Bethany discusses history

The Bethany Historical and Cultural Committee met Monday, April 11, to discuss how best to preserve the history of the beach town. Resident Jane Vincenti recently expressed an interest in having her house on First Street registered as a historic home, to preserve a bit of the past under the pressure of the expansion of new homes.

“There are enormous financial incentives to tear down old houses for bigger more modern homes, but comparable incentives may be available very soon. We will have a pretty good idea in June what Congress will do as far as passing their big tax bill this year,” said committee member Dan Costello, who has spearheaded efforts to help preserve the town’s older homes.

Similar historical-preservation efforts have been widely successful in larger cities and New Jersey beach towns, such as Seaside and Wildwood. (Homes or buildings 50 years or older are generally considered to be historic.) Some of Wildwood’s 1930s and ’40s-era hotels were saved, and many in the Delaware community feel that there are homes and establishments that are worth preserving there.

“There are a lot of people in Bethany that are interesting in preserving the character of their community,” said Costello.

In coordination with efforts toward preserving the communities’ historic structures, the committee is also moving forward with efforts to document its history orally. Committee members are eager to begin the project and are urging any interested local citizens to share their memories at an open house at the town hall. The event is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 16.

The interview process will be laid-back, in hopes of making interviewees feel comfortable. Interviewers will use digital recorders to document citizens’ stories and faces, instead of using more obtrusive video cameras that might intimidate their subjects.

Citizens are encouraged to bring any items of historical significance (pictures, old deeds, etc.) to help fill out Bethany’s soon-to-be expanded museum at the town hall. Lynch Industries has received the contract to begin the expansion, tentatively scheduled for completion by Memorial Day weekend. An engineering crew will arrive next week to determine whether the design can be completed on time.

The committee is also gearing up for the planned inaugural June 4 craft show on the town’s boardwalk. More than 60 crafters will attend the fair, but volunteers are still needed to help run the show. For more information on the show, contact Gloria Farrar at the town hall.