Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Duckies Galore and Winnona’s Transformation

Monday September 23, 2013
Cape May, New Jersey



Our time in Cape May is winding down so this is the last of our looks at this cute little town.

If you missed the beginning of our wonderful walk around Cape May seeing her gorgeous Painted Ladies, you can read it here.

We are walking back to the car.  Winnona has an appointment with Cape Carpet Cleaning late this afternoon and we need some lunch and to get everything off of the floors and upholstered surfaces.


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As we walk along Beach Avenue by yet another huge hotel called Congress Hall, which takes up an entire block from Beach Avenue to Lafayette Street, I see they have cabanas on the beach across from the hotel.  Aren’t they cute and reminiscent of Victorian Seaside days.  That’s the point of them obviously.  But it works. 


The Congress is just too huge to get into a picture in any meaningful way.  It takes up an entire block in both directions.  You’ll have to come see for yourself.  Here’s some teaser information for motivation.

In our literature it gives its date as 1879, the year after the fire and says it was one of the earliest hotels, built in 1812.  The current hotel is the 3rd one built on this site.  The hotel served as the summer white house for President Harrison, one of five presidents who resorted in Cape May.  Wish we had time to go inside and see the lobby.  It takes forever to walk up the side and across the back to get to the mall.


We walk up the Washington Street Pedestrian Mall on our way.




It reminds me of the Charlottesville Downtown Mall right down to the clock which unlike Charlottesville’s does have the correct time.  We say we aren’t going to stop along the way but then each of us sees just one thing we must investigate.






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Mine is a bath shop with giant duckies in the window.  At $17.95 each they are pretty pricey but if I had room in Winnona I’d have taken one home to scare the daylights out of Moby and Handy.  Just for fun you know.




They have LOTS of Duckie family members in tubs and buckets. 


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These two are my favorites.   Love that hat! I think of this as Chef David.

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But if you want to see a REALLY BIG RUBBER DUCK….

I mean 40 feet tall. Check out this link Laurie Owen shared with us.  If I were any where near by I’d for sure turn out to see this.  We laughed and laughed just at the story.  WHAT FUN!!


On down the mall I wonder if the shops were always connected to each other when it was a public street.  I can’t remember if our mall’s stores are connected but I’m gonna check when we are back there.


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Then we see this little thing parked right on the mall.  What in the world is it??

Turns out it is the Shoprider Flagship 4 Wheeled Scooter and you can get it at the mark down price $13,09.89 $5,799.95 from allegromedical.com.  You save $7249.95.  I suppose it’s a limited time offer!

Pretty cute though.








David sees a store he can’t resist and  off he goes. 


I’m sure if we weren’t pressed for time we would lunch here.  But we have to get back.  NEXT TIME.


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Just off the mall we find the original Cape May Fire House. 


Can’t resist this either.  Will we ever make it back to get Winnona ready??


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What a beauty!!  Clearly kept with loving care.


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Maybe if these had been used in the 1878 fire so much would not have been lost.

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Looks like this was the fire hydrant in use at the time.  1875 is the date.

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Just before we reach the spot where Ruby is parked we pass in front of what the sign says is the Southern Mansion. 


Not on our “tour” but interesting just the same.  It is clearly some sort of guest house from the signs saying “guests only” in the parking lot.  But you can tour it at 12 and 2 any day for a mere $10 each.





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That wraps up our visit to Cape May and now for the reason we came here in the first place.


We do arrive back in time to get some lunch and do some cleaning up and moving of things so that Cape Carpet Cleaning can have hopefully unlimited access to all carpet and furniture.


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Well we get everything off the surfaces they will need, if not off every surface, in time for Matt and Kenny when they pull up in the drive after a long day’s work.  At this point it is about 3:30 and they have been at it since about 7:30 this morning doing other appointments. 

First, they have to set up all the equipment.  Other than doing his own house I’m betting this is the first time Matt has set everything up to work in his own driveway.  Boy are we lucky!!  Just look at the equipment in his van.


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They clean everywhere.  Under, over, around and through. 


They do yachts here in the harbors so they are used to tight spaces.  And they use hardly any chemicals which means we can actually sleep in here tonight after they are finished.  I really love that.  I think only the spot remover has anything in it but just hot water.

