Last week, representatives of the Ocean View Historical Society attended a hearing before the Delaware State Review Board for Historic Preservation, following the nomination of the Evans-West House to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Evans-West House is to be donated to the historical society by the Brunner family, which has owned the home since it was built in 1900.
“They have decided they are donating this property to the historical society. We’re going to take this property and turn it into the Coastal Towns Museum, and it will be a joint effort between the Towns of Fenwick Island, South Bethany, Bethany, Ocean View and Millville,” said Richard Nippes, president of the historical society.
“It will be a museum that will tell the story of the life and culture in Baltimore Hundred. We would never have been able to do this without their generous donation.”
Madeline Dunn, National Register coordinator for the Division of Historical & Cultural Affairs, presented the application to the board and noted that the property contains the home, a barn and a woodshed.
“Something that I’m so excited about that I’ve never seen anywhere else in the state of Delaware is a star-shaped daffodil garden that was actually planted in 1904,” she said of the garden planted for Mary C. Evans-West by her husband, James, for her birthday, per family tradition.
Dunn said an architectural analysis has been done of the building and its interior and comparing it with other remaining cross-gabled homes in the town. She noted that the family has collected a great deal of history related to family memories, as well as photographs related to the home.
Dunn said the Evans-West home, which is located one mile from Bethany Beach, across from John West Park, was “the cultural center of Ocean View, where they have all their historic and community gatherings.”
The Town was incorporated in 1889 and, shortly after, a survey was drawn that defined the communities.
“When you look in the Town records, you begin to see, as a newly incorporated community, they’re going to be establishing rules and regulations for social behavior,” said Dunn.
“They’re going to make sure that the few people who own cars would not exceed the speed limit, which was established at six miles per hour. They were also going to make sure that no firearms could be discharged in the city. And they there would absolutely be no horses on sidewalks.”
Dunn said that, in the Town’s minutes from 1900, authorization was given for a trolley to run through the central road.
“It finally made sense why the 1900 U.S. Census said there was a streetcar conductor living in Ocean View.”
She noted that the community at that time did not allow African-Americans to reside in the Town, unless they were in the employment of someone and lived on their employer’s property.
Dunn said the West-Evans house was designed in a side-hall parlor plan and has its original clapboards, windows, sills, trim and original porcelain sink.
She said it was interesting to note that, of the tax assessments from about 1905 to 1915, the Evans-West house was only one of eight, which were given an assessed value of $700.
“The majority of the 252 properties that were recorded in the assessments during that time period usually were valued at about $300.”
Dunn said the original deeds show that the property was conveyed to the wife, Mary C. West-Evans, not her husband.
“That was kind of interesting to read, because usually at this time everything belonged to the man.”
James West was a surfman for the United States Lifesaving Service during the winter months.
“During the summer months, the men were furloughed,” said Dunn. “Mr. Evans would return to Ocean View and be engaged in farming activities.”
Dunn said the complex helps to characterize 20th-century vernacular buildings and retains architectural integrity.
“If we are successful in getting this property listed in the National Register, it will help the Ocean View Historical Society with the development of that Coastal Towns Museum by enabling the society to apply for preservation tax credits.”
Dunn said working with the historical society through the process “has been a treat.”
“I’ve learned more about Ocean View than I ever knew before.”
Brunner, who was in attendance at the hearing, along with her son Dan, shared with the board some of her memories of the house.
“I have seen the ocean from the attic window when I was a little girl. My mother made sure of it,” she said.
The board voted unanimously to place the Evans-West house on the National Register of Historic Places.