Open: Every First and Third Saturday of the Month (Please check with the website on weather conditions)
Admission: Free but donations accepted
My review on TripAdvisor:
I have been wanting this charming little museum for several months. This is one of the featured historical museums in Southern New Jersey. The museum is representing the local farming and manufacturing industries as well as life in a farming community at the turn of the last century.
The museum was started in 1994 in a partnership with the town of Woodbine, NJ and houses the history of Dennis Township. It is an all-volunteer museum, and the docents were really helpful describing all the displays that surround this small former schoolhouse. Their Friends of the Dennis Township Museum group does a nice job walking you around the museum…
The one thing I refuse to do on Father’s Day is to spend the day at the cemetery. I know that is some people’s idea of honoring one’s family members but it is not mine. I went on Friday and paid my respects to my father (whom this blog is dedicated to) and spent time remembering some of the good times we had in past. I dropped some cut flowers from our gardens (some of which he planted) and said a small prayer. Then I left.
My idea of honoring my father and spending Father’s Day with him is to do something that we would have shared together. We were always running around somewhere and exploring something new and doing something fun. That is how I wanted to honor him. By being active and giving him a toast at Sunday dinner.
I had gotten a pamphlet on the historical sites of Salem, Cumberland and Cape May Counties last summer when I was visiting Cape May County and the Jersey Shore for the NJ Firemen’s Convention that is every September (See blogs on Trips to Cape May for the NJ Firemen’s Convention and for the Christmas Holidays-the other historical sites are noted there):
The Chalfonte Hotel at 301 Howard Street in Cape May, NJ
I thought what might be a nice trip is to explore the southern part of New Jersey and spend some time learning about the history of this part of the state. There were so many sites to visit and they spread from Pennsville, NJ in Salem County to Cape May in Cape May County. There would be too much to try to see in two days plus I wanted to take a trip to see Woodstown, NJ, a small town that had an interesting looking historical downtown when I visited it two or three years ago.
I had seen almost all the sites in Cape May County (The Cape May Firemen’s Museum, the Cape May Historical Society/Colonial House, the Cape May Lighthouse, the Cape May Zoo, Cold Spring Village, WWII Tower, Sunset Beach, The Emil Physick Estate and the Wildwood Aviation Museum) with the exception of a few smaller places and figured that I could see them during my time at this year’s NJ Firemen’s Convention after the meetings were over at 1:00pm.
So I planned the remainder of those for September. There were a few small historical societies with very limited hours that I just could not drive to with enough time. This covers a lot of area and the roads are mostly one or two lane highways in this part of the state.
Trying to find a hotel room for one night during the college graduation season was trying at best. Most of the chain hotels like Holiday Inn, Hampton Inn and Fairfield Inn by the Turnpike which I expected to choose from had gotten horrible reviews online as dated and dirty so those were out. There were no Airbnb rooms anywhere in south Jersey and the only two B & B’s in the immediate area were both booked for the weekend.
I was ready to give up until I Googled small hotels in South New Jersey and I found The Inn at Salem Country Club at 91 Country Club Road, a small inn that was just south of Downtown Salem, which was my starting point for the tour that weekend. I called the innkeeper, Yvonne that afternoon and was surprised that the room that I wanted, The Meadow Room, was open for Saturday night and was listed as $125.00 a night. I immediately booked the room and planned the trip.
The one catch was they were hosting a graduation party at the inn and could I check in on Friday morning. That was perfect for me as I wanted to start my trip visiting Woodstown, NJ and walk around the downtown. So, finishing all my projects at home, off I went at 7:00am in the morning for my trip to South Jersey.
I had decided to get off the New Jersey Turnpike earlier and head down the local Route 45 and take it down to Woodstown and drive through farm country. It was such a spectacular sunny and clear morning that I decided to make a few stops along the way with enough time to check in.
My first stop was at Rosie’s Farm Market Stand at 317 Swedesboro Road in Mullica Hill, NJ. This small farm stand has everything you need for the perfect picnic or to bring to someone’s home for a party. There are all sorts of fruits, vegetables and snacks and beverages to choose from. It has that classic “Jersey Market” look even though it is now surrounded by development.
After I walked around Rosie’s looking for something I could not find in our own farmstands in Bergen County (same items), I headed down the road, turned the corner and headed south down Route 45. I drove through the cute little town of Mullica Hill. I did not have time to stop and explore the town but noted to come back this way so that I could walk around the downtown.
Then I continued the drive down Route 45 on my way to Woodstown and then onto Salem. Route 45 is one of the most picturesque roads that I had been on with its rolling farms and lush landscapes. Things were just beginning to grow, and you could see the fields of corn and plants with an occasional winery popping up here and there. It shows that crops are changing in New Jersey farmland. With all the TV and movies, you see about New Jersey, this is the part of the state that they never show. You can forget sometimes how rural the state really an hour from my house.
I reached Downtown Woodstown, NJ by 9:00am and stopped to look around. I had driven through Woodstown when I went to visit mom after the Firemen’s Convention and thought it a unique and interesting little town with all the Victorian architecture. I walked around the downtown businesses and walked around the neighborhood admiring the care families have renovated these old homes.
I walked through some of the businesses that opened early like the flower shop and independent bookstore. The owners were super friendly, and they were explaining their businesses to me. I thought that was very nice of them. Most of the restaurants with the exception of the diner were closed. It was nice to see all the beautiful homes and cultural sites so close to the downtown.
On the edge of Downtown Woodstown, I saw the Pilesgrove-Woodstown Historical Society that sits on the very edge of the business district. It was closed when I visited in June and September when I visited the area both times but in September is opened up on the promised Saturday and I toured the house with Trudy, who was one of the board members of the historical society and she gave me a personal almost two hour tour of the home.
The Samuel Dickeson House
The Mission of the Pilesgrove-Woodstown Historical Society:
To preserve and advance interest in and awareness of the history and heritage of the Borough of Woodstown and Pilesgrove Township by properly procuring, preserving and maintaining the art, artifacts and documents that relate to the cultural, archaeological, civil, literary, genealogical and ecclesiastical history of the local community. We welcome researchers and provide them with any available material.
On the site is the 1840’s one room schoolhouse that was moved from Eldridge’s Hill in the 1970’s and is open for touring during museum hours. The organization hosts quarterly presentations and participates with the Candlelight Tour on the first Friday of December.
Touring the house is a wonderful experience and I got an excellent tour from a member of the Board of Directors who took me on a full tour of the house and grounds. She explained that the volunteers take a lot of pride in the home, the displays and the artifacts and antiques that make up the décor of the house. The tour starts in the Library which is to the right of the entrance. This is where people can research their families and the towns’ histories. The house was originally owned by the Dickerson family and had changed hands many times over the years.
This display has the portrait of John Fenwick and the family tree
The collection of books and manuscripts is held in the library of the home. Patrons can do their research on their family trees and on the local towns here.
The Living Room:
The Living Room:
The Living Room:
The Living Room:
In June when I visited, I planned on coming back later that weekend, so my next stop was downtown Salem. Again you go from a downtown area to farmland again and it is so scenic along the highway with the large fields and watching cows’ feed. Here and there you see new construction but for the most part the area has not changed much since my initial visit six years ago.
The funny part of Downtown Salem is that it just jumps out at you when you cross the bridge. It goes from farmland to the small city of Salem. When you drive it, you start to see all the beautiful historical homes and architecture that reflex the city’s past. Most of the homes are either Victorian or Federalist in design but as you drive past City Hall and the government buildings, you see how run down the city really is now.
The last time I had been here was about four years ago on my way to see my mother and it is still rundown. If Salem was located in Bergen County, you could not touch these homes or any of these buildings for under a million dollars. People all over town assured me that this was not true here.
Downtown Salem, NJ by the Salem County Historical Society is the nicest section of the Downtown
I could not believe that the town still looked this bad when I drove through it to get to the inn which was located by the Delaware Bay. When you drove through the south side of the downtown, the further you got away from the downtown core, the better the neighborhoods got until you hit farmland and marshes closer to the bay. Off a very obscure road I found the Inn at the Salem Country Club at 91 Salem Country Club Road.
The Inn at the Salem Country Club at 91 Salem Country Club Road
I have to say that I was impressed by the entire stay at the Inn from the check in to the check out. My host, Yvonne, could not have been more welcoming and friendly and made the early morning check in easy. I got the key, got my luggage into the room, let her know that I would return after the party planned that evening was over and went on my way for the afternoon. It would an afternoon of a lot of running around. The one piece of advice she gave me was NOT to eat in Downtown Salem. She recommended either Pennsville or Woodstown for dinner that evening. I would discover later that evening what she was talking about.
The view from the porch of the hotel at breakfast time
After settling everything in at the Inn, I headed back up to Downtown Salem to my first three sites that I wanted to visit on the historical listing, The Friends Burial Ground and the Oak Trees, The Salem County Historical Society and the Salem Fire Museum plus I wanted to walk around the downtown area to see any progress in gentrification (there was none).
What surprised me was the Internet was wrong about all the hours and days. All the sites were supposed to be open by 9:00am and they were all open that day. The Salem Fire Museum which I had looked forward to seeing was not open that day, the Burial Ground’s gate was locked but I was able to walk in on the side of the cemetery and the Salem Historical Society did not open until noon. At this point it was 10:30am.
The Salem Fire Museum never seems to be open
Since the cemetery I could access by the side of an old house, I was able to spend the first part of the morning walking amongst the historic tombstone and graves of the ‘first families” of Salem, NJ. As I walked amongst the headstones of each row, I began to recognize the names of the families with the names of homes in the area and streets I had just traveled down in Salem.
Friends Burial Ground at West Broadway in Downtown Salem
The family names of Reeves, Thompson, Abbotts, Wister, Bacon, Griscom, Waddington, Sickler, Lippencott, Goodwin, Bullock, Woodnutt and Bassett were arranged by family plots and neatly buried in rows. Many families were buried by generation so that you could the transition from father to son and mother to daughter. It was sad to see so many children who passed before their parents.
The Salem Oak Cemetery in the Fall
The old Oak Tree that once dominated this cemetery fell in 2019 and all that was left of it was a stump where it once stood. Smaller offshoots of the tree that are now about 200 years old still line parts of the cemetery and hold their own natural elegance in its place.
The Salem Oak before it fell
I finished walking through the cemetery and walking through this part of the downtown (Downtown Salem is so impressive but totally falling apart), I still had an hour before the other museums opened. Having not eaten since 6:00am that morning, I needed another breakfast.
The family tombstones at the Salem Oak Cemetery
I stopped in the Salem Oak Diner at 113 West Broadway is a small diner across the street from the cemetery. I thought it looked a little dumpy from the outside, but it is the traditional diner experience when you go inside with the loud waitresses and the big menu.
