The store that gave rise to Ocean View
The community of Ocean View can trace its origin to 1688. In that year, Lord Baltimore of the Maryland Colony granted 500 acres of land to a Matthew Scarborough. That land grant was called “Middlesex” and was situated in what today is the area located on either side of Central Avenue north of Route 26.
During the early 1700s, Scarborough sold much of the acreage to the Hazzard family. The Hazzard family later sold most of the land to a William Hall (1746-1798). Hall married Mary Evans, and they had seven children. The Evans family was a prominent family that owned extensive land holdings in the area.
A child was born to William and Mary in 1793 and was given the name of William Spence Hall. In 1798, when the father, William Hall, died, each of the male children received land to be used for farming.
But William Spence had a different vision. He witnessed his neighbors and his own family members struggle to provide all the staples necessary to have quality of life. William decided to take a risk and build a general store to service the community. The store was built around 1820 and was located on the east side of Central Avenue, near where Daisey Avenue empties on to Central Avenue today.
Daisey Avenue was just a dirt path that traveled down to White Creek. A boat dock was built at the edge of the creek, and the dock assumed the name “Daisey Landing.” The dock enabled ships to load and unload during high tide.
The two-masted schooners were specifically built with a low draft to ply the shallow waters of White Creek and the Indian River Bay. The ships would sail up through the Indian River Bay and out into the Delaware Bay via the very dangerous Indian River Inlet. Once the schooners were in the Delaware Bay, they would sail up the Delaware River to Philadelphia.
Philadelphia was a major commerce center where goods from Europe and Asia were sold. Ships would take lumber to Philadelphia and bring back sugar, spices, tobacco and cloth that would be sold in Hall’s store.
Hall’s General Store provided an essential exchange center for this isolated community. (Remember, Route 1 didn’t exist in this early time period.) Hall was a true entrepreneur, acting as an intermediator between his neighbors and the outside world. He would sell goods for money or in exchange for locally grown crops. Most likely, he extended credit to his customers when crops were delayed or destroyed by bad weather.
The economic impact his store provided in the community was profound. Other entrepreneurs followed in his footsteps to open a variety of stores, blacksmith shops and saw mills. This community became the commercial center for families living near the ocean. Truly, Hall’s risk-taking qualifies his as a “founding father” of present-day Ocean View.
In 1822, the U.S. Postal Service selected Hall’s Store as the area’s post office, and that gave rise to the mailing address of Hall’s Store, Del. The mail would come in by wagon from Frankford, and he dispersed it at Hall’s Store.
During the 1840s and 1850s, local sea captains would send mail back to loved ones addressed, for example: The West Family, Ocean View, care of Hall’s Store, Delaware. (Remember, the main means of travel at this time was by ship.)
Officially, the community of Hall’s Store ended in 1889, when the state legislature incorporated the town with the name Ocean View. In 1889, Captain George Handy West became the first council president. He built the first free-standing post office and had his daughter Annie Betts named postmistress.
This post office building still exists and has been restored by the Ocean View Historical Society (OVHS), and is on display at the historic complex located at 39 Central Avenue in Ocean View.
Unfortunately, Hall’s Store does not exist anymore, and after extensive research, the OVHS feels the significant importance of this store to the evolution of Ocean View requires our building and replica at our historic complex.
After researching stores of the 1820 era, our architect has created a rendering of Hall’s Store. To turn this rendering into an actual general store, OVHS is beginning a capital campaign to raise the necessary monies to build this 1,500-square-foot building at its historic complex.
OVHS felt compelled to honor Cecile Steele for her contribution to the legacy of Ocean View being the “birthplace” of the broiler chicken industry. Thus, we built a replica of her 1923 poultry house, which is on display at the historic complex. Our Hall’s Store, when built, will serve as the visitor’s center for the historic complex.
The front half of the building will be Hall’s Store, and the rear half will be an educational and artifact display center. The architects’ estimated cost to build this replica of Hall’s General Store around $250,000.
Please come to Homecoming on Saturday, May 14, and walk to the historic complex. OVHS will have a table set up where you can study the architect’s construction drawings of Hall’s Store and the land planners’ design for the historic complex.
OVHS will be selling engraved bricks that will be used to construct either a walkway or patio next to the store. The back room, porch and patio can be used by local organization for a specific function. We hope that everyone will want to have his/her name permanently attached to this unique project by purchasing an engraved brick.
Editor’s note: The Ocean View Homecoming event will be held on Saturday, May 14, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at John West Park. The Ocean View Historical Complex is located at 39 Central Avenue. For more information about the Ocean View Historical Society, visit www.ovhistoricalsociety.org.