Coastal Town Museum could get boost from students

The Ocean View Town Council on Tuesday heard from Christine Thomas of Preservation Delaware and the National Trust, regarding the former Shores House. Thomas has been working with the Ocean View Historical Society and was following up with the council after speaking with them at their November 2009 workshop. On Feb. 16, she spoke of the importance of heritage tourism to a vibrant community and touted its economic benefits.

“Heritage tourists seek out an experience,” she said.

Thomas recommended that the two additions on the back of the Shores House be removed but that the town keep the main structure, which is the oldest and most historical part of the building.

Differing opinions on the structure led to the Historical Society and the Town of Ocean View to terminate their lease agreement last year, but they have since found out that the main problems with the structure were stemming from the two newer additions and not the original house.

“For the skeptics, you can visit the Cannon Ball House in Lewes, which is 100 years older than the Shores House and used as an educational museum,” advised Thomas. She added that that museum brings 80,000 visitors to the area each year, counting crafters and artists – which, in turn, brings in a revenue of $9 million annually, according to the Southern Delaware Tourism Office.

Ocean View Historical Society’s Diane Dee introduced to the council Dave Pederson – a registered architect and instructional coordinator for the Engineering Technologies Department of Del Tech’s Owens Campus. Pederson said that he and his students would be willing to provide measuring, documenting, LEED analysis, architectural design services and renderings etc., at no charge to the society, to aid their efforts to find a home for the planned Coastal Towns Museum.

“We are looking for community-service projects. It’s great hands on for the students, and the price is right – it’s free,” explained Pederson. He also added that it is a “worthy project” and “likely to actually happen.”

Dee added that the historical society is looking to again lease the Shores property and to lease long-term the land behind it, to build a museum to complement the existing structure of the Shores House. Their next step is to engage a professional fundraiser, and eventually to solicit bids and start construction. She added that they are not asking the town for any money, simply to enter into a long-term lease for the building and the land behind it.

“We can become a destination along the Southern Delaware tourism trail,” added Dee.

Mayor Gordon Wood noted that it has taken many months and “lots of misinformation about the structure” to get to this point. “The town was willing to spend $35,000 that now gets to be added back into the budget and won’t be expended. That building could be one heck of an asset for the town, and I would support it. I really like the idea of getting that $35,000 back,” he said.

The next step in that process would be for Councilman Robert Lawless and Town Manager Conway Gregory to enter into negotiations with the society to come up with a new lease agreement.