The Angel of the Sea was built around 1850 as a "summer cottage" for William Weightman, Sr., a Philadelphia chemist who, as managing partner of Powers & Weightman, introduced quinine to the United States as an anti-malarial drug. Built as a single structure, the house originally stood on the corner of Franklin and Washington Streets where the Cape May Post Office now stands.
In 1881, Mr. Weightman decided that an ocean view from the broad porches of his "cottage" would be appreciated by family, friends and guests. To accomplish this goal, he hired a number of local farmers to move the house to a piece of property on the corner of Ocean and Beach Avenues, near where the Marquis de Lafayette now stands.
The farmers discovered the house was too large to move as one unit. Not wanting to lose the winter work, they decided to cut the house in half, move it in sections and then reconnect it after the move. Their task took all winter long, pulling the sections on rolling tree trunks with mule and horse power! Unfortunately, after both halves of the house were moved to the new location, the farmers discovered that, although their mules and horses were quite adequate for "pulling" the house, they proved totally ineffective in "pushing" it back together.
Summer was close upon them, and Mr. Weightman would soon be returning to Cape May. The farmers enclosed the sides where the cut had been made, renovated as best they could and hurried back to their farming chores. The results of their efforts are the two buildings as they stand today.
The house remained in the Weightman family until Mr. Weightman's death in 1905. During the next 50 or so years the Weightman Cottage, as it was called, was used as a hotel, guest house and, during one period, a restaurant.
In 1962 a powerful Nor'easter ripped through New Jersey and devastated the city of Cape May. Referred to by many as the Storm of the Century, it destroyed much of the town including Convention Hall and the boardwalk. Miraculously the Angel survived, but not without considerable damage. The massive rebuilding that followed the storm cleanup called for the two houses to be torn down to make room for a parking lot. They were saved from this fate when they were purchased by the Reverend Carl McIntire and moved (this time on flatbed trucks) to their present location on Trenton Avenue. From 1962 to 1981, the houses were used as a dormitory for students from Shelton College and to board employees from several nearby inns. During this time they received very little maintenance and in 1981 they were declared uninhabitable. Virtually unwanted, this once magnificent structure was left abandoned to vandals and the elements until December of 1988.
About that time, John Girton, a builder and developer, and his wife Barbara crawled through a window to check out the soundness of the buildings. Although all of the windows were broken out, walls had collapsed and many of the porches and stairways had rotted, it appeared the houses could be saved! Based on what they found, the Girtons purchased the property and began renovations in January, 1989. Time was money and John Girton led his crews seven days a week around the clock to put the Angel back together. At times, as many as 75 people were working on the site during a 24 hour period. At the end of one shift, one painting crew would get off the scaffolding and another would get on it.
A trailer set up in the backyard housed a fully functional cabinet-making shop. There artisans and carpenters would find bits and pieces of the original building and piece them together. They then recreated on-site all the gingerbread detail, wall brackets and windows, copying the original designs they found. The first of the two buildings opened in July of 1989, only six short months after renovations had begun! One year later, the most complete Victorian restoration in New Jersey was completed. The total project cost approximately $3.5 million and was done with over 103,000 man hours of labor.
After its first two successful seasons as a bed and breakfast, the Angel of the Sea was acknowledged as one of the Top Ten B & Bs in the United States by two national bed and breakfast organizations. It also won the Historic Preservation Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, DC for renovation to historic specifications.
In the fall of 1995, John and Barbara sold the Angel to their oldest daughter, Lorie Whissell. Since then, Lorie has made numerous additions and upgrades to the inn, refurbishing many of the guestrooms and adding additional guest services. A new interlocking brick patio was created in the rear of the inn and the landscaping was extensively redesigned and brand new deck was installed on the first floor porch. Flat screen TVs have been placed in many of the rooms and the Angel now offers guests wireless internet access.