Updated: Jun 18
In part one of my look at the historic Chalfonte Hotel I took a largely real time play-by-play recap of some of my experiences and impressions of Cape May's Chalfonte Hotel in present day. During my stay I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Cricket Satterfield whose family bought The Chalfonte Hotel in 1911 and ran it for over half of its 146 years.
As if rising up from the days of the Wild, Wild West: Sprawling out on both sides The Chalfonte Hotel at the corner of Howard and Sewell St is a sight that has greeted visitors to Cape May since 1876.
Have you ever stayed at an old hotel on vacation and wished you could spend the day wandering around it and it's grounds? Did you ever wish you could venture on your own personal magical mystery tour of said hotel with a ghost from its illustrious past as the tour guide? Imagine if you could and that the ghost is a living being not an amorphous apparition hovering above you in period clothing?
You may have missed out then but here's your chance to enjoy the experience of a tour of a nearly 150 year-old still fully open and operating marvel of a hotel without leaving home. It's offered by someone whose life has been intimately entwined with the hotel practically since his conception to boot.
The Satterfield's owned the Chalfonte for roughly eight decades so there's many a tale to tell. The saying goes "if these walls could talk" well since those tight-lipped walls aren't giving up the skinny on the hotel the next best thing is an interview and video tour with someone who was practically born inside them.
The conversation with Cricket was like that rare chance to sit on the back porch talking to your grandfather offering recollections, priceless glimpses into both the history of the venerable Chalfonte but also eras of America that have long faded into the rearview yet still holds sway over hearts and minds today. Although the interview started out in one of the hotel's sitting room it evolved into an impromptu tour and history lesson of a beloved era in the hotel's history.
Let's take a look back at the Satterfield Years of The Chalfonte Hotel with Cricket and his wife Pat who has her own long history with the hotel.
Cricket gives a condensed history about his family, including how a tragedy led a Southern family to head north and purchase a hotel in 1911, the "Meenie" years at The Chalfonte and how the current owners, the Mullocks, have helped keep the hotel's spirit while getting it in step with the times.
Cricket on closing up the Chalfonte for the winter, Hurricane Gloria, Frog Hollow, and the Mullocks keeping the hotel a family business. Cricket's wife Pat joins in and discusses Cape May's origins and how it evolved, and the "shotgun" dining room.
Pat continues discussing the Magnolia Room and hostessing there. Cricket talks of their marriage under the willow tree, Luigi, North Carolina moonshine and the Tin House parties that brought people countrywide together Southern-family style. A hotel tour invitation is accepted.
The tour starts with Cricket talking about the painting of the Luistania above the lobby mantel, Henry's candy counter, the library, his grandmother Meenie who ran the Chalfonte for decades,the writing room and the decades-long Chalfonte connection to the publishing of the Si Swimsuit issue.
The Julie Campbell phone booth in the Chalfonte reading room served as mission control for many a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
Cricket shows us "the Dorm" where young male employees once lived (it is now the King Edward Bar) and the pre-bar party "playroom".
The tour returns to the King Edward Bar with a look at its origins and connection to pre-casino Atlantic City.
Cricket takes us through the old Bellman's Quarters, tells how it was heating the hotel in the old days, Theodore, his Army days,about ghost of Theodore in dream solves boiler quandary, keeping boiler going after a Saturday night on the town, the Secret Garden and its unique sink and tub sculpture.
Coming in Pt. 3 the conclusion of the Cricket Satterfield interview and tour of the Chalfonte with stories of Tin House parties, Meenie, moonshine runs, memories of Helen, Clementina, and Lucille, plus a trip to the Cuopla and a look at the majestic Chalfonte and its spacious green grounds from the outside.