Tunnell-West historical complex to open weekly to public

Date Published: 
June 13, 2014

The Ocean View Historical Society is hoping to open its doors — and, more specifically, its historical complex — this month to help teach locals and visitors about the area’s history.

Beginning June 18, the Ocean View Historical Society will have the Tunnell-West historical complex open to the public from 1 to 4 p.m. every Wednesday.

“We pretty much have the three buildings done, but we felt it’s time to do it other than just Homecoming,” explained Richard Nippes, president of the OVHS. “Hopefully, if it’s a rainy day, it’ll give people something to do. That’s the purpose of doing this, to get it out to the people. We figure we’ll give it a shot and see if people will come out.”

The complex currently includes the Tunnell-West house, which was built in the 1890s, as well as the town’s first post office and a replica of Cecile Steele’s chicken coop.

Nippes said docents will be on-hand on Wednesdays to answer visitors’ questions and give out fun, interesting information regarding the complex. Such information includes a “translated” version of the original land grant given to Matthew Scarborough in 1688.

“That way people get some idea of how the town started… There won’t be just furniture for people to look at, materials for people to read, to learn,” explained Nippes.

“I assume very few people in the town know Ocean View once had a jail. Now we have a big jail, but many years ago they had a little jail that got blown up. From rumors and legends that I’ve had people tell me, there were some young gentlemen who got rowdy and were thrown into jail. After they got out, they, or some of their buddies, planted some gunpowder underneath of it and blew it up. It was never rebuilt.

“We think it was probably right inside where the park is. … There are a lot of little tidbits like that we’re going to try to put around for people to read and learn about.”

Nippes added that, through the State’s Historical & Cultural Affairs Division, the society will be able to rotate out artifacts to be viewed by the general public.

“They’re very enthusiastic about what we’re doing and very anxious to help us be successful. They have some programs that we’re going to tap into. Most people aren’t aware that they have warehouses filled with historic artifacts that we can borrow,” he said.

“In other words, if we want to change the display of the house, get different furniture, clothing, uniforms, things that we probably could never come up with, we would be allowed to borrow it… We’re thrilled we’re going to be a part of that.”

Earlier this year, one Ocean View resident announced that they plan to donate their property, which includes a home and barn, to the society. Nippes said the society plans to apply to have the home and barn added to the National Register of Historic Places.

“We may call it the Coastal Towns Museum. At the present moment, we’re exploring the possibility of having other towns display information, so they have a place to put some of the materials for their communities, at least temporarily. We’re still working on building a Coastal Towns Museum on our complex.”

Nippes said the society hopes to eventually build a visitors’ center, display area and classroom at its Central Avenue complex.

“We’ll be bringing kids over in September to begin educating them. They really don’t have much knowledge about Delaware, Sussex County, or Ocean View, Millville or anything. We’re hoping to fill that void.”

Currently, the Ocean View Historical Society has approximately 100 members; however, Nippes said they are in need of more.

“We really need support from younger members of the community who like history and who would like to get involved,” he said. “We need more people to join the historical society and get involved.”

Yearly membership costs $25 for an individual. Although members are not required to attend meetings, Nippes said the society would hope more people would want to become actively involved.

“You don’t have to come to any meetings, but we would hope that you do, because we’d like to get more people involved. We need people to get involved and help us raise the money to build the museum and open it up for people,” he said. “We could certainly use more input by people in the society from Ocean View and surrounding communities who like history and want to preserve it.”

Nippes said the society is currently working on interviewing older residents of the town, in the hopes that, one day, the society will be able to tell their stories to visitors.

“It really brings history alive to hear these people talk,” he said.

Nippes said he hopes families will take the opportunity to stop by the complex and learn about the town and the historical society.

“Hopefully, people will come and learn a little bit about our town and this area.”

For more information on the Tunnell-West house, visit www.ovhistoricalsociety.org. The Tunnell-West house is located at 39 Central Avenue in Ocean View. For more information on joining the Ocean View Historical Society, contact Nippes at (302) 539-8374.