The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC) is a multi-faceted non-profit organization that promotes the restoration, interpretation and cultural enrichment of greater Cape May for its residents and visitors. With a membership of more than 3,200, a paid staff of 160 and some 300 volunteers, MAC offers a year-round calendar of tours and special events that serves more than 300,000 people each year. Through its sponsorship of cultural and heritage tourism, MAC has helped transform Cape May from a "summer only" beach resort to the country's leading Victorian theme destination.
MAC was formed in September, 1970 by a small group of Cape May citizens with the express purpose of rescuing the 1879 Emlen Physick Estate, an 18 room mansion, from demolition. Their campaign to preserve not only the Physick Estate but Victorian architectural treasures throughout Cape May has played a vital role in revitalizing the nation's oldest seaside resort.
During its heroic "pioneer" phase, MAC was staffed solely by volunteers, who repaired the roof, sanded and painted, reglazed windows and restored the grounds of the unique Stick Style mansion. Early fundraising efforts included guided walking tours of the historic district, interpreting Cape May's Victorian heritage. Soon, trolley tours and historic house tours were added. Equally important, MAC's founders launched a series of special events that are still celebrated: the Victorian Fair, begun in 1971; a Victorian Weekend instituted in 1973 that has now expanded to a 10 day Victorian Week, always starting on Columbus Day Weekend in October; and since 1974, Christmas Candlelight House Tours, which put Cape May on the map as a major holiday destination.
After its first decade of explosive growth and expansion, MAC made the decision to hire a paid professional staff of tour guides and administrators. Also in the 1980s, MAC undertook its second major restoration effort: the 1859 Cape May Lighthouse. The tower of this historic structure, which had been closed to the public for almost 50 years, reopened its doors in 1988. MAC also restored the Carriage House at the Physick Estate, with its first floor transformed into a gallery of changing exhibits, as well as home to a museum shop and the Carriage House Tearoom & Café, and its second floor hayloft adapted as office space. The 1990 launch of the annual Cape May Music Festival has also brought MAC renown as one of the region's leading presenters of classical and classic music. MAC's most recent project was the restoration and interpretation of the World War II Lookout Tower on Sunset Boulevard. The tower is now open to the public and includes a Wall of Honor recognizing local veterans.