St. Martha's readies for expansion in downtown Bethany


St. Martha’s Episcopal Church in Bethany Beach will be getting a makeover soon, with demolition of their 1,200-square-foot vicarage and its replacement with a 5,400-square-foot social hall, kitchen, nursery and offices.

The Rev. Mary L. Allen, rector at the church, explained that St. Martha’s — which purchased the six lots it sits on in 1940 — started that year as a summer chapel. The vicarage, an attached building to the east, was built to house the priest in charge of missions, and for clergy that would come in the summer.

Since, over the years, there was not as much need for housing for summer clergy, the vicarage wasn’t as readily renovated as the main sanctuary was. It was used for office space and 12-step-program meetings, which meet there every day, as well as other mission-type activities the church was involved in.

Then, a few years ago, the church found mold inside. Allen, who came to St. Martha’s about a year ago, said that affected the church being able to hold those meetings and have office space and a kitchen and hall in the vicarage space.

“I arrived about a year ago, and they had already planned a renovation but were still using that part of the building for Sunday-school and meetings. We found out the mold was un-remediable and that we couldn’t fix it.”

Dan Boebel, the new building chairman at St. Martha’s, said they plan on tearing down the old vicarage and replacing it a larger building that will hold offices, the nursery, the social hall and a kitchen. Allen said that will alleviate a lot of the cramped quarters they are dealing with now, with everything from 12-step meetings to offices now housed in the sanctuary.

“Anything we want to do now, we have to move furniture, push chairs around, put tables up, etc. We are jockeying, trying to share space.”

While the building on the east side is demolished and re-built, the rest of the sanctuary will be sealed off. Allen said that, in the end, they will have a little bigger footprint but will still have parking. Boebel said the parking will be “at least as much as we have now.”

After electrical elements are moved, they will be able to start demolition. They have their hopes set on January.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed for right after the first of the year,” said Boebel, noting that Miken Builders is the general contractor for the project.

After that, they will be able to build their replacement addition, with hopes of having it completed sometime this summer.

For more information on the project, or on the church, located on the corner of South Pennsylvania and Maplewood Streets in Bethany Beach, visit stmarthasbethany.org.