County: Cape May
For as long as people have been taking vacations, they have been visiting New Jersey’s Atlantic coast for rest and relaxation. Many well-known municipalities began as destinations for summer recreation: Cape May, Atlantic City, Ocean City, Spring Lake, Asbury Park, Bay Head – the list goes on and on. For most of a century, it was grand shore hotels that hosted the summer throngs. But sadly most of these magnificent buildings are gone (such as the Christian Admiral Hotel in Cape May, which PNJ put on its 1995 list shortly before it was demolished), and the remaining few are in jeopardy. They are threatened by a combination of forces such as changing residential demographics, changing the taste in vacation destinations, and deferred maintenance. Their biggest problem is the simple but harsh economic reality that these properties are worth more redeveloped than they are as elderly hotels.
Virtually every remaining big hotel on the coast is experiencing some version of the problem. Some good examples are: the Warren Hotel in Spring Lake, which has been sold to developers who plan to build luxury homes on the land; the long vacant and much-larger Essex Hotel, also in Spring Lake, which is in the midst of a stalled conversion to housing; and Congress Hall in Cape May, which has been closed as a working hotel for several years.
Perhaps these few remaining jewels do not have to go the way of the Christian Admiral.
Adrian Scott Fine, Director, Center for State and Local Policy, National Trust for Historic Preservation
Michael Garrett, Cape May
Patricia Colrick, Preservation Alliance of Spring Lake, Inc.
112 Atlantic Ave.
Spring Lake, NJ 07762