OVHS offers April 9 talk on area’s maritime history

The Ocean View Historical Society will be offering a lecture on “The Maritime Side of the Coastal Towns” on Wednesday, April 9, led by Richard Nippes, president of the OVHS and Ocean View Mayor Gordon Wood, at Ocean View Town Hall at 7 p.m.

“Ocean View was a basically an agrarian society. But also a lot of people don’t realize it was extensively a maritime community,” Nippes said of the town’s past.

“Dick, who has been so active in our Ocean View history development, wanted to do something on mariners in Ocean View,” added Wood of Nippes.

During the lecture, which is free and open to the public, Nippes will discuss how many area farmers also worked on the water to supplement their incomes.

“Many people worked as surfmen at the Lifesaving Station. Many people turned to the sea to make a living. We want to let people know another side of Ocean View that is not very public.”

Wood will be speaking on shallow-draft schooners and will explain the design that enabled them to sail in the local waterways.

“He has done extensive research and extensive articles,” noted Nippes. “He found a picture of what these boats may have looked like. He’s going to talk about the technical aspects of the boats.”

Wood’s research on the schooners was so thorough that it was featured in the Delaware Heritage Commission’s newsletter in 2005.

“There’s a fair amount of material inside of that on the schooners and maritime trade,” Wood said. “I think it’ll appeal to all residents. It’s a really important part of the town’s history.”

During the presentation, two images of the ships, painted by Nippes’ daughter, will be unveiled.

“It must’ve been quite a sight to see these boats out there, bringing in goods, taking goods out, transporting people. They were specially built because the water around here is so shallow you’d have to have a very low-draft boat,” said Nippes.

He added that it is believed that many of the schooners were built locally.

“There were three boatyards in the 1850s,” he said. “There were boatyards by Black Water Creek, Indian River and Pennwell’s Landing in Ocean View… Most people don’t know, either — that’s why we’re talking about it.”

Nippes said he hopes those who attend will come away with a better understanding of what those who lived in the coastal area in its early days did and lived through.

“I hope people will get an appreciation of the tough life that people lived, the people building these ships.”

Nippes said approximately 90 people have attended past lectures, which also offer light refreshments. He noted that membership information for the OVHS would be available to those interested in joining the historical society.

“The mission of the historical society is simply to preserve the culture, history, architecture of the community and surrounding communities, and to pass that on to the people that live in the community. That’s why we do these free talks, to try to share the knowledge that we have acquired with others, so that they can better understand it.”

The group’s historical complex is located at 39 Central Avenue — consisting of the Tunnell-West House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as the town’s first post office and a replica of Cecile Steele’s chicken coop.

“It’s difficult for you to move forward without knowing where you came from. That’s what history is all about — to help you understand your past and prepare for the future,” Nippes said, adding that this is particularly important for the local community, as many people are recent residents.

“They had no knowledge about the history of this particular community in which they’re now residing. I think people should have some idea of what type of life people lived here, how they sacrificed to build this community in the first place.”

To continue the group’s mission of education, beginning in September, local school children will be brought to the historical complex for talks and hands-on demonstrations, “so they can see it in the buildings and have demonstrations,” he added.

Wood said the historical society is a huge asset to, not only the town of Ocean View, but those who live in surrounding communities.

“I’m proud of being an active advocate and supporter.”

The Ocean View Historical Society’s historical lecture will be held at Ocean View Town Hall, at 32 West Avenue in Ocean View. For more information on the Tunnell-West House, visit The Tunnell-West Historical Complex is located at 39 Central Avenue in Ocean View.