A Diamond in the Rough No More



A Diamond in the Rough No More

by John Linnington


If you were to look at a municipality in New Jersey that has an Airport, an Aviation Museum, a Historical Village, a State Park, a Lighthouse, a Fisherman's Wharf, world class Marinas for sailing and luxury yachts, two huge Wildlife Management Areas, a Ferry Terminal, Beachfronts on the Bay as well as the Atlantic Ocean, Vineyards and the greatest east coast inlet to the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay where would you be?  You would be in Lower Township of course.  Lower Township is the most exciting municipality in New Jersey by far.  Adjacent to Cape May and Wildwood, a resident can say that they are five miles from everywhere.  In addition to all of this the township is the main flyway for migratory birds, making it an ideal location to host the World Series of birding every year, as raptors and pipers make their way to and from the Arctic Circle. 

Sunrises over the Atlantic and sunsets over the Delaware Bay are the best there are. That is why Lower Township's slogan is "The Home of the World’s Best Sunsets".   Being surrounded by water lends to some of the best fishing on the East Coast. Making it the perfect home to one of the country’s largest fishing tournaments, the Mid-Atlantic $500,000. 

With the evolution of these offerings over the years it is no surprise that our township has grown from a quiet fishing village to the largest municipality in Cape May County.  The earliest habitation in the township was a direct result of the historic landing of the Mayflower in the mid 1600's.  The proprietors started a whaling village on the bluffs of what is known today as Town Bank and Cox Hall Creek.  However, the whaling industry proved unsuccessful. In order to continue its growth, the area in general was moved into the chicken, turkey, and farm pursuits.

The township was generally developed in sections, starting in Villas and North Cape May.  The old Villas was originally everything from Virginia to Atlantic Avenues on the west side.  It was developed by a chicken farmer from Vineland named Joseph Millman.  His continued efforts developed areas such as Miami Beach (North part of Villas) Tampa Avenue to Miami Avenue. The East side was subsequently developed and then development started in a southern direction.  Most of those properties were 16' x 24' bungalows set on piers and sold for as little $1,000. They were summer cottages and geared toward weekend fishermen.

As the chicken farms were vacated and schools and churches were developed new areas blossomed.  Ellery Bowman stepped into the west side of the Villas and developed everything south of Fulling Mill Road all the way to Greenwood Avenue, in an area known as Villas Manor.  Carl Mitnick, President of the National Home Builders Association, decided to take on the area we know as North Cape May.  He was told that he could not do any development without city water, so he started his own water company, built North Cape May and turned the utility over to the township.  He was one of the most brilliant men that I have had the privilege to spend time with man to man.

Shortly after that event, Ellery Bowman and Joe Roop, Mayor of the township decided to build the Lower Township Municipal Authority in 1972 which allowed smaller lots sizes and led to the creation of Bayside Village on the west side from Village Road to Cape May Beach.  Cape May Beach was breaking loose too.  Cape May Beach is the four block area off the Delaware Bay between Bayside Village and Cox Hall Creek.  Initially it was nothing but a gravel pit but was ultimately developed by Herman and Milton Tolz (Streeter Company).  It is still one of the most sought after areas of South Jersey because of its proximity to the Bay front and its tranquility.

Lower Township stretches to the base of the George Redding Bridge in Wildwood, where Shawcrest Island exists and was developed by Richard Shaw.  It is a cluster of stationary mobile units, a marina, condos, and a restaurant all on the intra-coastal waterway.  We also occupy all the land out of Cape May in Both directions.  Going west you can run down to Sunset Beach, see the Lighthouse and look for Cape May Diamonds on the Beach.

Going East on the Ocean Drive, after you have lunch at the Lobster House at Fisherman's Wharf, the SaltWater Cafe at South Jersey Marina, or Lucky Bones on Cape Island Creek, you will pass Utsches Marina, Canyon Club Marina, Breeze-Lee Marina, and the Harbor View Marina and Restaurant you will head to Diamond Beach.  Diamond Beach is home to the east coast’s richest real estate including the Grande and Icona Resorts.  This area is situated on the Atlantic Ocean at the tip of Wildwood Crest, and while it is only six blocks long Diamond Beach features some of the best private amenities in the country.

Lower Township is also home to some of the best residential subdivisions in the state, Tranquility Park (Mitnick and Bowman), Cape Woods (Bowman), Summer Circle (Bowman), several more in the Breakwater and Erma area (Long Brothers), and of course, Erma Park located along the Route 9 corridor.  There are properties for every budget, whether you want to make Lower Township your permanent residence or your seasonal oasis.

Having been born into a second generation real estate and insurance family in 1957 and working in that industry for 42 years, I have witnessed a lot of change and growth. Be assured that if you are looking for a place to call home look no further … you’ve found it right here in Lower Township.


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