Style Home: Guiding the Light

A couple in Lewes turns a dilapidated lighthouse into a shining landmark.


Published:



Jamie Wyeth’s “Reshingling the Light” hangs in the living room.
all home photographs by John Lewis



Beginning more than 130 years ago, the beam of the Mispillion Lighthouse guided mariners from Slaughter Beach on the Delaware Bay to the inland port of Milford.

Today the light illuminates an extraordinary restoration, a project in which the lighthouse—storm-riddled, vandalized and burned—became the focal point of one preservation-minded couple’s summer home.

“We didn’t know exactly what we would do with the lighthouse, but we knew that we wanted to save it,” says Sally Freeman. She persuaded her husband, John, to buy the light shortly after it was struck by lightning and heavily damaged by fire in May 2002, just months after Lighthouse Digest magazine named it the Most Endangered Lighthouse in the United States.

The Freemans paid $2,000 for the lighthouse and $10,000 to move the structure seven miles over Sussex County’s pancake-flat roads. Its destination was a lot in Shipcarpenter Square in Lewes, where the couple already owned the Colonial-era house across the street.

“We bought the lot when it came up for sale because we didn’t want something going up on it that we didn’t like,” John says.



Sally and John relax with their dogs Baby (left) and Storm.

There’s no how-to guide for restoring a charred, neglected lighthouse. But the Freemans were blessed with a treasure map in the form of detailed drawings prepared for the Historic American Engineering Record, rendered in anticipation of having the lighthouse listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Though the application was never filed, the paperwork included precise measurements and construction details, down to the number of steps leading to the lighthouse tower.

“It was remarkable, absolutely serendipitous,” John recalls.

Still, the project would require copious research, perseverance and problem-solving skills.

The Freemans were the right team for the job. John is a developer who specializes in adapting historic buildings to new uses. He was a backer of the original Shipcarpenter Square project, in which developers Jack Vessels and David Dunbar moved orphaned 18th- and 19th-century homes from Delaware, Maryland and Virginia to a verdant green in the First State’s oldest town to create a unique community.

Sally’s abundant energy, natural curiosity and keen eye for detail propelled the aesthetics of the project, down to the drawer pulls, which are cast from the button on a lighthouse keeper’s uniform.

It took two years to design the structure, determining the best way to restore the lighthouse and respectfully integrate it into a new addition that would provide enough space for the Freemans, their four children and extended family and friends.

“We needed to keep the master bedroom and living room in the old part, plan for a kitchen and dining room in the new part, and bring them together in a way that makes sense for the way people live today,” John says.

The Freemans found period doors, knobs and other hardware at an architectural salvage yard in Scranton, Pennsylvania. They also crossed paths with a supplier of hard-to-find clear heart pine and snapped up the entire stock.

“One person led to another,” John says. “Dozens of people have artistically touched what we have done here.”

The artisans and artists who contributed to the project shared their vision and enthusiasm. A local carpenter created the fine wainscoting, mantel and built-in cupboards in the formal dining room. A jewelry maker cast the lighthouse keeper’s buttons.

“We would tell them the story of the lighthouse and they’d get excited,” Sally says.



The gathering room fireplace is encrusted with artifacts from the local shipwreck Severn.

She envisioned the one-of-a-kind surround for the fireplace in the gathering room. It is encrusted with artifacts from the Severn, a ship that ran aground near Roosevelt Inlet in Lewes in 1774. A beach replenishment project in 2002 freed bits of crockery and glass from the wreck, inspiring Sally to don a lighted miner’s helmet and search for shards at low tide in the middle of the night.

“You pick a piece up, realizing it hasn’t touched human hands since the 1700s,” she recalls. “It’s that thrilling.”

The new section of the house features a large gathering space, with a seating area in front of the fireplace. Sally came up with the idea of placing the television in a niche over the mantel, hiding it with a painting of nearby Cape Henlopen.

