The Way We Were: 9 Years Ago in the New York Times

Once McCarthy's Hotel, then Cape Charles Hotel, now Hotel Cape Charles. (1930s penny postcard)

Once McCarthy’s Hotel, then Cape Charles Hotel, now Hotel Cape Charles. (1930s penny postcard)

Cape Charles Wave

September 5, 2013

This week marks the 9th anniversary of the New York Times feature article “Waking Up Cape Charles.”  The story is a useful and interesting benchmark of how far the town has come, how much things remain the same, and how history repeats itself.  Although a 10th-anniversary retrospective would be the most appropriate, we just couldn’t wait another year.  So here are excerpts from the article published September 3, 2004, by Tim Neville and annotated (in italics) by the Wave for today’s reader:

In 1991, houses in this town on the Eastern Shore of Virginia were so cheap that when Barbara Brown found one just four blocks from the Chesapeake Bay, she bought it with a credit card. The house — two stories and 1,500 square feet with three bedrooms — was in terrible shape, said Ms. Brown, who paid $15,000 for it. . . . Ms. Brown, a psychotherapist, gutted the place, rehabbed it and sold it in 1996 for $65,000. . . . Today it might sell for $250,000 or more.

That house, 123 Peach Street, has a tax value of $156,800 today. Barbara Brown has remained faithful to Cape Charles, and last year opened a new office on Mason Avenue, as reported by the Wave (click here to read).

[T]he economic boom is hard to ignore. Houses and commercial buildings that stood falling apart five years ago now sell for $250,000 or more. New homes boasting breezy British West Indies architecture — many approaching the $1 million mark — pop regularly out of the sand. McCarthy’s Hotel, closed for decades, is scheduled to reopen by Thanksgiving under a new owner who is restoring it to its 1930’s roots.

The “restoration” at 235 Mason Avenue, known as Cape Charles Hotel, looked nothing like the 1930s penny postcard pictured above. The Cape Charles Hotel ultimately failed, was sold by the bank, and underwent another extensive remodeling, opening in 2012 as Hotel Cape Charles. [Read more…]