About the Mall
The shops of Cape May’s Washington Street Mall are privately or family owned. Several have been in the same families for generations. Awnings are still cranked down to shelter merchandise from the morning (or evening) sun. Merchants can still be seen sweeping the sidewalks in front of their shops. Ice cream parlors, sidewalk cafes, and restaurants are everywhere offering oases of refreshment. Flowers abound. In the summer, the Mall is the place to explore after dinner and before the bands start. Enjoy the many fine stores and restaurants on Cape May’s Washington Street Mall during the winter months, when shopping is a pleasure. With knowledgeable merchants, many special services and a large variety of merchandise at great prices you’ll discover Cape May’s year round charm.
During the Holiday Season, our Mall is a living Currier & Ives print with sparkling garlands, wreathed gas lights, lighted trees, and candle lit windows. Shop Cape May at Christmas to avoid the crowds and blandness of the super malls, and to find unique and different gift ideas. You’ll be pleased with what you find.
In addition to its charming old buildings, the Cape May’s Washington Street Mall boasts several architecturally significant buildings, including the New Jersey Trust and Safe Deposit bank building, 1895 (526 Washington); and Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church (now Star of the Sea), 1911 (Washington and Ocean). Cape May’s Historic District contains the largest collection of wealthy Victorian summer cottages and hotels in existence.
By City ordinance, “No dog shall be permitted on the Washington Street Mall, under any circumstances, whether or not controlled by a leash.”
History of the Mall
Cape May rescued its downtown for posterity with a farsighted move: in 1970-71 (dedicated June 24, 1971) the city closed Washington Street to traffic between Ocean and Perry Streets, filled in the street, placed park benches everywhere, and planted the newly created walking mall with trees, shrubbery, and flowers. Then, in May 1976, the Secretary of the Interior designated the entire city of Cape May as a National Historic Landmark District, thus ensuring the continued protection of our quaint, historical shopping mall.
The little downtown has been seriously threatened several times by devastating fires. The fire of 1878, which leveled five solid blocks of Cape May’s oldest hotel and homes, took with it the Centre House Hotel (c. 1850) which stood on the ocean side of Washington Street between Jackson and Perry Streets. The Center House Hotel was replaced with store-front buildings, extending the shopping district to Perry Street. Then, in December 1976, in the midst of Christmas revelry, fire destroyed the other side of the same block, taking 301 through 311 with it. The block was quickly rebuilt with attractive shops that were open for business-as-usual for the following summer season.
Today, it is a delight…to enjoy, to stroll, to shop; an old downtown that has turned its back on the automobile and maybe even on time itself. Be sure to visit Cape May’s Washington Street Mall and Historic District on your next visit to the Jersey Shore.