To celebrate the holiday season and pay homage to days of yore, the Ocean View Historical Society will be hosting its annual Victorian Christmas open house this weekend.
“It’s just a way to celebrate. It was a tradition to open your house at Christmas,” said OVHS President Carol Psaros. “The house we have — the Tunnell-West House — dates back to the Civil War period, 1860. It’s just an American tradition to have friends and family gather at Christmastime, especially when the house was decorated with the Christmas tree and there were presents and food.”
The event will take place on Saturday, Dec. 12, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the historical complex adjacent to John West Park. The event is free and open to the public.
“At our open house, we’re going to have some refreshments that were typical of the time, some cookies and light refreshments, such as hot cider,” she added. “We’ll have a mandola player dressed in costume, and some of our members will be dressed in costume, too.”
Along with the main house, the Tunnell-West 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.
Along with the house being open during the day, the complex’s garage, which is not a historical building, will be featuring artifacts owned by the society.
“We have made a lot of improvements to the inside of the Tunnell-West House. For the first time this year we will have our garage open that will have a lot of historic artifacts in it that we don’t have room to put in the Tunnell-West House,” explained Psaros.
“There’s quite a variety of items. Some are on display in cases and some are actually artifacts, like a sausage-making machine. There’s a historic door. There’re some old photographs of Lord Baltimore School and churches. There’s just a variety of items big and small that we’ll have on display there.”
Eventually the society plans to raze the garage, and replace it with the Hall’s Store Visitor & Education Center.
“We kind of have the beginnings of a little village, and we’d like to finish it off with Hall’s Store Visitor & Education Center, which would give us room for community members or school kids to meet in to have a follow-up and have a pre-tour meeting place.
“It would be a place for society members to gather and also our education center, where we would have a classroom and do things for various things, and offer classes from time to time. A little bit different than our public lectures that we do.”
An adjacent home, known as the Evans-West House. built in 1900, has been donated to the society, and Psarsos said it will be the home of the future Coastal Towns Museum.
“We’re just looking forward to completing our vision and building Hall’s Store and acquiring the Brunner House in the spring or this coming summer. It’s an exciting time for the Ocean View Historical Society,” she said.
“We’ve made amazing progress in the seven years that community people have been working on this. The Tunnell-West House has only been open to the public for a few years, but it took us a while to restore it, to raise the funds to restore it, and to move in the first free-standing post office that dates to 1889. Then to build the replica of Cecile Steele’s chicken house, which dates to 1923.”
Throughout the year, the society hosts a number of events, including history talks, field trips for elementary students and, most recently, “history mixes.”
“We had our first history mix recently at the Café on 26. It was called ‘Chicken Chatter.’ Each of our history mixes are a time for our members and others to get together to socialize. We focus on a historical topic, and our first was on Cecile Steele and the Delmarva poultry industry, because the Café on 26 is the house that Cecile and Wilmer Steele lived in when he was a state senator.
“Cecile is the one who is credited with starting the international poultry industry. That’s perhaps Ocean View’s greatest story, historical piece — the beginnings of the poultry industry that so affected Delmarva and Delaware.”
The society also tries to coordinate with the Town of Ocean View, to ensure their complex is open during Town events, such as Holiday in the Park and Homecoming.
“It’s another historical piece, because Ocean View Homecoming started in the early 1800s, I believe. It was a time to come back home and celebrate strawberries and graduations… It’s just continued over the years,” said Psaros of Ocean View Homecoming, adding, “We try to coordinate our functions at the same time to celebrate together.”
While the majority of the events hosted by the society are free, Psaros said donations are always welcome and appreciated.
“We always welcome donations for our completed vision, which is to conclude building Hall’s Store, since the Ocean View area was originally called Hall’s Store before it was incorporated as the Town of Ocean View.”
According to its website, the mission of the Ocean View Historical Society is to “preserve, interpret and collect the history of Ocean View and the surrounding Baltimore Hundred area, sharing our past with all communities that comprise the Ocean View area, visitors and locals; thereby building an identity that will enable us to wisely approach the challenges the future will bring to Delaware’s coastal towns.”
“Our history has a lot to teach us,” said Psaros. “We can learn a lot of the mistakes that have been made in the past and the things that have brought people joy in the past. We can look back on the Civil War or the traumatic events of the 20th century — World War II and the Depression — and we can learn from those events, particularly if you see it recreated or look at artifacts that bring those messages back and teach us things that are good for us to know as we go forward.
“The past is very relevant for our future. It shouldn’t determine where we go, but it is a great guidepost to keep in mind of both the ups and the downs that humanity has been through. All of our members know history is a very good teacher.”
Psaros said she hopes community members will visit the complex this weekend to learn more about local history and enjoy some holiday cheer.
“We had a very good turnout last year, and the weather was great. We’re hoping for the same this year.”
For more information regarding the Ocean View Historical Society and upcoming events, visit www.facebook.com/oceanviewhistoricalsociety. For more information for those interested in donating to the society or becoming a member, visit www.ovhistoricalsociety.org.