Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.” And for the Ocean View Historical Society, the preservation of history is important when looking to the future.
“History tells our story. It reminds us of the past — the bad and the good. We can learn from both of those things that occurred with our ancestors,” said Carol Psaros, the outgoing president of the society, whose incoming leader is Ocean View resident and society member Barbara Slavin.
“We can learn from both of those things that occurred with our ancestors, and it can point us toward a better future. As with any community, there are so many stories that are worthy of being told that people can not only learn from but be inspired by, and help them move forward in a more energetic way — and in a more community-oriented way sometimes, too.”
The mission of the Ocean View Historical Society is to preserve and share the rich history of the towns of the Baltimore Hundred. Over the years, the society has developed a historical complex, located next to John West Park, which includes the Tunnell-West House, an 1860s outhouse and functioning water pump — which would have been the sole source of water for the home until the early 1930s — and a recreation of Cecile Steele’s 1923 chicken house, where the broiler chicken industry was launched.
On Saturday, April 22, beginning at 4:30 p.m., the society will host a dedication and yard party for its newest addition — the Evans-West House.
Located at 40 West Avenue, adjacent to the town park, the home was donated to the historical society by Carolyn Brunner and her son, Dan McCann.
The 1901 cross-gabled home will be open for touring, and officials will unveil the home’s National Register of Historic Places plaque.
“We’ve invited the world,” said Psaros, adding that the society has invited a number of state officials, including Gov. John Carney.
“We’re going to unveil the national historic register plaque, and we’re going to talk about our vision for the Coastal Towns Museum. Then we’ll let people walk through the house, which is pretty much just as the wonderful owners left it to us. They can see how historic it is when they go inside. It is a historic building. The grounds will be open; the barn will be open. Hopefully, we’ll be outside on the lawn, because we’re calling this a ‘yard party.’”
The event is rain or shine, and there will be a tent set up on the property in case of inclement weather.
Local businesses Banks Wines & Spirits, Beach Bakrie, Big Fish Grill, DiFebo’s, Mio Fratello, Misaki Sushi, Morning Buns, Nantuckets, Off the Hook Restaurant Group, Perucci’s, Sedona, The Café on 26, the Cottage Café and Three Blonde Bakers have donated food to help cater the event.
Interiors by Kim is allowing attendees to park in their lot, free of charge. Additional parking is available in the Town’s three parking lots surrounding the town hall.
“The restaurants have been most generous, as well as other businesses, who have supported us with either in-kind donations or by their encouragement.”
Formally known as the Evans-West House: A Coastal Towns Museum, the structure will one day feature the history of the towns of Baltimore Hundred, including the communities of Millville, Clarksville, Bayard, Muddy Neck, Cedar Neck, Bethany Beach, South Bethany, Fenwick Island and Roxana.
“We’re going to try to make the museum an inclusive historical picture. We’re going to try to do a better job of telling the story of our Native Americans and our African-Americans, which we sometimes don’t talk about.
“We’ve been working with representatives from many of the local towns to organize ideas about how we might plan a museum,” said Psaros. “We’ve discussed what kinds of themes we want in the house. We’ll have one section that will be a rotating exhibit and change. We’ll have other exhibits that are representative on Baltimore Hundred but could be focused on land or the sea or weather events… There’s just a million different things. We definitely want it to be an interactive museum as much as possible.”
Psaros said the society hopes to open the house to the public as a museum by next spring, if possible.
“We’ll be canvasing everybody to encourage them to make a donation to the Coastal Towns Museum,” she said. “Right now, we’re really just celebrating the concept and celebrating this generous gift from Carolyn Brunner and her son Dan McCann.”
The society has a number of other historically-focused events happening in the coming months. On Saturday, May 20, Norman Justice will host an Antique Trunk History Mix.
Psaros, who is the author of “Chickens & Mosquitoes: The Art of Uncertain Times,” will be sharing the story of the Civilian Conservation Corps in Sussex County during the Depression on Wednesday, May 24.
On Saturday, June 17, there will be a Civil War reenactment at the historical complex.
“They’ll set up some equipment and talk to people about what it was like to participate on both sides of the war.”
Another large project the society has undertaken is to build the Halls Store Visitor & Education Center, which would be built next to the chicken coop replica.
At the April 22 event, community members can not only enjoy what the historical society has brought to the community but take an active role in preserving their towns’ histories.
The society has about 155 paid members and is always looking for new members. At the yard party, there will be a table set up with membership information, if community members wish to join.
The society is also accepting donations toward renovating the home.
“We hope that, over time, we’ll be able to raise the funds one way or another, through donations, through grants, through gifts… We’re just now getting estimates on what it might cost to recondition this old house with proper lighting and whatnot to make it safe for the public — you know, there are some things we have to do to turn it into a public museum. We’re just now costing those things out. We know for sure we’ll need $100,000 to do it, and possibly more.”
Psaros said the society is excited to have the community get a glimpse of the Evans-West House at the event.
“It’s pretty much original, the way it was in 1901,” she said. “It’s truly amazing that the family though enough of history to preserve it in this way.”
The Evans-West House is located at 40 West Avenue in Ocean View. To learn more about the society or to make a donation, visit www.ovhistoricalsociety.org. The Tunnell-West House is located at 39 Central Avenue in Ocean View. John West Park is located at 32 West Avenue in Ocean View. For more information, visit ovhistoricalsociety.org or www.facebook.com/oceanviewhistoricalsociety.