Welcome back to the Voyage of DH! It has been almost a month since the last post, and I thought what better way to get this blog back on the road (pardon the pun) than with another trip to Cape May, New Jersey. Indeed, this blog could probably be renamed “The Voyage of DH: One Man’s Travel Guide to the New Jersey Shore.”This week we will go back in time to the Victorian era, so named for the years that occurred during the reign of Queen Victoria of England, from 1837-1901. Coming of age during the Victorian era, Cape May is filled with many buildings and homes that exemplify Victorian architecture, none more so than the museum I toured this morning.
I drove down to the shore on Saturday afternoon to meet my family for a long-overdue birthday dinner. Yes, my birthday was at the end of August, but due to a comedy of errors, we did not celebrate it until yesterday. Of course, what we lack in timing, we make up for with a great choice of restaurants, returning to Menz Restaurant, a family favorite.
Sunday morning I drove into Cape May to visit the Emlen Physick Estate, perhaps the preeminent example of Victorian architecture in Cape May, and indeed the entire state. Designed by Frank Furness, a renowned architect who created many buildings in Philadelphia, the house was built in 1879 for Dr. Emlen Physick. Dr. Physick’s grandfather was Philip Syng Physick, a man considered “the father of American surgery.” Among other inventions, Dr. Philip Physick created the stomach pump, his design is still the basis for stomach pumps used today. Dr. Emlen Physick, who inherited the family fortune at 21, commissioned the house which I visited today. He lived there with his mother and his widowed aunt until his passing.
The Emlen Physick Estate was sold to several private families after Emlen passed away (he never married and had no children), and then fell into disrepair, nearly being condemned in the early 1970’s. Instead of being knocked down for a new housing development, as some real estate developers had planned, the city of Cape May purchased the estate and now rents it to the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities (MAC), which has restored the house to its former glory. The 45-minute long tours are led by a guide, and reservations are strongly encouraged.
Of course, with Halloween arriving soon, I would be remiss if I did not mention a cool footnote about the house: many people claim that it has several ghosts that reside there still. Indeed, Cape May is a hotspot for hauntings, with many of the old homes, business, and hotels claiming that spirits live there. At the Physick Estate, among the ghosts that are claimed to live there are Dr. Physick’s aunt, his mother, and several of his dogs (via the MAC website). Boo!
The visit to the Emlen Physick Estate was informative and fun. My tour group had a great guide who was very knowledgeable and funny. At only $12 per person, it is also very affordable. Should you find yourself down the New Jersey shore, the estate is definitely worth a visit.
‘Til next time.