The Ocean View Historical Society has been given the go-ahead by the Ocean View Board of Adjustment for its plans to turn a soon-to-be-donated home into the Coastal Towns Museum.
On Feb. 18, the Ocean View BOA unanimously approved a special-use exception for the residentially-zoned property to be used as a museum.
“We have been very fortunate that the owner of the property has donated her house, barn and property to the historic society, and we are going to, at her wishes, convert that home into another museum,” said Richard Nippes of the Ocean View Historical Society. “We would like to have the zoning changed so that we have the authority to begin creating the Coastal Towns Museum at that location, as soon as we take ownership of that property.”
The home, located across from John West Park, will be known as the Evans-West house, and is to be donated to the society by a local family in March 2017.
“This museum, I think, is going to be a very popular one and bring many, many visitors to Ocean View, because it’s going to be a joint venture between the coastal towns — Ocean View, Fenwick Island, South Bethany, Bethany and Millville. Therefore, it’s going to get a lot of exposure,” said Nippes.
“The building is a perfect venue for the creation of a museum. The home was built in 1901. The barn was built in 1900. We’ve already restored the barn.”
Nippes said the current owner is “absolutely thrilled” the historical society will be saving her home and converting it into a museum.
“This would be the second building which is now in the National Registry of Historic Places,” said Nippes, the first being the Tunnell-West House. “I think it’s a real asset to the town to have two historic buildings preserved and on the National Registry.”
Along with the main Tunnell-West house, the Ocean View Historical Society’s complex boasts an 1800s outhouse; the town’s first post office, built in 1889; and an exact replica of Cecile Steele’s first chicken house. And in addition to the Evans-West House, the OVHS also plans to build a new Hall’s Store, a replica of a country store from the early 19th century, on its historic complex behind the Tunnell-West House. The society is currently working on raising the $250,000 needed to begin construction.
“It was built, we estimate, around 1820, and from that store is where Ocean View began to grow.”
Nippes told the board that the Tunnell-West house is to show visitors what life what like in Ocean View around the 1850s.
“We want to also show people the life in Baltimore Hundred… which was made up of the towns I previously mentioned. So [the Coastal Towns] museum will talk about life in those areas. Life in Bethany, South Bethany and Fenwick Island was totally different than in Ocean View and Millville. Most of those people had to come to Ocean View to get their food.”
Nippes said there has not been a formal written agreement between the other towns to participate in creating the future museum.
“We have been meeting, and we’ve invited them to participate. Most of those — of course, you all are aware of what’s going on in Bethany, that they’ve just been donated the Dinker House — but the others don’t really have a place to display things. We felt this building would give us a great opportunity to talk about Baltimore Hundred.”
Nippes said the Evans-West will not cost a great deal of money to get up and running.
“The one we’re getting is in great shape,” he said. “We’ve already restored the barn… We don’t expect major expenditures to get that house up and running.”
He noted that he believes there will be adequate parking for the facility, and there would not be set hours of operation.
“It would not be open all the time,” said Nippes. “It’ll probably be on special occasions, just like the Tunnell-West house is, because we don’t have the ability to keep it open and operating daily.”
The variance was approved with a vote of 4-0 by the board.
For more information regarding the Ocean View Historical Society, visit www.facebook.com/oceanviewhistoricalsociety. Those interested in donating to the society or becoming a member can visit www.ovhistoricalsociety.org. The Tunnell-West historic complex is located at 39 Central Avenue in Ocean View.