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In The Columns
Stars and Stripes Forever
July 18, 2013
Along the columns that mark the entrance to Congress Hall are four prominent banners that wave in the breezes coming off the Atlantic Ocean every July afternoon. Their pattern and style are reflected in the columns that keep them flying. In America’s First Seaside Resort the stars and stripes seem to hold a special sort of significance.
Out on the lawn a large wooden flagpole greets Cape May, recalling memories of Fourth of July celebrations past. In 1855 President Franklin Pierce attended Independence Day celebrations at Congress Hall, delivering a speech below the newly constructed columns that were built to reflect the stripes on Old Glory. Pierce would begin a tradition as three other sitting presidents found a summer home in Congress Hall. In 1896 Daniel Morgan, the Secretary of the Treasury, came to celebrate the flag and a new star that represented the addition of Utah as a state.
Last year, in 2012, the flag was raised on a wooden Adirondack flagpole in the very same spot that it stood in 1896 on the Grand Lawn. The event marked the tenth anniversary of the rebuilding of Congress Hall, and paid homage to the days of Mr. Morgan’s visit. With a history that spans nearly two hundred years, guests still pass beneath columns that have faced fire and destruction at various times, only to be rebuilt again to hoist the flag.
On December 27, 1861, Cape May was faced with the decision either to align itself with the Union of the North or to the Confederacy of the South. The town chose the North, and in this virtuous decision Congress Hall lost a great deal of its southern clientele. That March, a group of Confederate sympathizers attempted to raise a different flag—a flag with a single tree and a single star that represented the Confederate cause. This flag was taken down and burned in front of the post office in Cape May in an effort to support the Union cause. It is this united American spirit that survived the Civil War and today, in good times and bad, is reflected in the stripes and in the columns permeating Congress Hall.