Cape May began hosting vacationers from Philadelphia in the mid 1700s and is recognized by the United States government as the country's oldest seaside resort. It became increasingly popular in the 18th century and was considered one of the finest resorts in America by the 19th century. In 1876 a five-day-long fire destroyed thirty acres of the town center. Replacement homes were almost uniformly of Victorian style. As a result of this and of more recent preservation efforts, Cape May is noted for its large number of well-maintained Victorian houses — the second largest collection of such homes in the nation after San Francisco. In 1976, the entire city of Cape May was officially designated a National Historic Landmark (Cape May Historic District). It is the only city in the United States wholly designated as such. That designation is intended to ensure the architectural preservation of these buildings.
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