Investing in our community

March 25, 2017


It seems to me that the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC) has been around forever. My earliest memories in the newspaper business in Cape May County included the voluminous press packets we would receive, detailing the trolley tours and other events MAC wanted us to publicize. And, of course, Cape May has been around forever. Or has it? A recently published article by MAC Board member and former Innkeeper Tom Carroll reminded me that that is not completely true.


Cape May, like other seashore towns, had fallen on hard times in the mid-20th century. Many of the once stately Victorian buildings stood empty and in disrepair. That all changed in the beginning of the 1970s with people like Tom, who had a vision for the town and was willing to invest in it. Timing, of course, is everything, as Tom pointed out. The town’s lack of popularity also meant low property values, enabling those early investors in the Cape May we love today to start the town on its road to recovery. Not that it wasn’t still scary for a young Coast Guardsman and his wife. The gamble was enormous, but we’ve all won on that bet.


A large part of Cape May’s renaissance was the growth of preservation and cultural organizations that worked hand in hand with the new homeowners and innkeepers, like the Carrolls. Having beautifully restored Victorian homes turned into B&B inns was a first step; the next was to bring people to fill the rooms and enjoy this no longer scruffy jewel of a town.


Carroll pointed out in his article that investing in your town is as important as investing in your home, your biggest chunk of personal property. After all, the two go hand in hand. As the desirability of your town increases, so too does the value of your property.


Here at MAC, we invest everything in the Cape May area. We do that in several ways. First, preservation is the heart of MAC, and you need only look at the Emlen Physick Estate, the Cape May Lighthouse and the World War II Lookout Tower to see that. But just as Tom Carroll and others like him knew that there needed to be a next step after preservation, so do we at MAC, and that’s where interpretation comes in, which leads to enrichment.


It’s all well and good to restore something, but then what do you do with it? Putting it under a glass just to look at it doesn’t do much for anyone. Opening its doors and telling its story does. That’s what we try to do each and every day. We open our doors at our three historic sites to both visitors and local residents to let them take a step back in time and enjoy the Cape May that once was.


Just as you protect the asset that is your home, so too should you support your town. One of the easiest ways to do that is by supporting non-profit organizations, like MAC and the many others that help make Cape May what it is today. For many, Cape May has been a favorite destination for generations. We want to make sure that everything that was so special to your parents and grandparents, as well as to you, is still here for your children and grandchildren to enjoy. Your support of Cape May is an investment in your family’s future. Let’s all be the visionary that Tom Carroll has been for the past 44 years. After all, he hasn’t stopped, so why should we?


-- Jean Barraclough is manager of publications & website at MAC