Cape May, NJ hotel fire, Sept 1856


From the Philadelphia Bulletin, Sept. 6.

CAPE ISLAND, N. J., Sept. 6, 1856.
The mammoth Mount Vernon Hotel, at this place, took fire last night at a quarter to 11 o'clock, and was entirely consumed. The other hotels escaped uninjured.

The origin of the fire is unknown. Mr. CAIN, the lessee of the house, was residing in the building, and had retired previous to alarm of fire. His son, PHILIP CAIN, Jr., escaped from the building by leaping from the second story window, but was badly burned.

With the exception of the son, the whole of Mr. CAIN's family perished in the flames.

The following is a list of those lost: PHILIP CAIN, Sr., the lessee, ANDREW CAIN, MARTHA CAIN, SARAH CAIN, and Mrs. ALBERTSON.

The charred remains of Mr. CAIN were found this morning.

The following are the latest particulars:

Mr. PHILIP CAIN, Sr., with Col. FRAK T. FOSTER, of this city, were the proprietors of the ill-fated hotel. Mr. CAIN resided at Vincentown, N.J., and went to Cape Island the present season for the purpose of opening the hotel. He was 65 years of age.

ANDREW CAIN, his son, was about twenty years of age. MARTHA was in ther seventeenth year, and SARAH was but thirteen.

Mrs. ALBERTSON was thirty-five years of age. She was a widow. She had gone to the island to act as housekeeper at the hotel.

The elder Mr. CAIN leaves a wife and several children at Vincentown. Mrs. ALBERTSON also resided there. Young PHILIP CAIN is about 18 years of age.

The Mount Vernon was built by a company of gentlemen, at a cost of $125,000, upon which there is not one cent of insurance. The building was first occupied in 1853; but Messrs. CAIN and FOSTER did not become the lessees until the past season. The hotel was celebrated for its immense size, and for the superior accommodations the building afforded to guests. The interior was well finished, and the apartments were larger and more comfortable than usual at watering place hotels.

Although the hotel, in its late condition, was capable of accomodating 2,100 visitors, it was not finished at the time of its destruction. It was designed to have the building occupy three sides of a hollow square, or court yard, and the front range and one wing were up. One wing had never been commenced. The building was constructed entirely of wood; it was four stories in height in the main, with four towers, each five stories in height. Three of the towers occupied the corners of the building, and one stood midway of the only wing.

In addition to these towers, there was an immense tower six stories in height in the centre of the front. The entire structure, both outside and upon the court-yard, was surrounded with wooden plazas, that extended from the ground to the roof, with floors at each story. The wing was aqarter of a mile in length, and the front covered nearly an equal extent of ground. The dining room, which was 425 feet long and 60 feet in width, was capable of accomodating 3,000 persons. There were 432 rooms in the building. It was claimed that the Mount Vernon was the largest hotel in the world.

In addition to the main building there was a stabling for fifty horses, carriage-houses, tenpin-alleys, &c.

Melancholy as the disaster is, it is a most fortunate circumstance that the fire did not occur during the bathing season. There were no guests in the house at the time, and Colonel FOSTER, the surviving proprietor, was in this city.

The Mount Vernon stood at a considerable distace from the other houses on the Island, or the destruction of property would have been still greater. Had the flames communicated to the more densely built portions of the town, Cape Island would have been probably laid in ruins, as the hotels and other buildings are all of the most combustible description, and there is no fire apparatus in the place.

There was a tank in the centre tower of the wing of the Mount Vernon capable of holding twenty thousand gallons of water. The ater was forced into it by means of a steam engine.

The furniture of the house belonged to Messrs. CAIN & FOSTER. It was valued at $94,000, upon which there was no insurance. The total pecuniary loss by the conflagration will not fall short of $150,000.

The New York Times, New York, NY 8 Sept 1856