Under clearing skies, last Wednesday, approximately 150 people gathered to celebrate the opening and ribbon cutting of the newly renovated Mad Batter porch at the Carroll Villa Hotel on Jackson Street in Cape May.
When Harry Kulkowitz bought the Carroll Villa back in the 1970s, it was a Victorian seaside hotel that had seen better days. He envisioned the sprawling, European-style porch as a great place for friends to gather and enjoy amazing food and spirited conversation. And, for decades, that porch has lived up to his expectations – and then some.
The porch was a seasonal spot in 1976 when Harry and his partner Vickie Seitchik opened the Mad Batter, but, truth be told, the whole town was a Memorial Day to Labor Day resort, so an open-air, unheated porch worked well during those summer months.
The Mad Batter quickly became one of the most popular gathering spots in town, a restaurant known for an amazing, eclectic menu, music, art exhibits and eventually a great bar. But the porch, a favorite with just about everyone in town, was closed during the colder months.
All that changed this year, according to Mark Kulkowitz, Harry’s son, who now owns the Carroll Villa and Mad Batter along with his wife Pam Huber. The couple’s three adult children – Marta, Tessa and Kyle, collectively form the four generations that are part of the family business.
Local and County dignitaries were on hand to witness the official ceremony starting the 41st season of the historic hotel. “You don’t know me (speaking to Pam Huber)” Said Freeholder Marie Hayes, “37 years ago when my husband and I first dated he brought me to breakfast at the Mad Batter,” Hayes said. “I realized then what an iconic place the Mad Batter was at first glance,” she said.
Hayes presented Mark Kulkowitz and family with a resolution from the Board of Freeholders. According to Hayes a resolution was something preserved for very special occasions.
Bernadette Matthews, standing in for Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May President, Tracie Citcchitti congratulated the Kulkowitz family. “When my grandchildren come to visit in Cape May, they always want to have breakfast at the Mad Batter,” Matthews said.
“The porch has seen a lot of use – and abuse,” said Mark Kulkowitz recently as he walked around the ongoing construction area during the winter, obviously happy with his decision to turn the seasonal space into a comfortable, modern porch with all the charm of before, but with plenty of added amenities.
“The Carroll Vila has been one of the favorite spots around town,” said Cape May Mayor Clarence Lear. “with the renovation of the historic porch that’s sure to continue,” Lear said.
So, more than 135 years after the Carroll Villa was built, and more than 40 years since Harry Kulkowitz financed a $96,000 loan to buy the building, the Mad Batter – and the Carroll Villa – updated but preserved, continue to be an integral part of the history and fabric of Cape May, America’s First Seaside Resort.