Sea Isle City was founded in 1882 by Charles K. Landis, who was also the founder of Vineland, New Jersey. The main street in town, Landis Avenue, is named for the town's founder. The oldest building in Sea Isle City is The Colonnade Inn, a Victorian building dating back to the 1800s. From 1885 until 1924, Sea Isle City was the location of Ludlam's Beach Lighthouse. The structure was moved to the corner of Landis Avenue and 35th Street (3414 Landis Ave), and was a private residence (rental) for many years. A non-profit group, The Friends of the Ludlam Beach Lighthouse, was unsuccessful in its efforts to raise enough money to save the building from demolition by moving it to a new location and restoring it. It was demolished on September 21, 2010, to make way for new town homes.
The oil tanker MV Sea Isle City was renamed for this city when it was reflagged and registered in the United States in 1987 during Operation Earnest Will. It was struck by a Silkworm missile off Kuwait on October 16, 1987, wounding 18 crew members and seriously damaging the ship.
There have been many hurricanes and huge storms that have hit the small island of Sea Isle City, New Jersey. The storms of the 1890s, 1920s, and the 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane have been some of the worst natural disasters to hit the coast of New Jersey. The Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962, a major Nor'easter that hit on March 6, 1962, tops all other storms that have hit the area in the recent past, with three days of continuous rain. Many people evacuated in time to save their lives, but came back to find their homes and assets destroyed. Eventually, the only way out of town was the causeway, and when that flooded, rescuers had to use helicopters to evacuate the rest of the town. It was categorized as a "100-year storm," in which almost every beach front home or property was destroyed or damaged.
About a week later when the storm had subsided, Sea Isle City citizens moved back into their homes and began the needed revisions. As a result of the storm, a "dune line" was formed, and this caused beach front businesses and homes to move back from the shoreline an average of one block.
Sea Isle City has long been popular with summer visitors. In 2002, the printed message on its signature water tower was changed from "Welcome to Sea Isle City" to "Smile! You're in Sea Isle City". The "Sara the Turtle Festival" is one of the city's annual festivals, celebrating a fictional turtle named Sara. Aimed towards families with young children, the festival features live animal exhibits and face painting meant to educate children about the local environment. The city hosts a Polar bear plunge every February, holding the 19th annual event in 2013, featuring many participants dressed in costume.
In 1999, the city's only amusement park, Fun City, was closed and the land was sold for development of beach homes. In 2009, a new amusement park called Gillian's Funland was opened on JFK Boulevard by the bay as a public-private venture between Sea Isle City and neighboring Ocean City mayor Jay Gillian. Funland was permanently removed, however, following the 2013 summer season for financial reasons in part due to losses from Hurricane Sandy.
In 2011, Sea Isle City began a $14 million makeover to create a public corridor from the bay to the ocean. Plans included a new boathouse on the marina, installing a new playground and basketball courts on JFK Boulevard and erecting a pavilion and band shell at Excursion Park on the city's Promenade overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Sea Isle City became one of the first towns in New Jersey, along with Salem City and Egg Harbor City, to receive LED streetlights powered solely by wind and solar energy. The lights were installed at the Promenade at JFK Boulevard by the South Jersey Economic Development District and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city had a total area of 2.531 square miles (6.557 km2), including 2.169 square miles (5.618 km2) of land and 0.362 square miles (0.938 km2) of water (14.31%).
Sea Isle City is a beach town with most of its housing used for vacation rentals and second homes. It has a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) beachfront promenade starting at 29th street and ending on 57th street and several arcades, shops, restaurants and bars in the center of town. The epicenter of the town is 48th Street.
Sea Isle is not an "island city" as it shares its land on Ludlam Island with Strathmere. Neighboring Ocean City, however, is an island city as the entire land mass, surrounded by water, belongs to the town. Strathmere (located at the north end of Ludlam Island) is not part of Sea Isle City. It is part of Upper Township.
Unincorporated communities, localities and place names located partially or completely within the city include Ludlam Beach and Townsends Inlet (located at the south end of Ludlam Iisland).
Sea Isle City borders Upper Township, Dennis Township, Middle Township, Avalon Borough, and the Atlantic Ocean.
The 2010 United States Census counted 2,114 people, 1,041 households, and 646.5 families residing in the city. The population density was 974.5 per square mile (376.3/km2). The city contained 6,900 housing units at an average density of 3,180.8 per square mile (1,228.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 98.63% (2,085) White, 0.09% (2) Black or African American, 0.24% (5) Native American, 0.19% (4) Asian, 0.00% (0) Pacific Islander, 0.47% (10) from other races, and 0.38% (8) from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 2.41% (51) of the population.
Out of a total of 1,041 households, 9.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.0% were married couples living together, 8.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.9% were non-families. 34.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 16.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.03 and the average family size was 2.54.
