Stroll Through Downtown Lewes for Some Amazing Sights – Part One

Lewes Historical Society Photo

Last week we wrote about a few things to consider if you’re interested in buying a home in the Lewes Historic District. But since the area is a wonderful place to visit regardless of where you live we’d like to highlight attractions that everyone seems to enjoy.

We’ll start with the campus of the Lewes Historical Society. 

It’s right downtown, at the end of Second Street. It’s comprised of several historic buildings that have been moved to the campus from various Delaware locations. Right now, as a result of the cold weather and lingering Covid concerns, the buildings aren’t open to the public, but you can still stroll through the campus and learn about the buildings online and look forward to inside tours very soon.

The oldest is the Plank House, a tiny dwelling that shows you how people lived just prior to the year 1700. It’s constructed with rugged timbers and built around a small fireplace for cooking and heating, and a small loft for sleeping. 

If you’d like to see how wealthier residents lived in later years check out the circa 1789 Burton-Ingram House, which is constructed in a refined Federal style and filled with lovely colonial furnishings and artwork. You’ll also appreciate the Hiram Rodney Burton House, built in 1720, which today stands at its original foundation and likewise reveals elegant architecture inside and out.

Other unique buildings include the one-room Midway School, complete with period desks, and the circa 1800 The Thompson Country Store, which operated in Kent County up until 1963. 

And take a stroll through Shipcarpenter Square.

You’ll see prominent echoes of these homes as you walk around Shipcarpenter Square, adjacent to the campus. The neighborhood was created in the 1980s by bringing buildings that stood in other Delaware locations. The buildings were moved in various states and reassembled around a broad area laid out in a square, referred to as The Commons, which replicates an historic green.

All of the houses have been beautifully restored to showcase their 18th and 19th century origins, and modernized to suit today’s lifestyles. They represent a wide array of architecture and previous uses, including Victorian homes and colonial-style farmhouses, a travelers’ inn, barns, a schoolhouse, a lifesaving station, a corner market and a lighthouse.

If you fall in love, you can hope that at some point you’ll have a chance to buy one of these beautiful homes. They don’t come on the market very often, and tend to be some of the most highly priced properties in Lewes, but if you deeply appreciate historic architecture many are worth waiting for.

Final stop for today: The Ryves Holt House

Located at the intersection of Mulberry and Second Streets, the oldest building still standing in Delaware was also a house, and an inn, and today serves as a gift shop and information center that’s owned and operated by the Lewes Historical Society.

The oldest section of the home was built in 1665, about 30 years after the first settlers in Lewes – known as the Zwaanendael Colony, from the Netherlands, perished in a dispute with a local Native American tribe.

During its early years this portion of the home provided lodging to travelers to the New World. Ryves Holt, the first Chief Justice of Sussex County, purchased the building in 1721.

As you enter the building, it’s easy to see the two distinct structures that have been combined to create the current configuration. The original section to your right operated as the inn, and still retains its rustic wooden floors and moldings. On the left is the later edition, with its colonial fireplace and slightly higher ceilings. Still standing on its original foundation, this is one of the most popular and historic cultural attractions in the First State.

Next week we’ll spotlight a few more! 

About Christine Davis

Christine grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania in a small town called Pittston, which is located between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. Upon graduation, she enlisted in the United States Air Force, where she proudly served for eight + years at a variety of bases throughout the world, including Holland, Korea, and New Mexico. While in the Air Force, Christine spent most of her time working in the civil engineering career field where she thoroughly enjoyed meeting and working with such a diverse group of people with varying backgrounds and experiences, and learned so much from each of them. Christine’s last assignment in the Air Force was at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, and that’s when she discovered the Delaware beaches. Growing up in PA, her family spent time at the Jersey shore. But once she moved to MD, she became one of those many drivers making the trek across the Chesapeake Bay Friday afternoon to visit the Delaware beaches for the weekend. Upon Christine’s separation from the Air Force, she spent a small amount of time working in Washington, D.C., but it didn’t take long before she was drawn to the quiet, slow pace of Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, “the nation’s summer capital”. Christine moved to Rehoboth Beach in 1999 and finished her degree in Business at Delaware Tech. At the time she was working for a large physician organization when a friend recommended that she become a REALTOR because she loved helping people and loved looking at homes. She was reluctant for quite a while because Christine didn’t think of herself as a salesperson. But after much urging by her friend, Christine decided to get her real estate license in 2003 and has not looked back since. Christine still doesn’t think of herself as a salesperson, but rather a facilitator between buyer and seller, working toward a common goal. Christine aims to make the process as smooth and fun as possible but also educates the buyer and seller along the way so they can make the best decision possible. Christine now lives in Lewes and although she misses the mountains of PA, she thoroughly enjoys spending as much time as possible at the beach, especially Cape Henlopen State Park. Christine’s philosophy in life is that it’s too short. Never spend so much time making a living that you forget how to live.

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