• lauraquinnwrites

Then & Now: Washington Street, Cape May, New Jersey


I'm still knee-deep in revisions for Book One of Thicker Than Water. That said, I'm pleased with the updates thus far and can't wait to bring this book baby into the world!


Feedback can sometimes be hard to digest. Other times, I'll get a comment that really touches my heart.


Like the beta reader who, upon finishing my original manuscript, went on to Google vintage photos of the shore based on my descriptions.


World building, or, re-building in this instance because I write #historicalfiction can be tricky. Give too many details and your work reads like a textbook. My goal is to always strike an even balance between plot/characterization and that of setting/time period.


I may not have a DeLorean, but today, I'm taking you Back to the Future so you can get a feel for what Washington Street Mall would've looked like for my characters versus how it is today.


First up is this 1908 patriotic view showing the corner of Washington and Perry Streets.



According to my research, the decorations were likely festooned as part of the city's Fourth of July preparations. I love the two children saluting in the street. They are about the same age that the Culligans would have been at that time, as well.



Pictured above is the original City Hall circa 1908. Built in 1899, the building housed the city's municipal court, police station, and fire department, and formerly stood at the corner of Franklin and Washington (where the Fire Museum stands today).



This 1918 postcard shows Washington & Perry a decade later. Note the garage sign in comparison to the 1908 view.


Buckle up, set your flux capacitor, and hold on: we're headed back to 2022!



My family and I spent a day in Cape May with friends over the kids' winter break. For those unfamiliar with the area, Washington Street (the whole town quite frankly) has the feel of Disney World's Main Street USA- but better, because it's not a recreation from Walt's childhood. It's real. Award-winningly so.


In fact, earlier this week, the Mall was awarded the esteemed designation of "Great Street" according to the NJ Chapter of the American Planning Association. No surprise here! Factoring into the APA's decision were the Mall's adjacent development, memorable character, and encouragement of social activity.



There's something to do or see for every member of the family. Hungry? Pubs like the Ugly Mug and Delaney's (among others) offer up scrumptious delights.


Or maybe, like me, you've got an insatiable sweet tooth. Check out Coffee Tyme and get your caffeine fix while you're at it. Trying to keep those New Year's resolutions? No problem! With two locations (the other being on Beach Avenue), this family owned & operated business also offers donations to recruits at the Cape May Coast Guard Community Foundation.


For those interested in the many walking and trolley tours offered via Cape May MAC, Washington Street hosts an Information Booth where you can purchase tickets.


Of course, no trip down the shore is complete without ice cream and candy (just be kind to your gums, kids, and remember to floss). To that end, you might enjoy The Original Fudge Kitchen, Fralinger's Salt Water Taffy, or Peace Pie ice cream sandwiches.


There are so many fine retailers on the Mall. I'd love to highlight them all but, since I'm already writing an actual novel, make sure you check the link up top before planning your visit. Our family never heads home without picking up something from Whale's Tale and Winterwood Christmas shop.


And then we have Della's Soda Fountain. One part soda shop, one part eclectic souvenirs, all #livinghistory. No place is quite so nostaglic.



While some aspects of Della's offer a sock-hop, 1950s vibe, given it's location, I couldn't resist reimagining the setting as Kennedy's Pharmacy in my Cape May trilogy.


My late grandfather serves as the inspiration behind the jovial Mr. Kennedy himself. With regard to prose, I tried to envision and recreate an atmosphere similar to Mr. Gower's store in It's a Wonderful Life.


Have you ever been to Washington Street? Tell me about your favorite stores in the comments.



*Vintage photography credit- Image of America: Cape May in Vintage Postcards by Don and Pat Pocher







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