The menu was reasonable, and the waitress was really nice. I ordered the French Toast and Scrambled eggs which was delicious. The eggs were scrambled in clarified butter and had that rich flavor to them. They gave me three big slices of French Toast which was loaded with Cinnamon and caramelized perfectly and served with plenty of butter and syrup. God, it hit the spot and I devoured the whole thing. I think the waitress was impressed on how fast I ate it.
After breakfast was over, I worked off the second breakfast walking this part of downtown. It was really quiet in the downtown area, and I could see why. There were no stores or other restaurants either open or there. So many store fronts in this downtown are empty which is so sad because not only is it a county seat but such a beautiful downtown.
My next stop was the Salem Fire Museum at 166 East Broadway, but it was still closed. I found out later that the museum was only open once a month on the first Saturday of the month. I confirmed this when I went to the Salem County Historical Society down the road, and they called for me. I guess for the next time.
My next stop when it opened at noon was the Salem County Historical Society at 83 Market Street which I had visited a few years before. This is such a wonderful historical society and one of the best I have ever seen. Their displays are so well put together and such interesting exhibitions. When I had visited it the first time, I have about a half hour to run around. I had plenty of time to visit on this trip.
The Salem County Historical Society at 83 Market Street
The Society is housed in two connecting homes with an interesting core of the house that was originally built in the early 1700’s. The Society has two floors of displays and an extensive library that people use in search of town and family history (See reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).
The dress Sarah Hancock Sinnickson wore to George Washington’s Inaugural Ball
What I found impressive about the Society is the extensive number of important artifacts that the museum houses. I took a highlights tour with one of the members and he really pointed out some interesting items to look at in the collection that was on display.
They have an impressive collection of Revolutionary War items including belt and shoe buckles and a ring with a lock of George Washington’s hair. They were several artifacts from the locally prominent Hancock family including the dress that Sarah Hancock Sinnickson wore to the ball of George Washington’s inauguration.
There was an exhibition of local ice cream companies including an early Bassett family display of the family that still runs their ice cream company out of Philadelphia.
Salem Historical Society Ice Cream display
There was an early cylinder phonograph of Edison’s that still had all the cylinders.
Edison Cylinder Phonograph was an interesting addition to the museum
Upstairs there was an interesting clock display where I learned the meaning of why the Roman numerals were created for the clocks the way they were (they wanted the four to be IIII instead of IV because it looked symmetrical).
“The Keeping Room” at the Salem County Historical Society
Downstairs I toured “The Keeping Room” which was the original section of the house from the early 1700’s. This is where all the cooking and work was done for the house as it was not just the heat source for the home but the light as well during the darkest months of winter. When I had been there at Christmas a few years earlier, this was decorated for the holidays with a tree and garland.
I am just impressed with the work that the Society did during the lockdown to make this such an interesting museum. They really put a lot of effort into the displays and explanations of the artifacts.
The Revolutionary War artifact room
For Halloween 2022, I returned to Salem for the Salem Historical Society’s Annual “Haunted Halloween Walk”. The ‘Annual Salem Walking Ghost Tour’ which tours the historic homes of the Salem Historic District and the church cemeteries of the downtown.
At each stop, we got to hear tales of the haunted houses of the district and the owners in the afterlife still are involved in their current owners lives.
We started the night with a concert at St. John’s Episcopal Church with organist Erik Meyer, who played music that we relate to Halloween.
St. John’s Episcopal Church on Market Street the day of the concert.
The concert highlights:
Traditional spooky music associated with Halloween
The “Tunes from the Crypt” concert was right before the walking tour.
The concert featured five musical numbers that are classic to all horror films. The music being played is what you might hear in a popular horror film or something to do with Halloween. It seemed a little strange to be in a church but the organist told us that a lot of churches are using this for a fundraiser.
Erik Meyer who was the organist at the concert before the walk
He dressed like a vampire which I thought was strange for a church. These concerts have brought people back to these churches and even the priest said that he had not seen crowds like this on Sundays. The church was packed that evening.
The inside of the St. John’s Episcopal Church for the concert
The beautiful stained glass windows the night of the concert
After the concert, we walked down the antique store where the tour started. We stopped at various parts of the historic district to tales of woes, travels and ghosts still haunting the homes they loved so much.
One of the decorated porches on the Haunted Walking Tour
The Historic District of Market Street
A resident of the house talking about his haunted home the night of the walking tour
No walking tour is complete with a trip to the cemetery
The cemetery during the day
The cemetery looks less creepy during the day
The walking tour really was interesting and residents talked about their experiences in their homes that they say are haunted. The tour was about an hour but is really worth the trip. It was interesting to see how Salem, NJ developed over the years. The tour takes place before Halloween every year and tickets do sell out fast. This was one of the highlights of the Halloween season.
In the summer of 2022, after I visited the three sites in town, I went down Route 49 to my next stop driving through the outskirts of Salem, the city. I could not believe how run down the homes were in the neighborhoods. Such beautiful Victorian and Federalist homes just rotting away. The whole city looks so sad.
Just when you think you have seen everything, you cross this one road, and you are out in the farming community again. Then its rows and rows of fields and farmhouses. Talk about extremes.
Just after the turnoff to the Hancock House Museum that I was going to visit next, I stopped at the historical site of the old Quinton’s Bridge. The bridge had held an important place in transportation of goods for the area and into Philadelphia. The patriots had to hold this bridge to cut off supplies to the British. As small as the creek is today, you did not have the modern transportation of today back in the late 1700’s so controlling this bridge was important. We lost many people, but we held the bridge (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).
Today it is just a modern bridge in an isolated place in the middle of nowhere. There is a small town just south of the bridge, but you have to use your imagination back to a time when this was the only road in the area and the major hub of transportation in a vibrant farming community.
Video on the Battle of Quinton’s Bridge
I doubled back down a few country roads and visited the Hancock House at 3 Front Street in the small community of Hancocks Bridge. The town consists of a few roads of small turn of the century homes and surprisingly no businesses in what was once downtown.
The Hancock House used to sit on the busiest road in the area as it made its way through towns like Greenwich and Bridgeton. I assume before Route 49 was built; this was the only way to travel through this area as part of the home was a tavern for travelers.
The tavern part of the house faces the road and the home itself is across the street from the old Hancock Bridge. This once vibrant home and farm was an important part of the Revolutionary War history as the family played a big role in business and politics in the area.
The house itself needs a lot of work. The State of New Jersey runs the park and it needs a good painting and plastering. It also needs someone to come in and work with the decor and displays. There are some rooms that have period pieces and the furniture matches what would have been in the house but some of the rooms are barely furnished.
There are no family heirlooms in the house and the tour could have been a little more interesting as the state tour guide could not answer my questions. When another couple came in to take the tour, I took a guidebook and walked the grounds myself. I learned more about the family this way.
The Hancock House at 3 Front Street in Hancocks Bridge, NJ
I walked the grounds of the house and could see why this road was so important. Like any other area of the state, when a new highway is built, the old one and what was located on it become part of the past.
Halloween events at the Hancock House in October 2022
Outside the tourists and the people that live in the town, I am sure that no one ventures here. There was not even a restaurant in the area to eat at in town.
The Halloween Pumpkin Patch at the Hancock House at Halloween
After visiting the Hancock House, I took the small country backroads that were once a major part of transportation in the area down to Greenwich, NJ, a small town south to visit their treasure trove of historical sites and homes. There were a lot of twists and turns down these quiet roads before you get to Greenwich, a town of an interesting mix of historical homes.
I took my chances to see if the Nicholas Gibbon House would be open and I lucked out in that it had just reopened for tours that month (See reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). There was just myself and the tour guide, so I got a personalized tour of this statuesque home. Not only did Nicolas Gibbon and his wife live here but after them members of the Wood family moved in and were the family that founded the WaWa chain of stores.
Nicholas Gibbon moved to the area in 1730 when he inherited some 300 acres of land in the area and built his house here. According to the tour guide, he stayed until 1760 when he was trying to get a church built here and the local Quakers discouraged it. He and his wife moved from the area and the Wood family moved in and stayed in the house until the 1920’s.
Each room in the home is beautifully decorated with period pieces including portraits of Nicolas Gibbon’s nephew and his wife and silver from the Hershey family. The downstairs kitchen with the hearth and cooking materials was very interesting. Upstairs there is a “Everything Room” with clothing, hats, shoes, Civil War weapons and quilts. I took my time to tour the house and then the grounds before the home closed for the day. I was next off to the Greenwich Tea Burning Monument down the road.
Greenwich Tea Burning Monument at Ye Greate Street and Market Lane
The Greenwich Tea Burning Monument was fascinating in that I never knew this existed or even happened. About a year after the Boston Tea Party, a small handful of citizens, including a future Governor of New Jersey from Greenwich burned a shipment of tea that was being stored in the town. I had come to find out that there were five instances of this radicalism on the East Coast.
The dignified sculpture was dedicated in 1908 in honor of this heroic act before the start of the Revolutionary War. I took my time to study what happened and never realized what New Jersey’s role was in trade before the war. I opened the small gate and paid my respects to these brave men who risked a lot to protest the “Tea Tax”.
Just down the road from the monument is the Museum of Prehistory at 1461 Bridgeton Road, which I had a small amount of time to visit before it closed for the evening. This little museum was a real surprise because it was not even on my list of places to visit.
I just made it to the Museum of Prehistorical History after visiting the Nicolas Gibbon House. This small but unique museum is housed in one big room of the building and each section has a different artifact featured.
The was an extensive display of Lenape and Native American artifacts in one case line showing off the collection of arrowheads, spear tips and fishing and stone cooking equipment. There was a collection of fossils of fish, bone and plants and a selection of pottery. There were even fossils of dinosaur eggs.
The gentleman working there that day let me stay extra before closing and was a student studying paleontology, so he was able to give me an explanation on the specimens. From what he was telling me that the museum was looking for more space and may be moving in the future.
The Old Presbyterian Church and Cemetery at 54 West Avenue South in Bridgeton, NJ
Visiting the Old Presbyterian Church and Cemetery was an interesting experience. Trying to get from Greenwich to Bridgeton should have been a straight run but there were no names on the signs, and you just had to figure it out. I found the right road and it led me right to the cemetery.
The Presbyterian Church is only used now for special occasions and events but is an elegant building that sits on top of a bluff overlooking the downtown area. During the daylight hours you are allowed to roam around the cemetery looking at the gravesites (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). So many famous politicians, war heroes, founding fathers of the City of Bridgeton and entrepreneurs at the turn of the last century are buried here.
What I found interesting about the cemetery was the family plots with the generations of people buried next to one another and their stories. It was sad when the parents buried their children and then died a few years later. Trying to figure the narrative of these families can be heartbreaking.