In the city, 10.7% of the population were under the age of 18, 6.1% from 18 to 24, 13.2% from 25 to 44, 37.6% from 45 to 64, and 32.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 58.1 years. For every 100 females the census counted 97.9 males, but for 100 females at least 18 years old, it was 97.4 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $54,715 (with a margin of error of +/- $9,859) and the median family income was $80,219 (+/- $21,265), apart from Gio whose income was "undocumented". Males had a median income of $66,771 (+/- $34,710) versus $44,087 (+/- $6,534) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $47,174 (+/- $10,684). About 3.1% of families and 7.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 0.0% of those under age 18 and 3.9% of those age 65 or over.
As of the 2000 United States Census there were 2,835 people, 1,370 households, and 794 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,287.3 people per square mile (497.5/km2). There were 6,622 housing units at an average density of 1, 162.2/km2 (3,006.9/sq mi). The racial makeup of the city was 97.88% White, 0.28% African American, 0.39% Native American, 0.35% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.07% from other races, and 0.99% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.06% of the population.
As of the 2000 Census, 30.5% of Sea Isle City residents were of Irish ancestry, the 34th-highest percentage of any municipality in the United States, and sixth-highest in New Jersey, among all places with more than 1,000 residents identifying their ancestry.
There were 1,370 households out of which 15.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.2% were married couples living together, 6.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.0% were non-families. 37.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.07 and the average family size was 2.71.
In the city the population was spread out with 15.7% under the age of 18, 5.1% from 18 to 24, 20.8% from 25 to 44, 31.4% from 45 to 64, and 27.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 51 years. For every 100 females there were 91.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $45,708, and the median income for a family was $62,847. Males had a median income of $42,713 versus $31,375 for females. The per capita income for the city was $28,754. About 6.4% of families and 7.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.7% of those under age 18 and 10.2% of those age 65 or over.
As of July 1, 2007, Sea Isle City is governed within the Faulkner Act, formally known as the Optional Municipal Charter Law, under the Mayor-Council form of government by a mayor and a five-member city council. The mayor and council members serve four-year terms of office and are chosen at-large in non-partisan elections held in May. Either three council seats or two council seats and the mayoral seat are up for election in odd-numbered years. Prior to 2007, Sea Isle City had been governed under the Walsh Act form of New Jersey municipal government, by a three-member commission, starting in 1913.
As of 2016, the Mayor of Sea Isle City is Leonard C. Desiderio, whose term of office ends on June 30, 2019. Members of the City Council are Council President John J. Divney (2017), Council Vice President Frank P. Edwardi Jr. (2019), Jack C. Gibson (2017), William J. Kehner (2019) and Mary Tighe (2017).
Sea Isle City is located in the 2nd Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 1st state legislative district.
New Jersey's Second Congressional District is represented by Frank LoBiondo (R, Ventnor City). New Jersey is represented in the United States Senate by Cory Booker (D, Newark, term ends 2021) and Bob Menendez (D, Paramus, 2019).
For the 2016–2017 session (Senate, General Assembly), the 1st Legislative District of the New Jersey Legislature is represented in the State Senate by Jeff Van Drew (D, Dennis Township) and in the General Assembly by Bob Andrzejczak (D, Middle Township) and R. Bruce Land (D, Vineland). The Governor of New Jersey is Chris Christie (R, Mendham Township). The Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey is Kim Guadagno (R, Monmouth Beach).
Cape May County is governed by a Board of Chosen Freeholders consisting of five members, elected at-large in partisan elections to three-year terms of office on a staggered basis, with one or two seats coming up for election each year; At an annual reorganization held each January, the freeholders select one member to serve as Director and another to serve as Vice-Director. As of 2015, Cape May County's Freeholders are Freeholder Director Gerald M. Thornton (Middle Township, term ends December 31, 2016), Freeholder Vice-Director Leonard C. Desiderio (Sea Isle City, 2015), Kristine Gabor (Upper Township, 2017), E. Marie Hayes (Ocean City, 2016), and Will Morey (Wildwood Crest, 2017). The county's constitutional officers are Sheriff Gary Schafer (Middle Township, 2017), Surrogate M. Susan Sheppard (Ocean City, 2017), and County Clerk Rita Fulginiti (Ocean City, 2015).
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 2,060 registered voters in Sea Isle City, of which 340 (16.5%) were registered as Democrats, 1,090 (52.9%) were registered as Republicans and 629 (30.5%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There was one voter registered to another party.
In the 2012 presidential election, Republican Mitt Romney received 60.4% of the vote (916 cast), ahead of Democrat Barack Obama with 38.7% (587 votes), and other candidates with 0.9% (13 votes), among the 1,532 ballots cast by the city's 2,082 registered voters (16 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 73.6%. In the 2008 presidential election, Republican John McCain received 58.6% of the vote (977 cast), ahead of Democrat Barack Obama, who received 40.1% (669 votes), with 1,668 ballots cast among the city's 2,041 registered voters, for a turnout of 81.7%. In the 2004 presidential election, Republican George W. Bush received 61.7% of the vote (1,041 ballots cast), outpolling Democrat John Kerry, who received 37.0% (625 votes), with 1,687 ballots cast among the city's 2,177 registered voters, for a turnout percentage of 77.5.
