The Mainstay Inn's history begins in 1872. Designed by the famous Philadelphia architect, Stephen Decatur Button, it was originally established as a private gambling club. The buildings beauty and elegance was recognized as important by a writer for the Cape May Ocean Wave as early as June, 1872. "The New Club House - In the design on this model building which now adds to the attractiveness of Columbia Avenue, Mr. S. D. Button, the architect, has won himself additional honors...It is symmetrical in its proportions, airy and cheerful in its appointments, and finished in that unpretentious elegance so foreign to mansions of the shoddy order."
The Mainstay Inn was originally known as "The Clubhouse," a 19th century pleasure palace, where gentlemen gathered in an elegant setting for gambling and other amusements. The Clubhouse operated until the late 1890's when gambling was made illegal and Cape May was losing ground to Atlantic City, Asbury Park and Coney Island in popularity. In 1898 the property was sold the Frances "Fanny" Wistar Scott and continued the tradition of wealthy Philadelphians owning summer cottages in Cape May. In 1945 the property was sold to the Frank O'Brien family who had wonderful parties that Cape May's old time residences still remember. In 1949, Rev. and Mrs. John Pemberton bought the building and converted it to a guest house, The Victorian Mansion, which they operated until the summer of 1976.
In 1972 the entire city of Cape May was placed on the National Register of Historic Sites. The Mainstay was one of sixteen buildings in the city selected to be recorded by The Historic American Buildings Survey. Architectural plans of the building and important historic details were carefully prepared and are now stored in The Library of Congress.
In 1977, Tom and Sue Carroll purchased the building and began an extensive restoration project. They opened a bed-and-breakfast, which they named The Mainstay Inn. In 1980, the neighboring property was purchased and converted into six additional rooms and the apartment. Known as "The Cottage" this classic Victorian's design is also attributed to Stephen Decatur Button and was originally built as a private summer home in 1870. The Cottage is adjacent to the Inn across a brick walkway that transverses a lovely garden with a Victorian fountain
Tom and Sue continued to own and operate The Mainstay Inn until April of 2004, when the properties were purchased by David and Susan Macrae. In March of 2014 the Inn was sold to the current owners, Pete & Esther Scalone of McLean, VA. Together with Longtime Innkeeper, Diane Clark, they continue the historic traditions and commitment to hospitality worthy of this special place.