The really sad part of such a historic cemetery is that it is so overgrown. I was walking through in some parts a foot of weeds. I know that taking care of a cemetery this size must be hard, but I would think there would be more care of the dead considering this is a destination for historians.
When I finished touring the church grounds, I took a tour of the Bridgeton Historical Downtown. It was such a waste to see a bunch of old buildings falling apart and most of the businesses closed or small run-down businesses located in them. A block away was a more modern downtown with newer buildings. The shopping district caters to the very large Hispanic population that lives here and is great if you are looking for provisions for a picnic.
After I left Bridgeton, it was almost 6:00pm and I headed back up Route 49 to head back to Salem. I was trying to figure out where to go for dinner and taking the advice of the Inn, I planned on heading back up Route 45 to Woodstown to find a place.
On the ride back up the highway, I passed Hudock’s Frozen Custard stand and saw all the people outside enjoying hot dogs and ice cream and I had to stop. It was so classic Jersey that I had to see what it was all about and trust me, it is worth the stop. Their food is delicious and extremely reasonable.
I just wanted a snack to tide me over as I was traveling around and had no lunch. So, I ordered a foot long hot dog and a Coke. Trust me, when they said foot long, they meant it. The hot dog was really big, split down the middle and grilled and they topped it with mustard and relish. It was out of this world and just what I needed after a long day.
At Hudock’s Custard Stand, a foot long hot dog is A FOOT LONG!
I took my hot dog and Coke and sat outside with all the families enjoying their meals and just sat and watched the field sway by and enjoyed the sunshine. Talk about a perfect early evening treat. The hot dog was perfectly grilled and crisp when I bit into it.
When I went back again in September, the weather was just as nice, and I stopped again for lunch on my way to Pennsville to visit Church Landing Farm. This time I had a hamburger and French Fries with a Coke ($8.55). That hit the spot after a long day of driving. The burger was cooked fresh for me, and the fries just came out of the fryer and still sizzled. I just sat at one of the picnic benches and relaxed under the shade of a tree.
Relaxing and eating your lunch under the trees on the picnic tables at Hudock’s is wonderful!
It was nice watching the few cars drive by and admiring the farm that surrounded the hot dog stand. The restaurant is the perfect outdoor restaurant to just relax and watch the world go by. It takes you back to a time when you just stopped, ate and enjoyed the view.
The views of the farm across the street
Later that afternoon, I stopped back at the Custard stand they have and had two scoops of their homemade Peach Ice Cream. For $3.85, I thought that was very fair. You got two very large scoops of ice cream in a paper cup made with homemade peaches that were still in season. Yum! Hurry quick because Hudock’s closes the first week of October for the season.
The ice cream stand part of Hudock’s is a real treat. Don’t miss their homemade ice creams!
It was nice to just relax and watch the other people having such a nice time talking and eating. For a moment I felt like it was 1975 again and I was a teenager. This is how nostalgic the place makes you feel. When you see a free showing of “Jaws” coming soon I felt like I was stepping back in time. It was nice to just sit for an hour and just relax.
I agreed with the Innkeeper when I got back into Salem a little after 7:00pm. It was still sunny and bright but the crowds outside both the only Chinese take-out place and pizzeria in downtown Salem looked pretty shady so off I went back up Route 45 to Woodstown and decided on Papa Luigi’s at 39 North Main Street for dinner.
I was surprised on how both the restaurant and the downtown were so quiet that night. I know it was Father’s Day weekend, but it was not like a major holiday, and I would have thought people would have been out and about.
Papa Luigi’s at 39 North Main Street in Woodstown, NJ
I was the only one eating at the restaurant that evening and the waitress could not have been nicer. It was the two of us and the delivery person and one other person outside the two cooks that evening. I ordered a Cheesesteak with Cheese Wiz and one of the best I have had outside of Philly. They really loaded in the meat for me, and the Wiz is the best way of topping it. I just sat there reviewing my notes of the day and planning the next morning starting with my first lighthouse visit.
Papa Luigi’s makes an excellent cheesesteak with Wiz
As I was driving back from Woodstown to Salem at 8:30pm, the sun started to go down and I wanted to see it before it totally set on the Delaware Bay. What was breathtaking was as I drove down Route 45, I could see the sun starting its descent over the fields of corn and wheat and the sunshine against the farmhouses. I made it back into Salem and then driving south to the bay area, I got the last glimpses of the sun as the party was cleaning up.
I stood on the lawn of the Inn watching the last of the sun peek under the horizon of the Delaware and the dazzling colors that it made. The sun fully set around 9:00pm (God, I love the Summer Solstice time) and watched as the stars started to come out. What a view! With all the craziness in the world and all the radical strife, this is what should get people to think about how Mother Nature can still surprise us with her magic.
The dazzling Delaware Bay view from the Inn’s lawn
I did not stay up too long after that driving so much during the day and slept soundly all night. I could not believe it the next morning when I had slept over eight hours which I never do. I was showered, shaved and up and adman by 9:00am and got packed and ready for breakfast. That was another wonderful part of the stay.
After I was packed up, I stopped downstairs for breakfast. Since there are no cooking facilities on the property and events are catered, they ordered in breakfast for me from the Diamond Grill at 534 Salem Quinton Road, a diner located down the highway from Salem. The order came in pretty quickly and I ate on the patio of the Inn overlooking the bay. Since there were only three rooms at the Inn and everyone else was gone, I had the patio to myself that morning.
I just had a simple breakfast of pancakes and fresh fruit with some orange juice (Yvonne lets you order what you wish off the menu provided in your room the night before) and had the table set up for me on the corner of the patio. The food was delicious, and the pancakes were large and had that nice, malted flavor.
While I ate, I got to watch the boats pass by and birds sway over the bay. I did not leave until the check-out time of 11:00am because it was so relaxing to enjoy breakfast and not have to rush anywhere.
My first stop the second morning was a trip down both Route 49 to Route 41 for my first stop, The East Point Lighthouse in Heislerville, NJ at the edge of Cumberland County. The lighthouse was located on the westernmost part of the natural preserve on the shoreline. Getting to it took a lot of twists and turns down the road but at the end of the road it offered the most amazing views of the ocean.
This little lighthouse is one of the best I have seen in a long time. There is so much care put into this historical site. When I parked at the end of the street, I noticed on all sides of the lighthouse were barriers protecting it on all sides from the advancing bay.
After you buy your tickets at the Gift Shop, you walk along the dunes that protect the lighthouse that are nicely landscaped with sea grass, tiger lily’s and black-eyed Susan’s. The gardens are really beautiful at the beginning of the summer. It is a short walk to the lighthouse from here.
The lighthouse itself is nicely furnished with period furniture and antiques and each room reflects what the family’s role was in the lighthouse function. There was a lighthouse keepers office, a complete kitchen with pot belly stove and a living room on the first floor
The second floor is the bedrooms where you can see where the family slept, and the children conducted themselves with their own social life. The rooms contained a lot of period furniture and clothing, and the children’s bedroom was loaded with all sorts of toys from different eras. There was even a handmade dollhouse with homemade furniture that decorated it and a picture of the man who made it.
In real life, no child would have this many toys in this era, but the tour guide explained to me that after they finished renovating the lighthouse, they put out the word for donations for furnishings for the lighthouse. They were over-whelmed with donations. People must have been downsizing their family heirlooms.
Each room in the lighthouse was nicely decorated and reflected the times. On the top floors were the functions of the lighthouse and an explanation of how the lighting worked. This is still a functioning lighthouse so educational to see how it worked and how it functioned today. The tour guides are really good at explaining how everything worked.
After the tour of the lighthouse and walking the grounds (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com), I left as the site was getting busier and headed up the highway to Mauricetown (pronounced “Morristown” like its northern counterpart) and headed up to visit the Mauricetown Historical Society.
The Mauricetown Historical Society like many of the spots on the historical listing is only open for a few hours twice a month so you have to plan your trip here accordingly. Make sure to take the hour-long tour as they cover not just the history of the house but how it was furnished, decorated and the story of the people who lived here. It really makes the house come to life.
What is interesting about the town and the neighborhood is that it was an old fishing, shipping and trade village and all the homes on this side of town that faced the Maurice River were the Ship Captain’s so the homes are bigger and more elaborate than the ones further in town. Still after driving through the town, it is a picturesque and quaint looking town with rows of historical homes and colorful landscaping.
The Mauricetown Historical Society at 1229 Front Street
The tour of the Mauricetown Historical Society was very informative on the life of a sea captain and his family and the history of Mauricetown and its business functions for the area. This town was a big shipping area during and after the Revolutionary War and its location made it perfect for restocking and ship building. Sea Captains made their fortunes here and their homes reflected that affluence. This was the home of Captain Edward Compton.
When you enter the Mauricetown Historical Society, you are greeted into the parlor area of the home and a display of military items including uniforms, weapons, and equipment used for battle. They even had one of the earliest artifacts with a pair of sharpshooter glasses that had just been developed.
The Military display at the Mauricetown Historical Society
The living room had been redecorated to reflex the time after the Revolutionary War and its changes at the start of the Victorian era. Early wallpaper had been found underneath the paneling that had been placed on top and new one had been recreated to match the original. Period furnishings and instruments decorated the room.
The upstairs had bedrooms that were decorated to reflex the Victorian era with heavy furniture and a collection of quilts. Their collection of quilts was really interesting in that they had one they displayed with the names of the sea captains and their family members. Genealogists used the quilt so that families could trace their ancestors back to that time. They also had another quilt of all things found in nature.
There was a display to Captain Bacon, a local resident and his wife, Carolyn and their life together in town. There was another display of pictures of the town through the years and how it developed. There was a display of period clothing from the Victorian era to the 1920’s. I could see that even though it was a bit more formal, times have not changed that much.
They displayed the Oyster and Fishing Industry, and they had all sorts of equipment on display including the rakes and even had the bridge key for the old Maurice River Bridge to show how they turned the bridge to let the boats through. The last display was a wonderful collection of children’s toys and dolls (all of these homes have big displays of toys) and you could tell by the quality how lucky some of these children were because these playthings were not cheap even then.
In the backyard was a cookhouse that was kept separate from the house that was built in the 1880’s. A modern kitchen was not added until the 1940’s. Also in the backyard is the Abraham and Anna Hoy House, a small house that was considered an example of the average person’s home in the early 1800’s. Over the years it has been added to but the Society brought it back to its original early 1800’s design. You can see where the cooking facility was located and the loft sleeping space above it for the children of the house who used it in the cold months of the year.
The tour gave a very detailed explanation of life at that period and the tour guide gave a wonderful description of the time and life in the house. After the tour, I took time to explore the grounds around the house and of the surrounding neighborhood to admire the other old homes. It is an interesting town to explore.