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 81.2% of the vote (936 cast), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 17.9% (206 votes), and other candidates with 1.0% (11 votes), among the 1,172 ballots cast by the city's 2,033 registered voters (19 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 57.6%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 59.6% of the vote (753 ballots cast), ahead of both Democrat Jon Corzine with 32.4% (409 votes) and Independent Chris Daggett with 4.6% (58 votes), with 1,264 ballots cast among the city's 2,094 registered voters, yielding a 60.4% turnout.
Resident public school students had been served by the Sea Isle City School District until the end of the 2012 school year. Merger discussions with the Ocean City School District in 2008 ended after the Ocean City district indicated that it did want to accept Sea Isle City's tenured teachers, which it would be required to do under state law. Sea Isle City had been spending as much as $35,000 per student and hoped to see savings through the merger, even after adding in transportation costs. The Sea Isle City district graduated its last eighth grade class in June 2009 and with the 2010-11 school year, students from Sea Isle City started attending the Ocean City schools starting in fifth grade. As of June 30, 2012, Sea Isle City School District no longer operates, in the face of an order by the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education that was based on declining enrollment and budgetary issues.
All Sea Isle City students in public school for kindergarten through twelfth grade as served by the Ocean City School District. As of the 2014-15 school year, the district and its three schools had an enrollment of 1,390 students and 190.1 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 7.3:1. Schools in the district (with 2014-15 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are Ocean City Primary School (K-3; 384 students), Ocean City Intermediate School (4-8; 507 students) and Ocean City High School (9-12; 1,262 students).
Students from Corbin City and Upper Township attend Ocean City High School for ninth through twelfth grades as part of sending/receiving relationships with their respective school districts.
The city had a total of 33.06 miles (53.20 km) of roadways, of which 27.53 miles (44.31 km) were maintained by the municipality and 5.53 miles (8.90 km) by Cape May County.
Exit 17 on the Southbound Garden State Parkway in Dennis Township provides access to Sea Isle City via Sea Isle Boulevard which becomes JFK Boulevard. Landis Boulevard (County Route 619) follows the ocean, traversing 5 miles (8.0 km) across the city, from the Strathmere section of Upper Township in the north to Avalon in the south.
Turtle awareness is an important aspect in Sea Isle City. There are numerous signs in the city to watch for turtle crossings in order to prevent further endangerment of the species. One of the more common species of turtles located on the island is the diamondback terrapins. Due to recent coastal development natural turtle nesting areas have deteriorated. Therefore, the turtles create their nesting areas on highway embankments and are subject to be stuck by a motor vehicle. From 1989 to 1995 there have been a total of 4,020 turtles killed in Cape May Peninsula.
NJ Transit offers the 315 inter-city bus route that runs through the town three times a day and shuttles people to and from Philadelphia, and the 319 route to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan. However, due to weight restrictions on the Townsend Inlet Bridge, New Jersey Transit 315/319 bus service only stops on Central Avenue and JFK Boulevard. Service was previously suspended due to summer traffic until a deal has been reached. Sea Isle City use to have a trackless trolley service that operated along Landis Ave. Since 2013 Atlantic City Jitney has serviced Sea Isle City with a route running along Landis Ave from June through September.
Rail service was provided to the island by both the Atlantic City Railroad, a subsidiary of the Philadelphia and Reading Railway, and the West Jersey and Seashore Railroad, owned by the rival Pennsylvania Railroad. The Atlantic City Railroad's line was a continuation of its line to Ocean City, running across Corson's Inlet and through Strathmere. The West Jersey and Seashore Railroad tracks branched from the Cape May Line at Sea Isle Junction, and entered the city at 41st Street, from where it continued south to Stone Harbor. The train was in use from the early 1900s until the mid-1930s after the merger of the two railroads when the tracks were removed and the streets were paved due to increase use of cars.
People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Sea Isle City include:Richard M. Atwater (1844–1922), chemist and glassmaker, who served as mayor of Sea Isle City from 1913-1917.
Jeff Carter (born 1985), professional hockey player for the Los Angeles Kings.
Steve Corino (born 1973), professional wrestler who works for Ring of Honor.
Alexis Dziena (born 1984), actress.
Chris Gheysens (born c. 1972), President and Chief Executive Officer of Wawa Inc.
John C. Gibson (born 1934), former member of the New Jersey General Assembly.
Ann J. Land (c. 1933-2010), member of the Philadelphia City Council from 1980 to 1992.
Charles K. Landis (1833-1900), property developer in South Jersey, who was the founder and developer of Vineland and Sea Isle City.
Josh Lomberger (born 1980), play-by-play commentator with WWE.
John Stevens (born 1966), former defenseman who has coached in the NHL at various levels.