The Mainstay Inn’s history begins in 1872. Designed by the famous Philadelphia architect Stephen Decatur Button, it was originally established as a private gambling club. The buildings beauty and elegance was recognized by a writer for the Cape May Ocean Wave as early as June, 1872:
The New Club House – In the design on this model building which now adds to the attractiveness of Columbia Avenue, Mr. S. D. Button, the architect, has won himself additional honors…It is symmetrical in its proportions, airy and cheerful in its appointments, and finished in that unpretentious elegance so foreign to mansions of the shoddy order.
The Mainstay Inn was originally known as “The Clubhouse,” a 19th century pleasure palace, where gentlemen gathered in an elegant setting for gambling and other amusements. The Clubhouse operated until the late 1890’s when gambling was made illegal and Cape May was losing ground to Atlantic City, Asbury Park, and Coney Island in popularity.
In 1898 the property was sold to Frances “Fanny” Wistar Scott and continued the tradition of wealthy Philadelphians owning summer cottages in Cape May. In 1945 the property was sold to the Frank O’Brien family who had wonderful parties that Cape May’s older residents still remember. In 1949, Rev. and Mrs. John Pemberton bought the building and converted it to a guest house, The Victorian Mansion, which they operated until the summer of 1976.
Address194 Main St
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