On the first day of my trip in September, I stopped at the Dennisville Township Historical Society Old School House at 681 Petersburg Road in the town of Woodbine, NJ. This small one room schoolhouse is packed with all sorts of artifacts.
The Dennisville Township Historical Society Old School House at 681 Petersburg Road
There are displays on businesses that used to be in the area such as the Mason Basket Company, who used to make all the baskets for apples and peaches for the local farms, the local shingle factory that prided itself on making the shingles for Congress Hall in Philadelphia and the local cranberry blogs.
There are pictures of the historic Methodist Camp that was located here, a display on local Veterans and their artifacts, pictures of home management on the farm and in rural New Jersey, an antique pipe organ and pictures of the local renovation of the Ludlam family cemetery. There is a little bit of this and a little bit of that displayed at the museum and well organized in this former one room schoolhouse. The docents were also really nice.
The Museum of Cape May County at 504 North Route 9
The Museum of Cape May County changed their hours the week before and now it is only open on Wednesday and Friday afternoon, so I had to plan to visit it another time when I was in the area. I was a little bummed because it had nice grounds that I took a moment to walk. That is when I went back to the Cape May Zoo (see above) which was a madhouse that afternoon on a beautiful sunny day.
On my way back up Route 41, I debated stopping in Millville but there was no time if I wanted to get back to Pennsville to see the Church Landing Farm. I had tried twice to stop in to see the Potters Taven in Bridgeton but then double checked the guide and found out that it is only open on Sundays in July from 1:00pm-4:00pm so I will not be visiting it this summer, so I continued from Downtown Bridgeton to Pennsville.
Potters Taven at 49-51 West Broad Street in Bridgeton, NJ
Between the traffic and the distance and not being able to find the cross street, I did not get to the Pennsville Township Historical Society until ten minutes to 4:00pm and no one would answer the door. I knocked on both with four cars outside hoping that I would catch someone to give me a tour of the home but to no avail. I was able to see inside at some of the antique furnishings but that was it.
I was able to walk the grounds of the farm and it was spectacular. You really have to see the views of Delaware Bay and the fantastic views. The grounds have all the separate buildings on it that were closed as well but at least I got to view everything. For the next trip.
The Pennsville Township Historical Society-Church Landing Farm at 86 Church Landing Road
When I visited in September, I made it a priority to visit the museum and arranged my Sunday schedule so that the Church Landing Farm was my last stop on the way home. After lunch at Hudock’s, I made my way up Route 49 to the museum. What was nice was I was the only visitor at the time, so it was just me and the two docents touring the house and grounds.
What an interesting tour of the house and of the displays in the sheds that are on the property. The farmhouse was built by the Garrison family between 1840-1845 and was the home of lawyer and gentleman farmer, Donald Garrison. The house was lived in by generations of Garrisons until 1973 when the last living member of the family, Anna Locuson died. At this point, the house was in disarray.
In 1991, with the help of Atlantic City Electric, the Pennsville Township Historical Society was formed and has maintained the house since. The artifacts in the house are all donations and are of the period that the family lived in the house over the years with the exception of family portraits on the first floor. The upper floors are displays of a children’s room and the room of an adult. They also have a nice research library on town and family history.
On the grounds there is a series of sheds with different themes and displays to see. As they unlock each shed, they show you the magic of their artifacts. There is one shed with a Floating Fishing Cabin, one with artifacts from the fire and police departments and the military, another of high school memorabilia, another is a wash house and my favorite, one of the Pennsville Beach Park, a former amusement park that was located in the current park until 1969. It has all sorts of signs, rides and former parts of rides and attractions. These sheds were the highlight of the trip. Everything is so well maintained and displayed on the property.
I also walked the grounds again and admired the view of the Delaware Bay and the Delaware Memorial Bridge. It must have been something before all these things were built and it just had a view of the bay.
I needed to stop for a quick snack, and I noticed that on this Father’s Day Sunday not much was opened around the area. I came across Four Seasons Doughnuts, an old-fashioned doughnut shop on Route 49 and stopped in. I got the most delicious sugar topped jelly doughnut ($1.50) and devoured it quickly. The doughnut selection that time of the day was not as big, but it was enough to tide me over until dinner. I was ready to see my last site of the day.
Four Seasons Doughnuts at 275 North Broadway in Pennsville, NJ
In September, I doubled back to Hudock’s to the custard stand for ice cream. It was only fifteen minutes away from the site. I ordered some homemade peach ice cream and just relaxed on the picnic tables again. It was such a beautiful day, and I did not want to leave that spot. Looking at the farms was just so nice (see prices and pictures above).
Hudock’s for ice cream is so nostalgic
I got to Fort Mott State Park by 5:00pm and it was still bright and sunny outside. I love these long summer days when it is light out until 9:00pm. By the time I got to the Finn’s Point Lighthouse, the Visitors Center was closed but it looked like it had not been open. The stairs were overgrown, the sign on the door was dated 2019 and the fence around the lighthouse had a lock that looked rusty. So, I only got to admire it from a distance. It really is an interesting lighthouse as it slender and further away from the water than the other lighthouses that I had seen before. I read that you cannot walk in if it is too cold outside or too hot. I traveled further into the park.
Finn’s Point Lighthouse at Fort Mott and Lighthouse Road
Fort Mott State Park was a real treat. I never knew this place even existed. I had never heard of the fort before today. Fort Mott State Park is interesting in that it was designed after the Civil War facing the State of Delaware across the bay and was designed to protect Delaware Bay. Most of the construction happened after 1897 and gun emplacements were located the below concrete and earthen embankment.
There is also a fire tower, guard house, former warehouses and battery’s protecting the fort. By the end of WWI, the fort was considered obsolete and by 1943 was decommissioned. The State of New Jersey bought the land in 1947 and by 1951 it was opened as a park.
I was able to tour through the gun embankments and climb the stairs to see where the guns were once based on. The views were amazing of the bay, and it was a clear shot if boats tried to come into the bay. I passed the fire tower that was closed for tours that day and I visited what was the Ordnance Warehouse which is now the gift shop and a small museum of artifacts from the old fort. This includes equipment, pictures and photos of when the fort was in service. This part of the park should not be missed as it is fascinating to see how the fort was run and its role during the war.
The best part of the park is to just stroll along the long grass lawn that leads to the views of the Delaware Bay. The views are spectacular and on a sunny day, it is just a please to look out at the bay and enjoy the views. There are also nice picnic grounds that were full of families enjoying the early evening of Father’s Day. I spent time here relaxing before my long trip home soaking up the sunshine.
After my trip to Fort Mott State Park, since the sun was still high in the sky and it would not get dark until almost 9:00pm, I decided to double back through Salem, go back up to Woodstown to have dinner and see the farmland one last time before leaving the area. It is such a scenic trip home and I wanted to see all of it one more time before leaving the area.
I stopped in Woodstown and walked around the downtown one last time. A lot was closed on Sunday, and I was surprised that more restaurants were not open. I decided on a quick slice of pizza at Gus’s Pizzeria at 14 Main Street. It was okay but I would not make a special trip to go there. There are other places to eat.
My last stop of the trip back up was stopping in Millica Hill, the quaint little town I first encountered when I got off Swedesboro Road to go down Route 45. I stopped and looked at all the old buildings and restaurants that they had. Most everything was closed for the day and only one restaurant was open and there was only one couple there. They also had a Historical Society in the downtown area that I noted for my next trip to the area.
As I finally got to the New Jersey Turnpike, the sun was setting in the distance. As I said before, it is so nice to have these long days to drive and explore. It was an eye-opening trip and I saw so many interesting places and got a better grasp of our state’s history and its place in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
I was an interesting and relaxing weekend and the best way to spend Father’s Day. It was a trip that my dad would have enjoyed.
I visited the Mauricetown (pronounced ‘Morristown’ like its northern neighbor) on a trip to visit historical societies in southern New Jersey. Mauricetown comes from the Dutch word ‘Mauritus’ for the Mauritus River that flowed through the town. “Maurice’ is the English version of the word.
The town itself was used for shipping and trade up and down the East Coast and between 1830 and 1902, 61 ships were built in the boatyard in the village. The home that the Society is housed in is one of many ship captains homes that was built on this side of town being closer to the river for the other ship captains. Founded in…
*The blogger wants to note that this is a combination of many different dates, so it does jump around a bit.
After such a wonderful Christmas holiday in Cape May, I decided to change my plans around and stay in Cape May this time for the Annual Firemen’s Convention which is in mid-September. This is the best time to visit the beach as most of the tourists are away, the kids are back in school and the water is still warm. Hurricane Florence was coming up the coast so it was not the greatest weather but I always find things to do.
While attending the convention in 2018, I was booked at the Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May, which is considering the Southern Grande Dame of hotels. I had stayed at the hotel’s Southern Quarters, the smaller B & B setting next door during Christmas and it had been a nice stay. The room had been decorated with holiday ornaments and decorations. I had a slept like ‘a log’ during the holidays. It had been so quiet at that time of the year.
The Weekend before the Convention 2018:
When I had originally booked the reservation for the weekend, I was told that the restaurant, The Magnolia Room, would be open. Later I found out it would be closing for the end of the season on September 7th and I would not be able to try it for dinner when I was visiting Cape May. This meant a special trip ahead of time. So after work on September 6th on a whim I made a special trip to Cape May to check out the culinary delights of the Chalfonte Hotel.
I called the hotel at the last minute, booked a room with a shared bathroom ($100.00) and off I went down the Garden State Parkway from Bergen County to Cape May which is one side of the state to another. With one break stop, I was there in two hours and forty five minutes.
I got to the hotel by 4:30pm and it was still nice out. Hurricane Florence was just starting to make landfall in Florida and it was supposed to be gloomy all day long but we lucked out the tentacles of the storm had not hit New Jersey (that would come later the next day when I left) and it was still sunny, clear, warm and still a little humid.
I was happy because I got my room immediately and was able to get to the beach for a swim before dinner. One thing about the Chalfonte Hotel (see review on TripAdvisor) is that it is old and I mean old. The rooms themselves have been updated and painted and the beds and furnishings are new and comfortable but the room I got with the shared bath could have used a scraping and repainting of the whole room.
The Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May at 301 Howard Street
The windowsill was beginning to rot, and I could see in the gingerbread decoration on the roof was rotting as well. The hallway carpets were clean but could have used a good shampooing to bring out the color. Even though the hotel is clean and maintained, it still needs a good gut renovation to bring it up to current standards. It is nice it could be a showplace.
In 2022, I had a back room that was much larger than the usual rooms that I get. It was located on the back side of the Dining Room and surprisingly was very quiet even when there was a wedding on Saturday night. It was also located right next to the communal bathroom, so it was like having my own bathroom. The light shined at the top of the windows, but I just slept on the other bed, and I slept soundly both nights. I needed the rest.