Kenny asks if I want to see the dirty water extracted as they go.  He pours it down the drain and it is absolutely disgusting. NO picture of that.   The beige carpet and upholstery didn’t look that dirty but obviously they were. 


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I am amazed that even while still wet everything looks SO much cleaner. 


The patterns which I love on the sofa are much clearer.  The sofa is in partially down position in order to allow it to dry.  It just looks great and so does the carpet.


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They even clean the throw rugs and mats.  Talk about a thorough job.


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We are so grateful to Kenny and Matt for doing such a fantastic job and to Matt for squeezing us into his very busy after tourist season fall schedule.  Not only that but he made a spot for us to driveway dock AND left his giant drying fan in the coach over night to speed up the drying.  Talk about going the extra mile.

Can’t thank you enough.   David, Winnona and I are really happy campers!! 

They look pretty pleased with their work don’t they?  And well they should be!

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This one is for you, Jody.


This shot, that Kenny took, is especially for my friend Jody, Matt’s dad, who told me and didn’t exaggerate that his son was the best carpet and upholstery cleaner anywhere.   Thanks Jody, Winnona is looking very fine!!  You are justly proud of your son.  He is a complete pleasure to work with. 



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We will be coming back to Cape May next time we need a really superior job done on Winnona’s interior.  So there will be a ‘next time’ for all those things we didn’t get to.   Although we may well never wear shoes inside again, it looks SO great!!

The Painted Ladies

Monday September 23, 2013
Cape May New Jersey



Cape May looked a lot different before the fire of 1878.


Cape May claims to be the oldest seaside resort in the country. In the 1800's, it had quite a number of classically designed seaside hotels to which many came for the summer.

But the fire of 1878 destroyed 30 blocks of the resort’s ocean front area, including some of the town's major hotels.

This map of the damaged area came from an article in the Cape May Magazine which you can read here.


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When they rebuilt, the new buildings were constructed in the modern style of the day now known as the Victorian style.  They have lots of gables, turrets and gingerbread.  I’ve heard it said that there are more Victorian Homes in Cape May than in any other city in the country.  It’s a town that was nearly entirely rebuilt in very short period of time. The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places.  



  There is a huge concentration of late 19th century homes in Cape May.


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There is  everything from Gothic Revival to Queen Anne design.   I admit that this version of late 18th century architecture appeals to me much more than the castles of  Newport. 

Mostly they were single family seashore homes often called "painted ladies" because of their colorful appearance. But, as with the homes in Newport, they ultimately became too difficult for a family to support.  There was also the push after WW II to demolish the old, to make way for brand new construction in the last half of the 20th Century.


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Many fine old buildings were lost in this new 20th century building frenzy before the entire town was luckily listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1976.  Some folks really loved the town to work so hard to get the entire thing listed.  It’s a lot of paperwork and documentation.


But once they were saved from demolition, now what?  Not many could maintain an eight or ten bedroom house, with formal parlors,  high ceilings, and often maids' quarters.


Today many of them have been turned into guest houses, restaurants and bed and breakfasts.  Some are divided into apartments and rented as summer beach cottages. But others still are single family homes and we saw many of them on our walking tour around Cape May. 





Horses and carriages travel the streets as they used to do while giving visitors tours of the beautiful buildings. We see a number of them today and I may look into the cost if we return to Cape May but this time we are on a walking tour of town.


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I ask at the visitors center for any walking tour brochures they have.


The woman behind the desk tells me that they used to have quite a few but they haven’t reprinted them because there are too few people who want to walk.  Apparently they all want to do a driving tour of one sort or another.  But she has a few left over xeroxed paper pamphlets entitled “A Look At Historic Cape May” so we take one and set out to see the 16 buildings listed.

Like Provincetown, Cape May parking is expensive.  But here if you are willing to walk just a bit you can get beyond the expensive lots and metered parking which is what we do.



One of our first stops is at the Chalfonte Hotel built in 1876.


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It was built two years before the fire and was just beyond the area burned.  It has been open every summer since its construction by Col. Henry Sawyer, a former prisoner of the Confederacy later exchanged for Col. R.E. Lee, Jr. Son of General Robert E Lee.  Col. Sawyer was the one who sounded the fire alarm at the time it was first spotted.






It has porches all around and when I walk up to see them, I also find  women hooking rugs who tell me that 40 rooms in the hotel have been taken over by their group taking classes in rug hooking.


