Emlen Physick Estate is a Victorian house museum in Cape May, New Jersey. Built in 1879 at a cost of $15,000, this 18-room mansion archives the detailed history of Cape May’s Victorian era, architecture and lifestyle. This architectural marvel was designed and built by Frank Heyling Furness (1839-1912) for Emlen Physick Junior (1855-1916), a physician and scion of a famous Philadelphia family. Philadelphia native Furness was named one of America’s Top 10 Architects by the American Institute of Architects. As one of America’s great symbols of stick-style Victorian architecture, this mansion attracts more than 56,000 visitors each year.
Cape May’s Victorian History
Cape May’s Victorian architectural influence began sadly after a fire leveled much of the town in 1878. Rebuilding began when the Victorian era reached its height, so new homes built during the reconstruction of the city had a Victorian style. Over the years, the magnificent Victorian homes deteriorated and efforts to preserve them began when Cape May was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976. The city began to restore and preserve these historic homes, with some remaining as residences, and others have been converted into bed and breakfasts such as the Manoir du Sud. Tours in and around the Emlen Physick Estate are available, and there are plenty of places to see and things to do.
Emlen Physick Estate offers home tours that help visitors understand Cape May’s colorful and spooky Victorian heritage. Admission fees for tours are different, and visitors can book them from the estate’s website or call management.
Clueless at the Physick Estate
This tour reconstructs the Criminally Insane House, where three murderers are serving life sentences. However, one of them was charged and the visitors had to decide which one should be exonerated. This tour is titled “The Exoneration”. Adults are charged $25 and children ages 3-12 $20.
Taste of Cape May Kitchen Tour
Visitors see where family chefs prepare home-cooked meals in five splendid Cape May homes. Intricately designed kitchens are dazzling and inspiring. The tour includes tastings of delicious dishes from some of the best commercial kitchens in Cape May County. Adults participate in this tour and are charged $30.
Historic Hauntings Combo Tour
On this hour-long evening tour, visitors ride through the historic district on a trolley and hear haunting stories about Cape May. Tours include the Physick House Museum, where visitors experience Cape May’s only apparently haunted Victorian house museum to learn about Victorian spiritualism. Guides also take visitors on the Cape May Ghost Tram Tour to Physick House and explain the paranormal methods used by Victorians and modern-day paranormal investigators. Adults are charged $30 and children ages 3-12 $20.
Combo Trolley Tour / Physick Estate
An immersive two-hour tour that includes a guided trolley tour of Cape May’s historic district and a guided tour of the Physick House museum to help visitors appreciate Cape May’s rich history and architecture. The unique Victorian streets visitors see on trolley tours illustrate why Cape May is the only town designated as a National Historic Landmark. This tour also includes visits to the first and second floors of the Physick House Museum and the Carriage House Carroll Gallery exhibit. Tour tickets can be purchased by contacting management at (609) 884-5404 or by email at [email protected]
Physick Estate Children’s Tour
On this tour, kids learn about what life was like over 100 years ago on this half-hour guided tour of the Victorian House Museum, suitable for ages 5-10.
Cemetery, Ghosts and Mansion Combo Tour
On this 2-hour evening tour, guides recount tales of ghostly activity at the Physick House Museum and bizarre Victorian burial practices in detail. It begins with a trolley ride to the historic Cold Spring Presbyterian Cemetery to see Dr. Emlen Physick Junior and his family graves. In contrast, their visitors hear frightening electronic voice phenomena (EVP) of spirits that the guides have recorded. Inside the Physick House, there are tours to rooms where visitors hear more from executive vice presidents and learn more about the activities that take place there. Staff and guides also answer questions from visitors. This tour costs $40 for all age categories.
Visit of the floors
Guided tours are offered to visitors on the first and second floors of the Physick House Museum. On these tours, visitors learn about how the Physick family lived, worked, and spent their free time, and learn about the detailed and beautiful interior decor of the Victorian home. The tour costs $20 for adults and $15 for children ages 3-12.
Visit of the magic and mysterious house
Victorians were enchanted by mystery and illusion, and on this 30-minute tour, visitors enter specific rooms associated with this. Touring visitors learn about Harry Houdini, a favorite of Victorian audiences, and his acts of escapism, Ionia, the Belgian goddess of mystery revered by Victorians for her magic, Sigmund Neuberger, the magician known as The Great Lafayette, and the Pepper’s Ghost illusion and much more. Tickets for this tour are $15 for children ages 3-12 and $20 for adults.
Visits to holiday homes
During holidays, other special tours offered to visitors are:
- Christmas tours by candlelight
- Evening Yuletide House Tour
- Visit of the Physick family’s Christmas house
- Lighter Christmas Tour
- Visiting holiday hostels
Other places to visit
The Emlen Physick Estate neighborhoods have other historic places to visit and dine like:
Tours of the Emlen Physick estate include seasonal visits, so visitors are advised to first contact Cape May MAC (Museums + Arts + Culture) who run the estate, for further details such as hours and cost of entry. admission before visiting.