The beach is only three blocks away and since it was off season already and later in the afternoon, the beach was quiet. The water was perfectly warm and the waves were low and no current from the storm (we really lucked out with that) so swimming was nice. I could ride the waves with not much worries. Still I kept close to shore and did not venture out too far.
It was nice to just lie on the beach and just relax. I had not been to the beach all summer and it was nice to just put my feet in the ocean, hear the sound of the waves and just relax on a towel and get some sun. I had not done this in over a year. The salt air is so soothing. The nice part was the beach at this point was practically empty and was filled with mostly locals.
After the beach, I went back to take a shower and relax. I took a quick nap on the bed which I have to say are soft and firm at the same time and I completely relaxed. I didn’t even want to go down for dinner but there was a fried chicken dinner with my name on it downstairs.
The Magnolia Room (see review on TripAdvisor), the hotel’s main dining room, is off the main lobby and located towards the back of the hotel. You really do feel like you are in a Southern hotel in Charleston or Savannah with the long narrow dining room, the pink tablecloths and the over-head chandeliers. It is like stepping into a Southern Plantation. It is elegant and homey at the same time.
Cape May like most shore towns in the Northeast have to depend on foreign help as the college students have to go back to school and there are only so many people living in town to fill the jobs. My server, Michaela, told me she was from Albania and could not have been friendlier. She was the one that told me that the Fried Chicken Dinner was the most popular. The nice part is that the three course meal is $39.00 which includes an appetizer or soup, the main entrée and a dish from the set menu. Another nice aspect of the dining room is that they give hotel guests a 15% discount for eating there and I thought that was very nice.
I traveled three hours to try the Fried Chicken so off the order went to the kitchen. I started with the Chicken Soup with Garden vegetables. Hunks of chicken in a fresh broth with a rough cut of fresh vegetables made the soup almost a complete meal. A good appetizer to offset the Fried Chicken. The nice part was the vegetables were really fresh and it had a well rounded flavor to it.
The Magnolia Room’s Southern Fried Chicken
The Fried Chicken was a bit of a disappointment. Even though it was a nice sized piece of chicken (almost half the bird) and the meat was juicy and moist and perfectly cooked, the coating had no flavor to it. It really needed some spices and I had to end up loading it with salt and pepper. Every bite was crispy and crunchy but not much flavor to it. The fresh Parker House rolls the same thing. They tasted good but were not moist (I found out later that they had been made in advance and had been defrosted).
For dessert, I had the Chocolate pie that was created by one of the owners of the hotel. It was pretty incredible with its dense filling and fresh whipped cream topping. I devoured that in a couple of bites.
In 2022, the Magnolia Room was open for both dinner and for breakfast the next day on my first night at the hotel. Lucille and her niece, Tina both retired from the hotel during the pandemic (although they do check in) so a new chef was hired for the hotel. They have kept the old favorites and added some new ones.
For dinner in 2022, I enjoyed the New England Clam Chowder again which had not changed a bit. The soup was thick and rich with a lots of clams dotting the soup and a taste from the cream.
I enjoyed the Fried Chicken again and it was almost a half a chicken that was moist and tender. I have to admit it needed a lot of salt. I could tell when Lucille was not in the kitchen working her magic. It was good but did not have that extra something that was the secret to her cooking. They also did not have her biscuits anymore and replaced them with cornbread that was good but not the same as those moist biscuits whose secret was a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
For dessert, I enjoyed the Peach Cobbler with some ice cream. It was delicious and made with local fruit. The only bad part was it needed to be heated. It was nice to eat inside dining room with all the beautiful chandeliers all lit. I originally sat outside but it was so dark so early that I could not see. There was nice jazz band outside playing. I think after dinner they moved to the King Edward Bar.
The specialty cocktail was strong and on top of all the driving I did in the afternoon, it made me even more tired. Still I had enough energy to go to the Kings Bar, which is a small bar off the main lobby for an after dinner drink and listen to one of the local groups that play there.
The King Edward Bar is a small room that is off the wrap around porch and next to the history room that is part of the main lobby. There are about a half dozen tables around the small room which were always full and a small bar in the back. The service there is extremely friendly and the bartenders can mix a drink. Be prepared!
It was nice to just sit back and drink a Cosmo and listen to the Jazz band. Every night during the season that have a different group there perform every night. It is nice because you don’t have to just sit in the bar. You can sit on the wrap around porch in one of the many rocking chairs, feel the breeze and listen to the music. I sat in one of the chairs and just relaxed. I started to fall asleep.
I went back to the room in the main building just for a quick rest and then I would go back to hear the music group. I fell asleep the second I hit the comfortable bed and did not wake up until much later that evening and then went to bed. I had one of the best night’s sleep I had in a long time.
I woke up completely refreshed and ready to start the day. Since the hotel was not full, I had the shared bathroom all to myself with no one banging on the door. I took a quick shower, dressed and went downstairs to try the second part of the culinary trip, the Magnolia Room Breakfast Buffet.
Magnolia Room at the Chalfonte Hotel
Now I am big breakfast fan (as many of you must know from my dining blog, “DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) and when there is a buffet I am in high heaven. The food at breakfast just had more zing to it then at dinner. I just could not put my finger on why. I found out when I met Tina Bowser, one of the Magnolia Room’s two well know cooks. Her mother was Dot (Dorothy) Burton, one of the two main cooks at the hotel and as we talked we discovered that we lost our parents at the same time.
Dorothy and Lucille in the kitchen making the famous fried chicken a few years ago
I never had such a heart to heart with a complete stranger and we both talked about our losses and how much we both missed our parents. Funny how you can bond with a complete stranger who was going through exactly what I was going through. It was interesting when Tina said that she still felt like her mother looked over her shoulder when she cooked and could still feel the nudge when she did something wrong.
After our long conversation, she mentioned that she now worked side by side with her Aunt Lucille Thompson, her mother’s sister who was just as well known. Now I had heard so much about her mother and aunt that I asked for a favor, I wanted to meet her Aunt Lucille. She said no problem and I was able to go back in the kitchen to introduce myself.
Lucille Thompson on the Chalfonte Hotel porch
It is amazing to meet an 87 year old woman who still gets up every morning to cook for the hotel guests, make all the biscuits and rolls from scratch and prepare all the crab cakes, chicken coatings and then prepare breakfast. She was sitting down making her homemade rolls when I met here. It is always such a thrill when you meet a famous cook and Lucille and her family are so well known in the industry.
Lucille seemed thrilled when I made such a fuss. She told me of all her time at the hotel and the countless hours in the kitchen. I could tell there was pride in her voice on her cooking like it was her baby. She put a lot of effort into the food to make it special.
It was then she told me she had not been in the kitchen the night before and the she had made the dinner rolls in advance. That was the reason why there had been such a difference in flavor of the food. It’s not that it was not good it was but it just didn’t have that touch that was missing. There was such that sense that the person who gave it that extra care was not there to oversee it.
I complimented her on the soup and on the chocolate pie I had for dessert but she gave the credit to that to the owners wife, who made the delicious chocolate pie and the chicken vegetable soup. It was she though who made the Southern Breakfast I enjoyed so much. She seemed thrilled that I was so thrilled to finally meet her. I then left her alone to do her magic in the kitchen while I got back to the buffet.
Now this buffet is really nice. On the buffet we had fresh scrambled eggs, thick bacon, Amish sausage, fried hash brown potatoes, fried red tomatoes, spoon bread, fresh rolls and Danishes that were made by the kitchen as well as fresh fruits, juices and a complete waffle bar. This was all you could eat and they have never seen me at a breakfast buffet. Unlike other people who just fill up their plates and then to waste food, I circle the buffet, try a small portion of things and then go back for more so that I don’t waste.
My advice is that you have to go to the Chalfonte Hotel just for the breakfast buffet if not for anything else. Those fried red tomatoes are so sweet and crisp, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. I had never eaten anything like this before. The homemade rolls when they are still hot are addictive and the Danishes are delicious and burst with fruits and cinnamon. The sausage is those fat Amish sausage that crack when you bite into them, and you can taste the freshly ground pork and sage. It was wonderful breakfast full of good food, great service and a beautiful room to eat in on a sunny morning.
In 2022, the buffet was gone due to COVID, and the food service manager told me it would not be coming back. I guess when the old cooks left, they took that tradition with them. The food was a la Carte now and they opened the porch for breakfast on this beautiful sunny morning. I had a Bacon, Egg and Cheese Breakfast sandwich with a side of freshly made hashbrowns that were well spiced and salted.
The breakfast sandwich was on a brioche bun and was sweet and savory at the same time. It was so nice to just sit outside and watch people walk by. It was a clear and sunny day perfect to eat outside. It was an enjoyable breakfast.
By the time I finished it gave me a chance to get a quick walk into downtown Cape May, the Washington Mall, to look at the shops before I left. I needed to work off the breakfast. It was a bright sunny day, and I could not believe what the weatherman had said. I walked around the beach and the other half empty hotels that proved that the season was over. After a quick rest in the room, I checked out of the Grande Dame of Cape May for a trip to the zoo. It had been a great stay, truly relaxing and just what the doctor ordered. I had needed this rest.
By the time I left the hotel for the Cape May Zoo (see review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com) up on Route 9, it started to get cloudy and by the time I was walking into the zoo, it poured! Going to a zoo in the rain is not much fun as the animals took shelter too and I didn’t get to see many of them unless they were in a protected environment. As there was a break in the weather, some of the peeked out and greeted the visitors. I enjoyed visiting the zoo but have to say it is another Eighties type of zoo that is need of an update. I think there must be more interesting ways to have animals live then in some of the smaller exhibitions.
When I returned to zoo again in 2022, the place was packed with firemen and their families watching the animals who all looked so bored. I felt for these animals who needed to stretch a bit and being contained in a small area. I could see that they were well taken care of but animals like giraffes and buffalo need room to roam around. The Cape May Zoo is really big but still I could see that look on the animals faces. It looked like the seniors in a nursing home.
I decided I wanted to explore the state and drove up Route 9 which would take me directly to Newark. Big Mistake! It took five hours to get home going through all those smalls towns. I really did see the middle of the State of New Jersey but it took over five hours to get home with traffic instead of the two and half by the Garden State Parkway. I am glad I did it once.
NJ State Firemen’s Convention 2018 and 2019:
The next week I returned to Cape May for the annual NJ Firemen’s Convention when about 8,000 fire fighters from all over the State of New Jersey convene for the Annual Convention. I can’t take the crowds of Wildwood and I stayed at the Chalfonte Hotel for a second time.
