1002 Washington Street: Inn at the Park
Visitors to Cape May come and go, but the houses, at least in the historic district, tend to remain. These structures, most over a century old, may change hands, change businesses, or change color, but they remain standing. And sometimes they don’t even change color.
Notice the Inn at the Park at 1002 Washington Street, a two-and-a-half story Queen Anne structure still sporting some of the same plum color envisioned by one of the home’s former owners decades ago.
“When Marion Taylor owned this place in the 90s, she had a beauty salon here,” said current owner Susan Spatocco, speaking of one of the home’s former owners. “And it was Marion who first turned it into a bed and breakfast. She named it the Plum Palace, and that’s why you still see all the purple color around here.”
Today, the Inn at the Park is a six-room bed and breakfast operated by Carl and Susan Spatocco, who have owned the property since 2016 after purchasing it from the former owners and innkeepers, Mary Ann and Jay Gorrick. And yes, purple and plum-colored highlights can still be found at the inn, in the landscaping, in the building, and even in the food.
“We have several businesses in town including the peanut butter store, the olive oil store, and the cheese shop, and several years ago we were looking for a property on the island. The Gorricks were foodies, and they were fans of our olive oil company. So, we would see them, and we did olive oil tastings at their place and that’s how we got to know them. And they were looking to retire.”
The two couples discovered they shared a liking for good food.
“When Jay bought the inn from Marion in 2000, he dropped out from being a financial guy in New York to being an innkeeper. So, he went to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and took a few classes so he could come down here and run the inn and cook. Later, they were not happy about all the B&Bs going to private homes,” said Carl. “They put a lot of love into this place for a lot of years and built a large customer base, and they didn’t want to lose that. So, we decided to keep it as a B&B when we bought it. They could have sold it to anybody, but they sold it to us.”
This Queen Anne style frame house features a rectangular main block, but includes a dramatic two-story, octagonal-shaped tower on the north end. The fishscale shingles separating the first and second floor are painted plum in honor of the inn’s former name. The recessed porch on the south side is remarkable for the balustrade consisting of turned posts and turned balusters.
“The house is in great shape. We have beautiful stained-glass windows that we’ve restored, and the chestnut staircase is beautiful. There are a lot of original pieces in the house. The original part was built in 1893, then the middle part was added probably in the mid-20th century. There were horse stables that became garages and are now three rooms.”
The Inn’s Victorian main house has a comfortable living space and dining room as well as three guest rooms. The Sunset Suite on the second floor features a queen-size bed and separate sitting room. The Lighthouse Room on the third floor has a fireplace and king-size bed, and the Captain’s Quarters on the second floor has stained glass windows and an outside deck.
The house sits in a quiet neighborhood, just a short walk to everything, including the Emlen Physick Estate and the Washington Street Mall.
“For a long time, the house was a hairdressing salon,” said Carl. “We meet people all the time who tell us ‘Hey, we used to get our hair cut in your living room.’ Marion Taylor called this place Hair-looms. We still have the sign up in the attic, I keep threatening to restore it and put it on the lawn. In the innkeeper quarters we still have the brass plates where they would plug in the beauty chairs. There was still a hair washing sink when we bought it. When the Gorricks bought the place from Marion, the Kiwanis Park behind us had been put into place, so the Gorricks changed the name to the Inn at the Park.”
Carl said the house, which faces west on the corner of Washington Street and Madison Avenue, was built in 1893 by Henry Walker Hand—the Hands being a prominent family on the island. A 2007 historic survey describes the house as a “contributing” element within the historic district due to retention of historic elements. It further mentions Mary A. Hand as having lived at the address during the 1900 census with her daughter, son-in-law (an oyster dealer), and their children as well as another son who was a druggist.
“I’ve spoken with [local historian] Jamie Hand, a descendant of Henry. Jamie knows a lot of local history and let us know Henry was a schoolteacher and the editor of the local newspaper at the time, as well as a boat captain. Henry served in the Civil War, then had his house built and lived here until the 20s.”
The cottage in the back offers three rooms including the Bella Nicole Room with a two-person whirlpool, the Joanna Rose Rooms room with a skylight, and the Samantha Ann Room with king-size bed and fireplace.
“We’ve done, and continue to do, a lot of updates and upgrades, but we use as many of the original elements as we can, including an old farm sink and some period furniture. There’s a spice cabinet that’s original to the house, and there are two old floor-to-ceiling butler cabinets with carved doors. It’s a really neat house with a lot of character and we’ve enjoyed the process.”