There’s a kitchen with such modern amenities as a stainless-steel commercial-style range, granite countertops and wine storage, teamed with white, painted cabinetry reminiscent of Nantucket. Lighting pendants modeled after ship’s lanterns are suspended over the island.

To furnish the house, the Freemans shopped throughout their travels, looking for pieces that were made during the years the lighthouse was occupied by keepers and their families. Their first purchase was a pink slip-glass chandelier, which they tucked away for more than two years.

“We tried to keep each purchase within the stick-Gothic, low-Victorian style, not highly ornate,” John says.

The dining room is the most formal room in the house, in keeping with the Victorians’ penchant for setting a fine table. The fireplace is accented with shimmering glass tiles that remind Sally of the sea. A stately brass gasolier with glass saucer shades shines overhead. A mirror is surrounded by seashells collected from around the globe.

“The Victorians were fond of things that were made with natural materials,” she notes.

A charred beam set in the wall of the master bath is a vestige of the fire that almost doomed Mispillion. In several rooms, bracing beams were left exposed, John says, “so you can see how the building was constructed.”



The owners worked from an old photograph to come up with the home’s white, stick-style motif.

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Website »

More information

Try practicing yoga in a beautiful garden setting, strengthening your body and spirit. Our yoga class is open to all levels. We will practice slow, easy motions to get into the rhythm of nature....

Cost: $10

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

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Rosemary Castiglioni – Still lifes and interiors painted with a subtle palette; Jim Gears – Vibrant, impressionistic landscapes in oil applied with a palette knife; Richard Hoff – Detailed...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE ALUMNI INVITATIONAL A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop, Artist talk at 7:30 PM The...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

TRANSIT by Maryanne Pollock January 27 - April 26, 2018Opening Reception: Friday, February 2, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop On Art:  Wednesday, February 21, 2018 | 5:25 - 6 PM Maryanne...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

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The DCAD@20 Art Party will take place in DCAD’s Market Street galleries and on Sixth Street between those two indoor spaces. It will raise funds to support general operations and scholarships at...

Cost: $50

Where:
Delaware College of Art and Design
600 N. Market St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: Delaware College of Art and Design
Telephone: 302-622-8000
Contact Name: Renee T. Garnick
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7:30 p.m. Curator Talk | 8:00 p.m. Pyxis Inspired by the exhibition Eye on Nature: Andrew Wyeth and John Ruskin, Pyxis Piano Quartet will perform a chamber concert in the Museum’s magnificent...

Cost: $30 Members, $50 Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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East Coast Garden Center presents: The Spring Festival!  We love celebrating the Spring season, and we invite you to join us! The weather warms, plants break dormancy, and Sussex County becomes...

Cost: free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd.
Millsboro, DE  19966
View map »


Sponsor: Cordrey Companies
Telephone: (302)945-3489
Contact Name: Christine Justice
Website »

More information

Rosemary Castiglioni – Still lifes and interiors painted with a subtle palette; Jim Gears – Vibrant, impressionistic landscapes in oil applied with a palette knife; Richard Hoff – Detailed...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE ALUMNI INVITATIONAL A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop, Artist talk at 7:30 PM The...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

TRANSIT by Maryanne Pollock January 27 - April 26, 2018Opening Reception: Friday, February 2, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop On Art:  Wednesday, February 21, 2018 | 5:25 - 6 PM Maryanne...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through a story reading followed by an interactive tour of relevant works of art and a studio art project. This program encourages...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Mix, Relax, Explore: Live Music and Winterthur Beer Garden Winterthur After Hours on select Friday evenings presents families and adults with an evening opportunity to explore the Galleries and...

Cost: $10 per Member. $15 per nonmember. $5 students. 13 and under are free.

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Friday, April 20, 7:00 p.m. Loudis Recital Hall   The U.S. Army Blues, part of the United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” is the premier jazz ensemble of the United States Army. After...

Cost: Free

Where:
Loudis Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Buddy Guy will perform his Chicago blues at the SugarHouse Casino Event Center on Friday, April 20, at 9 p.m. Guy is one of the most important blues singers and...