This time when I checked into the hotel, I was ‘upgraded’ which I find a dirty word in the hotel industry. It means that you are not getting the room that you were promised. In my case, I was moved out of the main hotel to the ‘Southern Quarters’ annex next door. It was no problem for me. I figured the wedding party that checked in that day all wanted to be together and it meant that I got a better room with my own bathroom (no more sharing).
The weird part was that I got the same exact room that I had at Christmas when I spent one night here on December 26th, 2017 (See Day One Hundred December 2017). Still I enjoyed the piece and quiet of the annex and it was nicer then the main hotel.
The only part about the room at the annex was that it was a top floor room of an old Victorian house and at one time must have been the attic. I am so tall that I had to lean down to brush my teeth and take a shower. Still it offered a lot of privacy when I finished my meetings.
The first day of the convention was really gloomy. The storm had finally hit land down South and it was misty and cloudy our first day of the convention. Since we did not have to be at the meeting until 1:00pm, I got up early and went to Uncle Bill’s Restaurant at 261 Beach Avenue in Cape May (see review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for breakfast since the Magnolia Room was closed.
Uncle Bill’s is a institution in the South Jersey Shore area. It was founding in 1962 in Stone Harbor and has expanded to five other locations on the Southern New Jersey shore. I could tell by the food and service it is the typical Jersey Shore restaurant which caters to family who like nice size portions at a good price.
I love the breakfasts here. They cook the eggs in clarified butter so they have that creamy taste to them and the pancakes I ordered in the platter were as light as air. When the Pancake and Egg Platter was served ($12.95), it could have fed two people. It was a great shore breakfast.
Uncle Bill’s at 261 Beach Avenue is wonderful for breakfast. A real beach breakfast.
In 2022, I enjoyed breakfast again at Uncle Bill’s which I think is the ultimate breakfast beach spot. The place was mobbed this time and full of families who looked like they were enjoying their last vacation of the season. To get in and out of the restaurant for touring the area, I ate at the bar.
I had the most delicious Bacon, Broccoli and Cheddar Omelet with wheat toast ($8.95) and was just enough to get me through the day. I love the eggs here because you can taste the butter from the grill in every bite.
After breakfast I had some time on my hands before the meeting and had planned to visit the Wildwood Historical Society at 3907 Pacific Avenue in Wildwood, NJ (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The Society is only open from 9:00am-2:00pm so the only time I could have gone was that morning due to all the meetings.
The Wildwood Historical Society is an interesting little museum filled with photos and memorabilia from all eras of Wildwood’s history. Rooms were dedicated to the fire department, police department, the military, the schools, the amusement areas and the government. Each room had all sorts of artifacts and loaded with pictures in albums and on the wall.
Wildwood Historical Society at 3907 Pacific Avenue
In the hallways was old artifacts from the amusement areas that had been part of the fun of the parks over the many seasons. Many were pieces of the old parts or old rides and signs. Towards the back of the amusement area display were old restaurant menus and hotel displays.
The museum can be a little overwhelming because there is so much crammed into the rooms that there is a lot to see at one time and the only problem with the museum is its limited hours. Surprisingly when I was there, the morning was so gloomy that there were many people from the convention there as well. A group of us were watching a video of the history of Wildwood, NJ before I left for the convention.
The Annual NJ Firemen’s Convention is interesting. There were about 8,000 fire fighters from all over the State of New Jersey in the convention hall all ready to vote on issues. We had the usual welcome speeches, flag salute and color guard and then it was business as usual. We wrapped by 2:30pm so we had time to walk around and see the fire equipment displays.
Since it was so cloudy most people packed up and went back to their hotels. I walked the Boardwalk to my favorite pizzeria, Joe’s Italian Pizzeria at 2812 Boardwalk between Magnolia & Poplar Streets (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for one of their giant slices of pizza.
The slices at Joe’s are double the size of a normal slice of pizza and they even put a little swirl of sauce on top to finish it off. Their pizza is consistent and delicious and it is fun trying to eat that giant 28 inch slice. There are two problems with the place though. One is that it is cash only in the 21st Century and second is that try to load their glasses up with ice and give you very little soda so you have to ask for just a little ice. Otherwise it is a nice place for a slice.
As I left the Boardwalk it got darker outside and there were very few people walking around the Boardwalk. I left to visit the Hereford Lighthouse at 111 North Central Avenue in North Wildwood, NJ (see reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The Hereford Lighthouse is a Victorian Lighthouse that was built in 1874 and was operational until no longer deemed functional after the early 1960’s and a more modern structure was built leaving this building to rot away. Preservationists saved the building and restored it in 1983.
The Hereford Lighthouse at 111 North Central Avenue
I was surprised on how busy the museum was that afternoon. I guess people just did not want to walk on the beach on such a gloomy day. Each floor of the lighthouse shows it use and progress over almost one hundred years, with period furniture, family heirlooms and pictures, sea-going maps and nautical items. Floor by floor you see family living arrangements and the life the families had when they lived here.
The most beautiful view is from the top of the lighthouse on the third floor which had a spectacular view on the ocean and the surrounding area. What fascinated me the most was the history of the families who lived here and how they adapted to life here. The pictures of the holidays in the lighthouse were interesting. They even had a family reunion of the children who lived here a few years ago and to see these kids as children then as senior citizens was pretty remarkable.
What I liked about the museum was the gardens that surrounded the property. Even though it was not a nice afternoon out it was nice to walk through the flowered paths and shrubs and then take the back path to the bay area behind the property and see the bay and ocean. On a nice day in the middle of the summer it must be something.
After my trip to the Hereford Lighthouse at 111 North Central Avenue, I drove through the neighborhood to see the changes in the town. Even though Hurricane Sandy did not affect the Wildwood’s the way it did other shore towns there has been a lot of building in both North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest with the edges of Wildwood proper going through the change.
All these towns are being knocked down and rebuilt with newer homes and businesses. Here and there are traces of the old Wildwood but slowly the towns are coming into the modern age with new condos and homes being built replacing the small shore houses of the 50’s and 60’s. Even the old motels that catered to the tourists are slowly disappearing which is going to affect all of us at the convention as these places vanish. I could see that the towns are becoming year round communities.
For dinner for all five years of the Convention (2017, 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022), I went to my favorite restaurant in Wildwood, The Ravioli House and Bakery at 102 Bennett Avenue in Wildwood, NJ (see reviews on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). This has become my Saturday night in Wildwood tradition. I love their bakery which is located in the back of the restaurant which has a separate entrance.
The bakery has cases of Italian pastries that are all beautifully displayed and you just want to try one after another. I settled on a chocolate éclair ($3.00) just in time to spoil my dinner but what is wrong with eating dessert first? This delicious pastry was loaded with vanilla custard and topped with a thick layer of chocolate icing. There is nothing better but making a choice was hard. The custard doughnut that looked like a peach would have to be tried as well.
The Ravioli House at 102 Bennett Avenue in Wildwood, NJ
I managed to walk around a little before dinner and then went in for dinner at The Ravioli House for the second year in a row. It was loaded with fire fighting families and groups of people from the convention. The restaurant was busy that whole evening and I could tell that they were short on help.
It some time for dinner but I was in no rush. Dinner here is well worth the wait. I started with one of their garden salads ($3.95) which was loaded with fresh greens, cucumbers and tomatoes. No hot house vegetables here. The salad was crisp and nicely accented by the oil and vinegar dressing. For dinner, I had the Trio of Ravioli ($19.95) which ended up being a duo since they ran out of spinach ravioli. So I just had the meat and cheese ravioli which are freshly made in the restaurant and were as light as air. The meat ravioli were some of the best I have eaten.
For dessert, I had the Peach Custard Doughnut ($3.95), which was a doughnut, split in half, filled with cream rolled in sugar and liqueur to give it that peach color exterior. It was well worth the second dessert but was a little sweet to end the meal. I ended up talking to the owners daughter again who works the register. I swear it was like ‘Some Time Next Year’ visiting places I had last year.
The Bakery at the Ravioli House is amazing!
There was no Convention in 2020 because of COVID and in 2021, the Convention was a one day walk through where we showed our cards, went into the Convention Center, filled out our forms and voted. We exited the building and then signed in with the department representatives. That was the extent of the Convention. About fifteen minutes.
I got to bed early that night when I started to get tired after listening to the band at the King Edward Bar for a bit. I said ‘I’ll just lie down for a second’. I woke up at Midnight and then went back to bed.
My last morning in Wildwood was nice. I woke up early, checked out of the hotel and headed to the boardwalk for breakfast. I had walked around the Boardwalk the day before and passed Franconi’s Pizza at 3318 Boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ (See review on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com).
In 2018, 2019 and 2021, the owners were outside shoving menus into everyone’s hands in the three years I attended the Convention in Wildwood and one of the items on the menu was a breakfast special for firefighters for $5.99. I thought I have to try this. I was not disappointed in the three years I ate here and now look forward to visiting the restaurant every time I come to the Wildwood Boardwalk.
Franconi’s Pizza at 3318 Boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ
I have never had breakfast at a pizzeria on a boardwalk before but this is the standard that all should be set. The food was delicious! For $5.99, I got two pancakes, two eggs, two slices of bacon, a mound of potatoes and two slices of toast. The juice was separate. It was meal that could have fed two people and everything was delicious.
All the food was cooked in clarified butter and you could taste it in the scrambled eggs which were fluffy and in the pancakes which you could taste in the caramelization of the outside of the pancakes. I was so stuffed that I rolled out of the restaurant. It was one of the best breakfast’s I ever had out and I highly recommend it when walking the Boardwalk in Wildwood in the morning.
Don’t miss the breakfasts at Franconi’s; they are excellent!
In 2021, I had the number eight breakfast special, which was two slices of French Toast, two scrambled eggs, two pieces of bacon, two pieces of sausage and hash browns for $7.95 which included hot tea and coffee. The breakfast could have fed two people easily. The eggs still tasted the same with the wonderful flavor of the clarified butter and the French Toast was two big Texas Toast slices cut in half, so it was four big pieces. The French Toast was loaded with cinnamon and had the most wonderful, sweet, caramelized flavor to it.
In 2022, I was walking around the Boardwalk Saturday afternoon after a day of touring historical sites and the Cape May Zoo, and I wanted a snack before I went back to the hotel and relaxed. I would be eating dinner late, so it was no big deal. I stopped at Franconi’s again for a Meatball Parmesan hoagie ($8.95) and it was delicious. It was a seven-inch sandwich loaded with freshly made meatballs and topped with their delicious marinara sauce. It was the perfect late lunch and just enough where it did not fill me up when I was having dinner at Ravioli House.
The meatball sandwich at Franconi’s is excellent
In 2018 and 2019, it had cleared and was sunny and blue outside. It was a spectacular day to walk around the Boardwalk. The morning meeting went by quickly as I could see that everyone wanted to get out of there and go outside to enjoy the sunny morning. We started our meeting at 9:00am, voted for our new officers for the Association and were out by 10:30am.
