse is at the tip of Cape May, in Lower Township’s Cape May Point State Park. It was built in 1859 under the supervision of U.S. Army engineer William F. Raynolds, was automated in 1946, continues operation to this day, and is said to be the second oldest continually operating lighthouse in the United States. There are 199 steps to the top of the Lighthouse where the best panoramic views of the Atlantic in all of Cape May County can be enjoyed. The view from the top extends to Cape May City and Wildwood to the north, Cape May Point to the south, and, on a clear day, Cape Henlopen, Delaware, to the west. On the way to the top, visitors can view interpretive exhibits about the lighthouse’s history, the lives of the former keepers, and other maritime history of the Jersey Cape.
3. Historic Cold Spring Village
Tucked into a 22 acre plot of land near the seashore resorts of Cape May and Wildwood, Historic Cold Spring Village takes visitors on a trip back in time to a simpler era. More than two dozen historic homes from Cape May and Cumberland Counties are clustered together much the way the houses in the original Cold Spring Village were grouped together back in the 1800s. The village not only preserves these homes but also recreates life in the 19th Century. Visitors will find many Village “residents” demonstrating what life was like during America’s first days. Wander from house to house along the peaceful, shaded walkways and listen for the steady beats of the horse drawn carriages.
4. SS Atlantus
SS Atlantus is the most famous of the twelve concrete ships built by the Liberty Ship Building Company in Brunswick, Georgia during and after World War I. The steamer was launched on December 5, 1918, and was the second concrete ship constructed in the World War I Emergency Fleet. The war had ended a month earlier, but the Atlantus was used to transport American troops back home from Europe and also to transport coal in New England. After 2 years of service, the ship was retired in 1920 to a salvage yard in Virginia. In 1926, Colonel Jesse Rosenfeld purchased the Atlantus for use in the creation of a ferry dock. The Atlantus was repaired and towed to Cape May, New Jersey. On June 8, 1926, a storm hit and the ship broke free of her moorings and ran aground 150 feet off the coast of Sunset Beach, New Jersey. Several attempts were made to free the ship, but none were successful.
By Megan Kummer