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They call themselves the Happy Hookers.


Two groups of them return during different weeks in the fall every year to pretty much  take over the old hotel.  They are quite enthusiastic about how much fun they are having and what a beautiful place it is.


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I’m told I must go inside and see the rooms in which the classes are taking place.  Boy there are a lot of “hookers” in these two rooms.


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In the second room I meet an instructor Cheryllyn and Gail who is working on a story  rug.  It’s a shame that this picture doesn’t do this beautiful art work justice. 

This very large rug tells the story of Gail’s marriage from where she and her husband met, at work in the upper left corner all through their life together.  It shows their home, beach vacations, their children and much more.  A lot of love and time has gone into this beautiful creation.  It will no doubt occupy a special place on the wall of their home and be a family treasure forever.  Thanks so much Gail for taking time from your work to show it to me.



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They ask me where I am from and are interested in the idea of full timing.  I mention that in a few weeks we will be stopping by our hometown of Charlottesville Virginia and they tell me I must see the rug being done by Lydia.  And I do.  She happily tells me her rug is a gift for her daughter who just graduated from The University of Virginia my former employer in Charlottesville.  What a wonderful loving present to spend so much time to create this treasure to mark such a special occasion in her daughter’s life.


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She has put her daughter’s sorority house in the lower left, Jefferson’s famous Rotunda is in the middle and his serpentine walls off on the middle left.  Near the bottom right is beta bridge on Rugby Avenue.  this bridge is painted and repainted every few days all year long with all sorts of announcements.  By now I think the concrete could crumble underneath but the layers of paint will keep it standing.  Today on this rug, it says Congratulations Elise.  And for the true Virginia fan, the very bottom of the rug will say Wa Hoo Wa!  Only UVA-ites will understand all of this.

Isn’t it amazing.  Here I am walking around Cape May and I run into someone hooking a rug about my home town.



And then, at the war memorial I find the only sad thing I see all day.


We leave the happy hookers and walking down the block come upon the town’s war memorial in a tiny park at the intersection of Columbia and Gurney Streets.  It has lovely Victorians on all sides.  The memorial has a side for honoring the soldiers of every war this country has fought in, including all the post Vietnam “conflicts”.




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I find it very sad that the VFW and American Legion have created this plaque to allow for the names of five future conflicts as though they are certain this will happen.  It’s the only sad thing I see today in this lovely town today. 


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Seven swans a swimming yesterday and seven cottages today.


Walking down Gurney we find seven identical cottages all built in 1869-71.  As you can see from the map, the ones closest to the ocean were in the fire area and must have sustained damage but not been totally destroyed.  These cottages only have very small differences in design.  They are mighty cute sitting there all in a row.  There are two bed and breakfasts on the upper end of the row.  David looked up the Gingerbread House, the one on the far right in the picture below, and found that you can stay for $102-$198 a night in the off season week days and $148-$330 otherwise.  They have a suite, deluxe rooms and standard rooms.  The webpage is fun to read about the story of the house.




The other B&B is beside the Gingerbread House on its right and out of David’s group picture.  It is the John Wesley House and has a very elaborate web page.   


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The private homes on the block are every bit as lovely.  Some of them rent rooms.  Others are just grandma’s house.

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The Cape May Inn sits right across from the ocean.


The property on which The Inn of Cape May was built in 1894, at the corner of Ocean and Beach, was right in the heart of the fire.  This structure was built some years later. Considered very modern in its day, it featured the first elevator in town and electric bells from rooms to the front desk.  Wallace Warfield, the Duchess of Windsor, held her coming out party here.   I guess that’s their claim to fame.


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As you can see, the Inn over looks the ocean.  The driver is pointing to the Inn and no doubt talking about its history.


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We’ve been meandering around and really have to pick up our pace now.


It’s getting late and we have a date for Winnona’s cleaning so we are moving more quickly toward the last two places on the map.  This isn’t one of them but it’s huge, and seems to have been converted beautifully into apartments.  Reminds me of a Victorian version of my former home, The Chalet, in Newport.  The picture below only shows the left hand side of the building which is about 1/3 again as long.  It’s called The Empress.




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Of course this is the Pink House and the last one I’m going to put in this already too long post.  Tomorrow I’ll show you the end of our walk and Winnona’s transformation. 


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I really love walking among these beauties and looking at all their lacey finery.