Thursday, December 13, 2018

About West Cape May

West Cape May, formerly known as Eldredge, is one of the four jurisdictions that comprise Cape Island in Cape May County and was incorporated as a Borough in late 1884. The Borough was home to Mayflower descendents, former slaves, riverboat pilots and whalers. The Borough’s history goes back to the time of the Lenape Indians and several buildings date to the Colonial period. The area has a rich agricultural history which continues to be celebrated each year with a summer farmers’ market, and strawberry, tomato and lima bean festivals. It was once known as the “Lima Bean Capital East of the Rockies.”

The Borough has reported ties to the Underground Railroad and has been home to numerous African Americans. From 1881 to 1931, the Hastings Goldbeating Company was located in the Borough employing women to pound one-inch strips of gold into gossamer-thin sheets used for decorative arts. Women still did the “booking” of gold leaf sheets until 1961. A plaque indicating the location of the factory can be found on Goldbeaten Alley. It was this business along with real estate speculation and subdivision of the land that led to the Borough’s incorporation in 1884.

The historic core of the Borough was placed on the National Register of Historic Places along with sections of the City of Cape May in 1976.

This Historical background was provided by the History Committee of West Cape May, A New Jersey non-profit organization.

The History Committee is an educational organization established in 2003 to “preserve, promote and present for educational purposes the history of West Cape May.”

The exhibit, “Picturing the Past,” has been made available to the public in Borough Hall. It is the first major project of the committee. A survey of the historic buildings is under way, along with archival research and interviews on various aspects of the history. A self-guided walking tour brochure is in production and should be available in 2004

The Committee is looking for volunteers, for the loan of photos and memorabilia for future exhibits and for people willing to be interviewed about any aspect of the Borough’s past.