History of Antoinette’s Then and Now
Antoinette, the Person - Yes, there was a real Antoinette (1891 - 1986).
Antoinette was born in Newark, New Jersey of Italian descent, and was married at the age of 15 to Dominic Colasurdo, an emigrant who passed through Ellis Island. Antoinette gave birth to nine children and had 14 grandchildren and 29 great grandchildren till her death in 1986. For over forty years, she was a frequent vacationer at Cape May. She grew to love the town and its people. In 1963, she became the owner of 509 Columbia Ave then known as Central Cottage. This house is now part of the Queen Victoria property and is now call the "Prince Albert".
At 79, she became the oldest parking lot attendant in Cape May at the Presbyterian Church on the corner of Hughes and Decatur Streets. Antoinette retired at 89. While she lived in Cape May, she often sought medical aide from her physician, Dr. Hughes, who was a descendent of a prior owner of the property, Humphrey Hughes. 717 Washington Street was opened in June 1991 in loving remembrance of Antoinette.
Antoinette's, the Property
In 1991, 717 Washington St, was purchased by Deanna Brown and her sister and brother in law, Judi and John Anderson. The house was bought from a local bank President who lived in this house as his private residence. Although the house was in excellent structural shape, it was totally bare from wall to wall. Within six weeks, in July, 1991, Antoinette's Guesthouse was opened for business. This house provided daily and weekly Victorian Apartments and Suites to the public, thus filling a need for family friendly accommodations.
In tracing the history, Sue Leaming, a local historian, provided key information about some of the prior owners of Antoinette's. "If the house was built in 1867 its seems that Humphrey Hughes VII and his wife Eliza Eldredge Hughes were the first owners." Humphrey Hughes VII was a descendant of Humphrey Hughes, the first, who purchased 243 acres of land on Cape Island, N.J. from Simon Charles in 1689. Therefore this makes this home one of the descendants of the Hughes Family, the earliest owners of land on Cape Island.
A later owner, 1929 and 1935 was Jere E. Chambers. He was Postmaster at Cape May 1933-1936. In 1938 Elizabeth Stevens was the mother of Ralph Townsend Stevens (1894-1952). Ralph and his wife Charlotte owned the house 1940-1964. Mrs. Stevens was very civic minded. She was president of Cape May Board of Education for many years. Regent and active members of DAR, Mr. Stevens was an influential politician. He owned the Cape May Sand Co., was a Cape May County Freeholder from 1926-1951 and State Assemblyman 1923. Stevens rented out apartments in this house. They lived at 30 Gurney Street at their home (now known as the John Wesley Inn).
Antoinette's, the Innkeeper
In late 1993, Deanna decided to change careers from a Computer geek (25+ years) to a full time innkeeper and open Antoinette's year round. Cape May became her permanent home. Prior to moving here, most of her time was spent as a commuter from North Jersey to New York City and White Plains, NY. She started as a computer programmer trainee and worked her way up to middle management, holding a vast variety of computer related positions.
If Deanna was going to make a life for herself here in Cape May, she decided to meet people. She quickly got involved in the community as an active volunteer and leader. She has been on the board as Director for the local Chamber of Commerce since 1994; served as Treasurer of the Cape May County Art League and Greater Cape May Historical Society (GCMHS); was President of the GCMHS from 1997-2000. She was active as Vice President of the South Jersey PC Users group. In 1994, she became the founding President of the Victorian Guest Accommodations (VGA) promoting family oriented Apartments and Suites.
In September 1998, Deanna officially became the sole proprietor of Antoinette's and took over the partnership from her sister, Judi and John. While running a 70 window, three story building, Deanna has learned to appreciate home maintenance skills. She has completed over 240 hours of training in carpentry, plumbing, electrical and general home maintenance at their local Technical Vocational school. These skills have helped her become more proficient at maintaining Antoinette's, but she has a long way to go.
Deanna has become very adept at hand crafting from creation of Victorian Lampshades (self taught) to upholstery work of over 90% of her furniture. Friends have helped her with all the handmade curtains and drapes that add that special home feel throughout the house. She has now begun providing onsite computer training to her guests while they spend some special time away from home. Deanna recommends you bring your own computer to learn on it directly. Package deals are available to Antoinette's guests.
Antoinette's, the Senior Addition
During the winter of 1996, Deanna was joined by her 80 year old father Fred who only planned to stay the winter. He totally fell in love with the town and rarely left it to visit his other four children. Occasionally, you would find him sitting on the front porch chatting with all the local people and enjoying talking to our guests. Until he lost most of his eyesight, Fred picked up a hobby of assembling wooden doll houses and boat kits of all sizes. A passerby would stop and look at his dollhouses that line the front porch at Antoinette's. It is now a local stop for our trolleys and horse drawn carriages day and night. Fred frequently would love to entertain our guests on the front porch and make their stay memorable. Well, after 7 years, Fred moved to North Jersey to live with his daughter in the house where he raised his family. In July 2004, We lost Fred at the age of 88. His models oulived him.
Antoinette's, the Stories Shared
When you go away on vacation, do you just want to curl up and read a good book. Well, Antoinette's provides you with such an alternative. For the children, they can choose from over 100 storybooks that are their's for the asking. For the adults, each of the guest suites has a collection of newsletters and short stories that has become a favorite pasttime. The most memorable is "Life with Antoinette" written by the Innkeeper in 1994. The stories were portrayed to her by Antoinette's daughter Maria. It is a wonderful collection of short stories of life experiences of Antoinette. How Dominic in 1896, her future husband, fell in love with her at the age of 5 and pursued her till she finally married him at the age of 15. This is just one of the many stories shared in this storybook.