For several seasons prior to 1880 very few Sundays had passed without the services of the Episcopal church being read either morning or afternoon at Sea Grove, later renamed Cape May Point. These services were held wherever accommodations could be secured; sometimes in a cottage or in the parlors of the hotels that graced the waterfront. Gradually the number of Church people increased, and during the summer of 1879, the "propriety" of building a church was talked of. It was suggested that a "fine, yellow pine frame" (as it states in our original records) for sale after the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, might be made available for the purpose. During the winter of 1879 & 1880, the frame was purchased by the Rev. W.R. Stockton, shipped to Cape May Point, and erected there at the corner of Lake Dr. and Harvard Ave. This location proved unsuitable as it was cut off from the ocean breezes and too far from the hotels. With much effort on the part of the founders, the Rev. Enoch H. Supplee, the Rev. William R. Stockton, the Rev. H.P. Hay, and the Rev. William H. Graff, the "frame" was moved on July 8, 1880 to a newly purchased site nearer the water. Here on St. James Day, July 25, 1880, though not complete in all details, the church was formally opened. A "Committee of Management" was appointed by Bishop Scarborough to act as a vestry. It consisted of the four founding clergy and several others. At one of their first meetings, it was decided, that since the Rev. Mr. Stockton had taken the early steps for the new church, and his home church in Phoenixville, PA was named St. Peter's, this new church should be called St. Peter's by-the-Sea. Services were held in the little church both morning and afternoon on a Sunday and during the week with good congregations. In those early days many clergymen owned cottages at the Point and at one time as many as seven were in the chancel besides Bishop Scarborough. The altar cross at the time was simply two crossed pieces of wood which the young ladies of the church lovingly entwined with wild flowers for the services.
In the Fall of 1881, the church was again moved. This time to the corner of Cape Ave. and Beach Drive. It was found to be too close to the property line and had to be moved again 20 feet. At last St. Peter's took its proper place, really now by the sea. (It should be noted here that this lot is now several blocks out in the ocean.) In 1896, due to the encroachment of the sea, the second site of the church was repurchased, and for the safety of the little church, it was moved back to its former location. In 1903, it became again necessary to move and the triangular lot on which the church now stands was purchased for $500.
The original Centennial building was just the main body of the church including the clerestory, pocket doors at both ends, and pocket windows. Upon erection as a church, the chancel was added with outside steps and a small porch on either side of it. The bell was donated in 1882 and the belfry built in 1883. The yellow pine lining of the inside walls was completed in the winter of 1885-1886. Pews replaced the original 100 chairs in 1888. Since then, the present sacristy was added, the store room (originally the choir room) was built in 1953, and the new choir room, sacristy extension and bathroom added in 1965.
The church, this "temporary building" built for the life of the Centennial only, has survived well here in Cape May Point. A disastrous fire in April 1908 that destroyed five buildings close to the church only scorched a little paint on its outside. The March 1962 storm that pounded New Jersey hit Cape May Point severely. Several buildings at the beach opposite the church were washed away with not a trace to be found. Houses all around were battered in or lifted from their foundations; sea water, sand, and floating objects reached several blocks beyond Sunset Blvd; St. Peter's was surrounded by sand as high as the porch, and on top of the sand were twisted tin roofs, refrigerators, great heavy pilings, telephone poles, etc., but inside "there was not one grain of sand, nor one drop of water". It was an emotional experience amid the wreckage everywhere to find the church safe and unharmed.