Historic Coastal Towns Cottage & Lighthouse Tour set for Oct. 6On Saturday, Oct. 6, people can get a glimpse of early life in Fenwick Island, as six historic cottages and the 1859 Fenwick Island Lighthouse will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., in support of the planned Coastal Towns Museum.
Tourgoers can see remnants of Methodist camp meeting “tents,” cottages that storms have relocated, the lighthouse that pre-dates anything else in the town today, and summer abodes of early residents before electricity and running water. (No “McMansions” are included, organizers noted.)
Those taking part in the tour can learn about the significance of the first stone of the Trans-Peninsular Survey, located beside the Fenwick lighthouse, and also become familiar with some of Fenwick’s earliest residents, including Doc Lawrence and Mary Ada Outten, Dr. Carl Rasmussen, Vance and Pearl Mc Cabe, John McKelvey and the Halpern family from Seaford.
“In the 1850s and beyond, life was difficult for Fenwick families, who were isolated from people and supplies,” organizers noted. “It was a day’s journey to nearby towns for provisions and fellowship. Storms frequently changed the island boundaries and exit routes. The few year-round residents farmed the sandy soil, kept chickens, cows, and pigs, and fished the ocean and bay. Life was rugged and primitive by current standards.
“In the summer months,” they noted, “religious groups arrived to inhale the salt air and worship by the sea. But as the temperatures cooled, the visitors left, and Fenwick had very few early inhabitants.”
Today, they said, Fenwick Island is a vibrant community with small-town ambiance.
Did you know?
• The Fenwick Island Lighthouse is actually two brick towers, not one.
• The lighthouse served as the mail-drop for summer residents during the first half of the 20th century.
• Fenwick began in Maryland, south of the lighthouse, due to higher ground. Fenwick’s first street, Lea Avenue, is 141st Street in Ocean City, Md., today.
• The Fenwick “ditch” was hand-dug by colonists to keep their cows from straying off what was a peninsula. Afterwards, Fenwick became an island.
• Fenwick’s first hotel opened in 1902.
• The Fenwick Island Lifesaving/Coast Guard Station was located where Fenwick Island State Park and its bathhouse are today.
• When Fenwick’s Coast Guard Station was decommissioned in 1936, folks bought and moved the buildings to lots in Fenwick, where they became some of the first rental cottages.
• For Fenwick’s first church service on the beach, a piano was carried over the dunes.
• Throughout the 20th century, most Fenwick Islanders remember never putting on shoes from June to September.
• The Town of Fenwick Island has a new town seal.
Tickets for the tour are now available for $25. They are limited and must be purchased in advance, at Sea Shell City in Fenwick, at the Ellen Rice Gallery in Ocean View, at Made By Hand in South Bethany, or online at www.thequietresorts.com. Proceeds support the creation of a new Coastal Towns Museum at 40 West Avenue in Ocean View. The first 200 people to buy tickets will receive a free copy of the “2018 Delaware Beach Book.”
While Fenwick Island homes are open on the tour this year, historic cottages in Bethany Beach will be featured in 2019 to support the Coastal Towns Museum, organizers said.