Dear NJHM:

Can you tell me how Sea Isle City came into being?


Dear VA:

Your wish is our command! Sea Isle City in Cape May County began as a gathering place of Leni Lenape tribes, who would come over from the mainland to collect fish and shells. One of these tribes was the tribe of King Nummy who we covered in an earlier question. In 1692, Joseph Ludlam bought a strip of land that became known as Ludlam's Island. The island was stocked with cattle and sheep from the mainland (the animals had to swim across the waterway that separates the Island from the mainland) where they were allowed to roam free. The part of the Island that was named Ludlam Beach eventually became Sea Island City.

Ludlam Island was essentially uninhabited by people for almost 200 years after its purchase. The people of the mainland used it for hunting, fishing and other recreational activities, but there were no permanent settlers until Charles Kline Landis (see picture below) purchased the Island in 1880. Landis had already established the nearby Vineland in Cumberland County, and he dreamed of a beautiful vacation island by the sea. On a trip to Italy he was impressed by the old world charm and beauty of cities like Venice, and he was determined to recreate their ambiance at "Sea Isle City" (as he named it), though it was hardly a city at first. Sea Isle City became the second resort community in Cape May County, and canals and waterways were dug and many statues were imported from Europe and placed in appropriate places throughout town.

In 1882, Sea Island City officially became a borough in the County of Cape May. Houses and schools were built, and hotels began to spring up throughout the Island as it became connected to the mainland via the new railroad and roadway. Within a few years, Sea Island City was a prosperous and well-organized community that has continued to grow ever since. There were a few rough times (especially the 1920's and 1930's), but basically it has become what Charles Landis had dreamed; a vacation paradise.

Hope this helps, and let us know if you require any additional information.

Portrait of Charles Kline Landis

Portrait from "Sea Isle City, New Jersey - A History"



Sea Isle City, New Jersey - A History
By: Walter M. Sawn
Sea Isle City Tercentenary Committee, 1964