Most people were outside walking around the fire equipment or walking with their families on the Boardwalk by the time I got outside. I took one last walk on the Boardwalk to stretch my legs before I left for Newark, DE for the Cornell versus University of Delaware football game (we lost 27-10 but not the blood bath of last year). So there was a distance to drive.
Cornell versus University of Delaware (We can’t seem to beat them!) Watch the game below.
I left Wildwood until ‘Same Time Next Year’ for the next convention. There are a lot more places to explore and restaurants to try. You never know what you will come across in a shore town.
NJ State Firemen’s Convention 2021:
In 2021, things had changed a lot due to COVID. The Convention went from a two day event to a one day walk through where all we did was get scanned in and then fill out the form to vote and get that scanned and then walk out of the convention center. Some people wore masks and some didn’t but we were not there long enough to worry about it.
I decided this year to make this a working vacation trip since I had pulled my back out and needed to catch up on trips down the shore to visit museums. I was going to stay at the Chalfonte Hotel again for two nights and do the walk through voting but on my way down to Cape May, I decided to visit many of the shore towns to visit their historical museums for my blog, VisitingaMuseum.com.
So my trip started early Thursday morning with my first stop being the Ocean City Historical Museum at 1735 Simpson Avenue in downtown Ocean City, NJ. It was a beautiful morning with not much traffic so it was easy to manage the trip into town. I forgot what a picturesque town Ocean City is when you enter it. It looks like a little New England town.
It took a bit to find the museum until I realized that it was part of the town’s Municipal complex and you had to go through the museum to enter it. It really is an interesting little museum. I liked the history of the shore town with its Victorian hotels, the progression of the Boardwalk over the years, the ship wrecks of the coast line and the exhibit dedicated to Princess Grace Kelly whose family used to vacation here during the summers. I was surprised when the Royal family visited as well when she came home (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).
After the visit to the museum, I walked down a few blocks to the shoreline where the Boardwalk was located and took a long walk down the length of the Boardwalk to see what was still open. My therapist suggested a lot of walking for me and that is what I did going all the way to the end and back. Still it gave me a chance to visit old businesses I had been to before.
I started with lunch at Manco & Manco Pizza at 816 East 9th Street on the Boardwalk. I love the pizza here and when I am in Ocean City, NJ this is the only place that I go. The sauce is well spiced and the pizza is always delicious. It has that nice tomato sauce swirl that is so famous at the Jersey Shore and they use a high quality mozzarella cheese on their pies. The place was mobbed that day and the line was ten deep while the other places on the boardwalk were quiet (see my review on TripAdvisor.com).
After that, I walked back down the Boardwalk to Johnson’s Popcorn at 1360 Boardwalk for a small popcorn for dessert. I had tried the caramel corn many times before and this time I decided on the Cheese popcorn. It was amazing! (See my review on TripAdvisor).
You could tell it was a combination of Cheddar and what tasted like Blue Cheese as well. It was so rich and savory you could taste it in every bite. They really loaded on the cheese coating. I happily munched on it on my way back to the car needing several napkins to wipe up what I could not lick off. What was nice is that they give it to you in a bag so the extra popcorn spills over and you get extra. This more than filled me up on my next trip to Sea Isle City Historical Museum.
Sea Isle City was really quiet the afternoon that I was there and it seemed that the whole town had rolled up its sleeves and then left. There were not that many cars on the road so it was easy to get around. It took a bit to find the Sea Isle City Museum as it was tucked into the Municipal Building behind their library. It was a small historical society manned by very dedicated and helpful volunteers. They looked like they were happy to see a visitor and explained the whole museum to me.
They had a very interesting ‘Wedding Dresses through the Ages’ exhibition when you walked in which displayed residents of Sea Isle City’s wedding costumes from the late 1880’s through today which the volunteers said were very popular. There were various historical displays of kitchens, fishing equipment and items from old hotels and restaurants. There were also binders of families that lived here for generations. Outside there was a Diamondback Turtle Refuge and a small botanical garden dedicated to the former President of the museum.
I knew I would never get to Stone Harbor in time to see their museum so I took my time to drive to Avalon, NJ. There was no one on the road but me so it was a quick trip and I got to the Avalon History Center at 215 39th Street in time to have about an hour to tour the museum. It was just the right amount of time.
Since I got there before it closed, I was the only one in the museum and a staff member greeted me and let me know if I had any questions that he would be in the back. After that, I was alone to enjoy looking at the displays.
The Avalon History Center is similar in displays to the other shore historical societies. There were displays on local hotels and restaurants, a small history on the growing music scene from the 1960’s and 70’s, the formation of the railroad head at the shore and big display on the Beach Patrol, which is a big part of the culture at the shore. It recorded the competitions over the years and its importance in the town. Outside these is a small garden and out buildings to explore.
After I left Avalon, I followed the Shore Highway to Wildwood and wanted to walk the Boardwalk there have a stretch before I arrived at the Chalfonte Hotel for the evening. So with a brisk walk with the ocean air, I found myself back at Franco’s again at 3318 Boardwalk indulging in a Cheesesteak ($8.95). I would highly recommend it. It was the best cheesesteak I had eaten outside of Philly (as Wildwood caters to the Philly crowd and probably knows their way around a cheesesteak). The sandwich was on a fresh chewy roll loaded with thin steaks and a large portion of Cheese Wiz on top. It was like heaven in each bite.
The cheesesteaks at Franconi’s rival anything in Philly
I got to my room at the Chalfonte Hotel later that evening. I have to say that I have been staying at this hotel now for almost six years and I have never seen it so run down. It just looked like they had not done any renovation work in a long time. I was not impressed by the peeling paint and the stained carpets in the second floor hallways. My room had water damage in the corner of the room (I could not believe that they would sell this room).
Voting the next morning took only fifteen minutes. We showed our ID’s, filled out the form and had them scanned and walked out of the Convention Center. Done in minutes and then off to the Boardwalk again to visit restaurants and stores.
Breakfast again was Franconi’s and I swear their breakfasts are the best on the Boardwalk. You can not top their French Toast platter with scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage with a side of Hash Browns (see review on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com).
I spent the rest of the morning walking off breakfast by touring the entire Boardwalk and then walking back. From here I visited a series of museums that have been on bucket list for a long time. I also stopped by a series of farms along the way to look for the elusive Beach Plum jelly.
My first stop was the Stone Harbor Historical Museum at 9410 Second Avenue in Stone Harbor, NJ. This delightful little museum has an extensive collection of artifacts packed into a small space just off Downtown Stone Harbor.
The museum like many along the shore has the history of their tourism, the competition in the Beach Patrol, artifacts from homes and families from the area and even had a 9/11 exhibition that was donated from the Stone Harbor Fire Department chief (See reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).
Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum at 500 Forrestal Road
The next museum on my list was the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum at 500 Forrestal Road in West Cape May. This unique museum at the Cape May Airport explains the region’s role in WWII. Serving as an Army base during the beginning of WWII, there were stories from locals about their time in the armed forces, how the area catered to our uniformed soldiers and their stories about training in the area and then all the vehicles from planes to trucks. Plan to be here for a few hours (See my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).
In 2022, after the convention was over, I visited several other historical sites that I was not able to visit or have time for in June for my Father’s Day weekend visit.
Dennis Township Old Schoolhouse Museum at 681 Petersburg Road in Woodbine, NJ
I finally got to visit this interesting little museum in historic Woodbine, NJ. The museum is surrounded by a neighborhood of historic homes, so the town has a nice feel to it right in the middle of a farming community.
There is a display on the basket making industry that supplied all the baskets for fruits and vegetables for the farmers in New Jersey, the shingle making industry that prided itself on making the shingles for Congress Hall in Philadelphia and the renovation of a local cemetery of historic significance to the town.
There are pictures of the historic Methodist Camp that was located here, a display on local Veterans and their artifacts, pictures of home management on the farm and in rural New Jersey, an antique pipe organ and pictures of the local renovation of the Ludlam family cemetery. There is a little bit of this and a little bit of that displayed at the museum and well organized in this former one room schoolhouse. The docents were also really nice.
There were also displays of period furniture, farm equipment, clothing and accessories, the town’s police and fire departments and a complete library on the town’s history and a place where people can come to study their genealogy. There is a lot packed into this small museum.
The Museum of Cape May County at 504 North Route 9
The Museum of Cape May County changed their hours the week before and now it is only open on Wednesday and Friday afternoon, so I had to plan to visit it another time when I was in the area. I was a little bummed because it had nice grounds that I took a moment to walk. That is when I went back to the Cape May Zoo (see above) which was a madhouse that afternoon on a beautiful sunny day.
The Church Landing Farm was my last stop on my way home. I had tried to visit it on my last trip, and it had already closed for the day, and it is open just one day a week. Still this small historical society should not be missed.
The farmhouse is decorated in period furniture from Victorian times to the 1920’s and shows the life of gentleman farmer, Daniel Garrison, who built the house between 1840-1845. Most of the furnishings were donated with the exception of the Garrison family portraits which were donated by the family,
Where the museum really shines in in the individual sheds that have different themes to them. One is a Fishing Hut to move around during the season, a one room schoolhouse, one dedicated to the local high schools with uniforms and spirit items including football pictures and trophies. My favorite was of the local amusement park that closed in 1969. The artifacts of the park were really interesting that included old rides, signs, prizes from the games and pictures of the park in its glory. These were fascinating. I walked the grounds again before I left and went back to Hudock’s for some ice cream before the long trip home.
In 2021, on my way back from visiting all the museums, I stopped at two farms in search of Beach Plum jelly, something of a local delicacy in Southern New Jersey. My first stop was the Beach Plum Farm which is part of the Cape Resorts. I love coming here for breakfast (See TripAdvisor review) and to just look around at the gift shop and the grounds. It has really expanded over the years.
I also took quick tours of the Lewes Maritime Museum at the Cannonball House at 118 Front Street in Lewes before I took the ferry to Cape May and the Museum of Fine Arts & Popular Culture at 507 Washington Street in Cape May, but they were rushed, and I did not get to really enjoy them. The Lewes Maritime Museum was loaded with information on the Revolutionary War and the local fishing industry. The Museum of Fine Arts & Popular Culture displayed work of the Surrealists and featured many items from the curator’s collection and works that he had done himself.
The gift shop had an array of gift and food items to choose from and the small restaurant even expanded since my last visit two years ago. There are many fresh and frozen items to choose from as well as gourmet gift products and even fresh eggs from their chickens. There were lots of breakfast and lunch items on the menu.