Cost: $49-$69

Where:
SugarHouse Casino
1001 N. Delaware Ave
Philadelphia, DE  19125
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East Coast Garden Center presents: The Spring Festival!  We love celebrating the Spring season, and we invite you to join us! The weather warms, plants break dormancy, and Sussex County becomes...

Cost: free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd.
Millsboro, DE  19966
View map »


Sponsor: Cordrey Companies
Telephone: (302)945-3489
Contact Name: Christine Justice
Website »

More information

Rosemary Castiglioni – Still lifes and interiors painted with a subtle palette; Jim Gears – Vibrant, impressionistic landscapes in oil applied with a palette knife; Richard Hoff – Detailed...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Join us again this spring and summer for yoga in the beautiful Copeland Sculpture Garden. Beginners, casual attendees, and families are welcome. Bring your own mat or borrow one of ours!...

Cost: Free, $10 suggested donation

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE ALUMNI INVITATIONAL A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop, Artist talk at 7:30 PM The...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

The DELPEX 2018 Postage Stamp Show features stamp exhibits, 20 stamp dealers, a bid board auction, and free stamps for kids.  Come and meet others who share your interest in stamp collecting. 

Cost: $0

Where:
Nur Shrine Center
198 S Dupont Hwy (Rtes. 13 & 40)
New Castle, DE  19720
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Sponsor: Brandywine Valley Stamp Club
Telephone: 130-232-22719
Contact Name: Bill Clark
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

TRANSIT by Maryanne Pollock January 27 - April 26, 2018Opening Reception: Friday, February 2, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop On Art:  Wednesday, February 21, 2018 | 5:25 - 6 PM Maryanne...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

18-HOLE INDOOR MINI GOLF Skyline Church is committed to building community in the Pike Creek area. We have created a unique event that will build relationships with community members, businesses,...

Cost: $7 | $10 | $125

Where:
Skyline United Methodist Church
3100 Skyline Drive
Wilmington, DE  19808
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Sponsor: Skyline United Methodist Church
Telephone: 302-737-9069
Website »

More information

Saturday, April 21, 12:30 p.m. Gore Recital Hall   Clarinetist Jeremy W. Reynolds joined the faculty of the University of Denver Lamont School of Music after performing as principal clarinetist...

Cost: $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

More information

The Newark Symphony Chamber Series presents ensembles featuring NSO members; & will be joined by UD Singin' Hens.    For information, call (302) 369-3466 or email: busmgr@newarksymphony.org....

Cost: $0 - $20

Where:
Newark United Methodist Church
69 E. Main St.
Newark, DE  19711
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Sponsor: Newark Symphony Orchestra
Telephone: (302) 369-3466
Contact Name: Business Manager
Website »

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The next installment in our Inaugural Season of Concerts @ Covenant. Join us as Organist and Musicologist Chad Fothergill, University Fellow at the Esther Boyer College of Music at Temple...

Cost: $15

Where:
The Presbyterian Church of the Covenant
503 Duncan Road
Wilmington, DE  19809
View map »


Sponsor: Concerts @ Covenant Series
Telephone: 302-743-1201
Contact Name: Ryan Pryslak
Website »

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Guest Artist Recital Saturday, April 21, 8:00 p.m. Gore Recital Hall   American classical guitarist, Xavier Jara (1993), is the 1st prize winner of the 2016 GFA International Concert Artist...

Cost: $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

More information

It's time for a night of music, prizes, and strikes! Join the ladies of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., Epsilon Rho Zeta Chapter for their Bowling Extravaganza. On April 21st starting at 9pm, meet us...

Cost: $25 per ticket; $120 per teams of 6

Where:
Pleasant Hill Lanes
1001 W Newport Pike
Wilmington, DE  19804
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Sponsor: Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Epsilon Rho Zeta Chapter
Telephone: 302-715-1920
Contact Name: Michelle Mack-Williams
Website »

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