“Why don’t you go up to see the cupola,” was usually the first thing I heard as a child when visiting my mom while she worked the desk at the Carroll Villa Hotel. The response would always be the triumphant sounds of my brother’s and my feet rumbling up the stairs, around the corner, through the door and up into my favorite part of the entire hotel, the hidden gem of the Carroll Villa, the cupola. Standing there in awe of the views, a three hundred and sixty degree panoramic vista of the tops of Cape May’s iconic Victorian charm with the salty blue Atlantic’s sea breeze rushing towards us, the cupola was, and still is, a highlight of any time I’m at the Carroll Villa.
For those of you that don’t know, a cupola is an elaborate dome structure built at the top of a building’s highest point. Cupolas may range in size from small and simple, only providing enough space for a child to stand inside the capsule-like edifice, all the way to large ornate structures which can be accessed via a stairway from the inside of the building it sits atop. The type of cupola with an attached staircase, like the one at the Carroll Villa, can be called a belvedere or a widow’s walk. The term widow’s walk comes from the idea of mariner’s wives watching for returning sea vessels from within their home’s cupola. Cupolas first originated as an architectural crown for Minarets, which are tall, decorative spires in Islamic culture, in the 8th century. The age of Victorian architecture, which Cape May is famous for, saw an explosion in the popularity of cupolas due to their ornate, decorative style, with some cupolas being large enough in size to be considered an entire additional floor in the home!
Just like many of the spots at the Carroll Villa Hotel and Mad Batter Restaurant, the cupola has a history of quirks and charm. Over the years the cupola has been home to more than a few of the hotel’s staff who needed a place to stay over the summer with the morning sun shining through the windows to wake them each morning. I’m not sure whether to call it a cupola or a penthouse at this point! Don’t worry though; the cupola is currently vacant of anything outside of summer sunshine and remarkable views.
Our cupola is definitely a treat for a time to sit back, relax and soak in the sights of Cape May for a bird’s eye view, and it’s just snug enough for a romantic moment or two with a loved one looking out across the roof tops to the ocean. So whether you’re an eight year old boy with your brother rowdily scampering up stairs (hopefully not disturbing too many guests) or just someone looking for a private spot to relax; make the climb up to the cupola, it’s truly a sight to behold.
~Ron @ the Carroll Villa