Beach Plum Farm at 140 Stevens Street
Beach Plum Farm shop
I love walking the grounds and looking at the garden beds, chicken coops and looking at the crops which were in their last stages of growing as the summer grew to close. It has gotten very commercial since my first visit about ten years ago but the farm has grown more popular and has really expanded. I could not find the elusive jelly.
Down the road is the more authentic working farm, the Rea Farm and their Market. This is more of what you would think of as a farm. The fields are in the back and the owner of the farm’s wife works the farm stand market. She and I talked for almost an hour about life on the farm and the Farm Act and protecting precious New Jersey farm land.
It was here that I found the Beach Plum jelly ($6.95) which I thought was reasonably priced. Mrs. Rea said that she made the jelly herself and that all of her fruit jams and baked products are made at the commercial kitchen they had in the old farmhouse. They also too had a nice selection of baked products and fresh eggs. It was less fancy as going to Beach Plum Farms but just as nice of an experience.
Dinner that night was back at the Ravioli House in Wildwood, NJ. Because of COVID and the number of people at the Convention, the restaurant had set up a tent with outdoor dining in their parking lot next to the restaurant. Thank God it was a nice sunny warm night that was perfect to dine out.
I love the food here and before dinner I managed to sneak in a piece of pastry from their bakery. I had one of their St. Joseph custard filled pastries ($3.75) about an hour before dinner. I should have waited though as it did put a slight damper on dinner. Still I was starved.
The Ravioli House bakery is located behind the restaurant
Since it would be both lunch and dinner for me and I planned to head back to the hotel after dinner for a long walk, I decided to have a big meal when I saw some of the things on the menu that I had not tried in my last few trips to the restaurant.
I started with the Chicken Pastina soup ($4.25) which was a flavorful chicken stock loaded with fresh vegetables, chunks of chicken and Pastina, which are small pieces of pasta in the shape of a thumb nail. The soup was rich in chicken flavor and was the perfect starter for a cool night.
Since I was starved, I decided to try the Trip Around Italy ($26.95), which was a sampling of all the pastas on the menu that included two stuffed shells, four ravioli and a big portion size of both Gnocchi and Spaghetti along with a large meatball and a piece of sausage. All the pastas were fresh and made in house and the meatballs and sausage were also made in house along with their fresh red sauce.
The dish was amazing but filling. I was starved and somehow I ate everything including a whole bread basket of fresh rolls to dip the sauce in and butter. The pastas were delicious and the cheese filling in the ravioli and stuffed shells was a combination of parmesan, ricotta and mozzarella which felt creamy and you could taste the complexity of the mixture. When the waitress came to collect my plate she could not believe I ate everything on the plate plus the rolls. She said most people take half of it home.
The ‘Tour Around Italy’ can feed two people
After a dinner like that I did not need any dessert and ended up taking a long walk around the neighborhood to work it off and digest. I think I walked about a mile and a half from the restaurant to the Boardwalk and back.
In 2022, I was back at the Ravioli House again for my annual Saturday night dinner. Since I had had the meatball hoagie a few hours before, I did not want to have a huge meal like in the past. I decided on the Chicken Piccante, which was two nicely sized chicken breasts sauteed in butter, lemon and wine and topped with capers. What was nice was it included a small salad to start with fresh greens and a light oil and vinegar dressing and a side of their homemade spaghetti with their flavorful marinara sauce.
For dessert, I had stopped in the pastry shop behind the restaurant and eyed the St. Joseph’s pastry and decided on that for dessert. The rich sweet filling with the rich pastry dough was a special treat for my last night at the shore.
The Chicken Piccante was delicious
I ran into the owner who mans the register every time I come on (her mother is supervising in the kitchen at 80) and reminded her of my previous visits. We were laughing over the bread story last year when a firemen’s son, (who was challenged), stole the bread off the table. She laughed and said for some reason she remembered that. When I left, I said, “Same time next year.” She seemed please that I have made this part of my tradition in visiting Wildwood.
I drove back to Cape May through the Wildwoods and could not believe how quiet it seemed. Most of the hotels in town were not full and even the Boardwalk seemed quiet that evening. It was busy but not like two years ago. I think most people voted and then went home. The hotels by the Boardwalk still had vacancy signs. When I arrived back in Cape May, their downtown was hopping.
The next morning I toured around Cape May and revisited some of the sights from the day before and walked down to the beach. It was so warm that people were hitting the beach and walking around downtown. I tried to go to Uncle Bill’s Pancake House again a few blocks away but the line was about fifty deep with families and a waitstaff that was hustling as fast as they could. So I walked a few blocks away and went to an old standby, The Mad Batter at 19 Jackson Street for breakfast.
Unfortunately it was the same thing but this time with young couples and older families waiting outside. I lucked out with the host and she let me eat at the bar so I was immediately seated and served. Breakfast as usual here was fantastic. I could not believe how fast breakfast came out as the whole restaurant was mobbed from the time I got there to the long line left when I departed.
The bar area at the Mad Batter at 19 Jackson Street
I had a Three Egg with Cheddar and Bacon and a side of home fries with rye toast. The bartender at The Mad Batter does mix a very strong Mimosa. The omelet was excellent and so well spiced. The hash browns had a bit of kick to them with the peppers. The service was excellent. When I left, the line was still long to get in.
On this beautiful morning, I left for the Cape May-Lewes Ferry to visit my mother for an overnight trip. I owed her dinner for her delayed Christmas present. So off I went taking the ferry again across Delaware Bay while watching the Michigan State-U of Miami Game. I did not even see the beautiful views as I was glued to the set. By the time we arrived at Lewes, DE we won the game.
The Cape May-Lewes Ferry can be a real treat on a sunny day
The evening my mom, her partner and I went to Big Fish at 20298 Coastal Highway in Rehoboth Beach, DE which was part of my mother’s Christmas present that we had not been able to plan since I had gotten hurt over the summer. It was a relaxing evening where we all indulged in their sweet Fried Shrimp platter and various appetizers. After three days of running around visiting museums, stores and restaurants for updates on my blog and visiting small towns and farms to add to these blogs, it was nice to just relax.
The Big Fish Grille at 20298 Costal Highway in Rehoboth Beach, DE
In 2022, I was visiting for an early birthday meal with my mom and Jane. Since I would not be seeing her again until December because of college, I took the two of them to Confucious at 57 Wilmington Avenue in downtown Rehoboth Beach.
We ordered a lot for dinner because we were all starved. We started off with delicious thin-skinned pork dumplings and pan-fried soft-shell crabs and for the entrees we ordered Mu Shu Pork (they make this so good!), General Tso’s Chicken, Spicy Singapore Noodles and the owner always sends something complimentary to the table, my mom’s favorite, Fried Rice. It was such a nice meal, and it was funny toasting my mother three months early.
The next day I took off for home but not after another visit to the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk. I had to have my Louis Pizza fix. Louis Pizza at 11 Rehoboth Avenue right near the Boardwalk and is the best place in town to get pizza. After a slice and a quick walk on the Boardwalk to enjoy the sunshine, it was back home again to answer calls and get back to work.
Built in the nineteenth century, the Chalfonte offers ‘the view from yesterday, genteel Southern-style hospitality, ornate gingerbread verandas line with comfortable rocking chairs and a constant sea breeze to rejuvenate and refresh. The Chalfonte’s distinctive ship-like profile, crowned by her Italianate cupola, now occupies nearly an entire city block. The hotel was built in 1876 by Civil War Colonel Henry Sawyer and was originally planned as a boarding house. Sawyer’s Chalfonte underwent most of its expansion between 1876 and 1909 and the present footprint is much as it was in 1909. This venerable Grande Dame by the sea still retains its Victorian Charm-louvered door to let the breeze through, Southern cuisine in The Magnolia Room and original antiques and fixtures throughout.
President Lincoln and the Chalfonte:
The history of the Chalfonte Hotel begins with a story that rivals “Gone with the Wind”. Sawyer arrived in Cape May in 1848 at the age of eighteen, a supporter of the Union side in the Civil War. He enlisted in a Pennsylvania regiment since a New Jersey one had not been formed. After three months service and rising to the rank of Captain, he returned home only to re-enlist in a New Jersey regiment. In June 1863, after being captured during a bloody exchange at the Battle of Brandy in Virginia, Sawyer was incarcerated at Libby Prison in Richmond.
In retaliation for shooting two Confederate Cavalry prisoners of war, the Confederacy proposed to execute two Union prisoners, drawn by lottery. Sawyer was on of the two selected in the lottery of death. When Sawyer’s wife heard new of her husband’s execution, she did not go into a state of morning, instead rushing cross country to Washington to meet with President Lincoln and beg for his intervention. As a result, Secretary of War Stanton warned the South they would execute two Confederates if they executed the two Union prisoners. Upping the stakes, one of the Confederate prisoners selected was the son of General Robert E. Lee. The situation ended with Sawyer being released in a swap with Robert E. Lee’s son. He resumed active duty and returned to Cape May in 1875 as a recognized war hero.
Having bought a parcel of land in 1872 at the corner of Howard Street and Sewell Avenue in 1875, Sawyer began construction of “Sawyer’s Chalfonte” (Chalfonte means ‘cool fountain’ in French; Sawyer’s reason for using the name is unknown). In 1876, Colonel Sawyer bought all the rest of the square bounded by Columbia, Franklin, Sewell and Howard except for the lot at the corner of Columbia and Howard except for the lot at the corner of Columbia and Howard.
Cape May’s inclination away from resort hotels in favor of the intimacy of cottages had already begun. This trend was sealed in the fall of 1878 when the city suffered yet another disastrous fire. Previous fires had seen the total destruction of the Mt. Vernon Hotel in 1858 and of more properties in 1869. While the fire of 1878 reduced Cape May’s count of hotel rooms from 2200 to 200 in a single night and marked the demise of large hotel construction in the rest of Cape May, the Chalfonte, standing unscathed beyond the fire’s reach was about to experience an unprecedented expansion.
The same year Henry Sawyer extended his then two year old boarding house down Sewell Avenue, adding nineteen rooms to his existing eighteen. The original residence and addition were significant improvement in architectural refinement over the pre-Civil War hotels. While in no way extravagant, the building had a simple dignified Italian form (some times known as ‘Cube Italian’ in Cape May) with a balanced plan and façade.
In spite of suffering the ravages of time and storm, with minimal foundations, the first three phases of the building are soundly built with an eye to graceful resolution of any geometrical anomalies. Sawyer owned the hotel for another ten years, selling it in 1888 after just thirteen years of ownership. He died in 1893.
Between 1888 and 1911 the Chalfonte was extended to its current size, adding another twenty three rooms along Sewell Avenue, enlarging the dining room and providing delightful architectural riddles for future preservationist to solve.
The University of Delaware versus Cornell Football game in 2018
Michigan State University versus University of Miami game in 2021: