Style Home: Guiding the Light

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





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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10 W. Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 764-1172
Website »

More information

Make no beans about it—you won’t want to miss Jack face off against the mighty Giant. 

Where:
Delaware Children’s Theatre
1014 Delaware Ave
Wilmington, DE
View map »

More information

Epifania is pretty boss when it comes to making money. Finding love, though? Not so much. But when the richest woman on earth finds a guy who holds her fancy, will she meet his challenge to live...

Where:
Resident Ensemble Players/Thompson Theatre
110 Orchard Road
Newark, DE
View map »


Website »

More information

These ain’t your granddad’s matchboxes—check out 60 rare examples of decadent 19th-century cases.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Pkwy.
Wilmington, DE
View map »


Telephone: 571-9590
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Lynn discovered photography through working in wild bird rehabilitation. Her images  explore Delaware’s wonderful variety of life and landscapes. She is a regular contributor to Delaware State...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Ball Barn
1914 West Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Telephone: 302-577-7020
Website »

More information

Delaware native, Carson Zullinger, has been exhibiting his figural and landscape fine-art photographs for forty years. Zullinger often subordinates his dynamic and thoroughly modern compositions to...

Cost: 5.00

Where:
Biggs Museum of American Arts
406 Federal Street
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

More information

Prehistoric marine reptiles that ruled the primeval seas more than 100 million years ago are taking over Adventure Aquarium on the Camden Waterfront for a limited-time exhibit starting January 16....

Cost: $25.95 for adults; $18.95 for children ages 2-12

Where:
Adventure Aquarium
1 Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ  08103
View map »


Sponsor: Adventure Aquarium
Telephone: 856-365-3300
Website »

More information

Somerville Manning Gallery presents a solo exhibition of works by Jamie Wyeth concurrent with the artist’s major retrospective on view at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Somerville Manning Gallery
101 Stone Block Row
Brecks Mill, 2nd Floor
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Somerville Manning Gallery
Telephone: (302) 652-0271
Contact Name: Marisa Nolan
Website »

More information

This summer, Camden’s largest residents, Adventure Aquarium’s hippopotamuses Button and Genny, invite you to join them in their exciting new home, Hippo Haven. As the only aquarium in the...

Cost: $18.95 - 25.95

Where:
Adventure Aquarium
1 Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ  08103
View map »


Contact Name: Amanda Perez
Website »

More information

Visitors may take a two-hour guided tour of Hagley’s 235-acre site. Stops include Eleutherian Mills, the first du Pont family home built in America; the First Office of the DuPont Company; a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Hagley Museum and Library
Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom.

Where:
Longwood Gardens
1001 Longwood Road
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »

More information

Delaware native, Carson Zullinger, has been exhibiting his figural and landscape fine-art photographs for forty years. Zullinger often subordinates his dynamic and thoroughly modern compositions to...

Cost: Free

Where:
406 Federal Street
Dover, DE  19901

More information

Tobacco Cessation Location: Bayhealth Kent General, Private Dining Room 1–2, 640 S. State St., Dover Time: 5 p.m.–6:30 p.m. More info: Must be at least 18 years old to register...

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General
Private Dining Room 1–2
640 S. State St.
Dover, DE
View map »

More information

In response to audience demand, the Rehoboth Beach Film Society is presenting an encore screening of the Audience Award winner for Best Documentary at the 2014 Rehoboth Beach Independent Film...

Cost: $9

Where:
Lewes Presbyterian Church
133 Kings Highway
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Telephone: 302-645-9095
Website »

More information

Chips for Charity is a Monte Carlo-style cocktail event that boasts table games and dealers, an open bar, catering, a photo booth, a silent auction, 50/50, raffle prizes, a DJ and much more! Unlike...

Cost: $75/ticket

Where:
Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts (DCCA)
200 S. Madison St.
The Riverfront
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Next Gen North
Telephone: 609-665-6001
Contact Name: Danielle Dick
Website »

More information

In response to audience demand, the Rehoboth Beach Film Society is presenting an encore screening of the Audience Award winner for Best Documentary at the 2014 Rehoboth Beach Independent Film...

Cost: $9

Where:
Lewes Presbyterian Church
133 Kings Highway
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Telephone: 302-645-9095
Website »

More information

“Smokey Joe’s Cafe” is a high-energy song and dance celebration honoring the works of two rock 'n' roll pioneers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The show includes 40 of their hits, including...

Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 W. Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 764-1172
Website »

More information

These ain’t your granddad’s matchboxes—check out 60 rare examples of decadent 19th-century cases.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Pkwy.
Wilmington, DE
View map »


Telephone: 571-9590
Website »

More information

Epifania is pretty boss when it comes to making money. Finding love, though? Not so much. But when the richest woman on earth finds a guy who holds her fancy, will she meet his challenge to live...

Where:
Resident Ensemble Players/Thompson Theatre
110 Orchard Road
Newark, DE
View map »


Website »

More information

Make no beans about it—you won’t want to miss Jack face off against the mighty Giant. 

Where:
Delaware Children’s Theatre
1014 Delaware Ave
Wilmington, DE
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Lynn discovered photography through working in wild bird rehabilitation. Her images  explore Delaware’s wonderful variety of life and landscapes. She is a regular contributor to Delaware State...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Ball Barn
1914 West Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Telephone: 302-577-7020
Website »

More information

Delaware native, Carson Zullinger, has been exhibiting his figural and landscape fine-art photographs for forty years. Zullinger often subordinates his dynamic and thoroughly modern compositions to...

Cost: 5.00

Where:
Biggs Museum of American Arts
406 Federal Street
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

More information

Prehistoric marine reptiles that ruled the primeval seas more than 100 million years ago are taking over Adventure Aquarium on the Camden Waterfront for a limited-time exhibit starting January 16....

Cost: $25.95 for adults; $18.95 for children ages 2-12

Where:
Adventure Aquarium
1 Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ  08103
View map »


Sponsor: Adventure Aquarium
Telephone: 856-365-3300
Website »

More information

This summer, Camden’s largest residents, Adventure Aquarium’s hippopotamuses Button and Genny, invite you to join them in their exciting new home, Hippo Haven. As the only aquarium in the...

Cost: $18.95 - 25.95

Where:
Adventure Aquarium
1 Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ  08103
View map »


Contact Name: Amanda Perez
Website »

More information

Somerville Manning Gallery presents a solo exhibition of works by Jamie Wyeth concurrent with the artist’s major retrospective on view at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Somerville Manning Gallery
101 Stone Block Row
Brecks Mill, 2nd Floor
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Somerville Manning Gallery
Telephone: (302) 652-0271
Contact Name: Marisa Nolan
Website »

More information

Visitors may take a two-hour guided tour of Hagley’s 235-acre site. Stops include Eleutherian Mills, the first du Pont family home built in America; the First Office of the DuPont Company; a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Hagley Museum and Library
Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom.

Where:
Longwood Gardens
1001 Longwood Road
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »

More information

Delaware native, Carson Zullinger, has been exhibiting his figural and landscape fine-art photographs for forty years. Zullinger often subordinates his dynamic and thoroughly modern compositions to...

Cost: Free

Where:
406 Federal Street
Dover, DE  19901

More information

Tobacco Cessation Location: Bayhealth Kent General, Private Dining Room 1–2, 640 S. State St., Dover Time: 5 p.m.–6:30 p.m. More info: Must be at least 18 years old to register...

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General
Private Dining Room 1–2
640 S. State St.
Dover, DE
View map »

More information

The Lighthouse Church will be starting a Training Center for Deliverances beginning Friday September 12, 2014.  The school will be focused on all aspects of ministering deliverance and healing...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Lighthouse Church Inc.
6 South Railroad Avenue
Wyoming, DE  19934
View map »


Sponsor: The Lighthouse Church Inc.
Telephone: (302) 632-4679
Contact Name: Bro. Christopher Gore
Website »

More information

Chips for Charity is a Monte Carlo-style cocktail event that boasts table games and dealers, an open bar, catering, a photo booth, a silent auction, 50/50, raffle prizes, a DJ and much more! Unlike...

Cost: $75/ticket

Where:
Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts (DCCA)
200 S. Madison St.
The Riverfront
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Next Gen North
Telephone: 609-665-6001
Contact Name: Danielle Dick
Website »

More information

“Smokey Joe’s Cafe” is a high-energy song and dance celebration honoring the works of two rock 'n' roll pioneers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The show includes 40 of their hits, including...

Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 W. Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 764-1172
Website »

More information

Epifania is pretty boss when it comes to making money. Finding love, though? Not so much. But when the richest woman on earth finds a guy who holds her fancy, will she meet his challenge to live...

Where:
Resident Ensemble Players/Thompson Theatre
110 Orchard Road
Newark, DE
View map »


Website »

More information

These ain’t your granddad’s matchboxes—check out 60 rare examples of decadent 19th-century cases.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Pkwy.
Wilmington, DE
View map »


Telephone: 571-9590
Website »

More information

Make no beans about it—you won’t want to miss Jack face off against the mighty Giant. 

Where:
Delaware Children’s Theatre
1014 Delaware Ave
Wilmington, DE
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Delaware native, Carson Zullinger, has been exhibiting his figural and landscape fine-art photographs for forty years. Zullinger often subordinates his dynamic and thoroughly modern compositions to...

Cost: 5.00

Where:
Biggs Museum of American Arts
406 Federal Street
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

More information

Prehistoric marine reptiles that ruled the primeval seas more than 100 million years ago are taking over Adventure Aquarium on the Camden Waterfront for a limited-time exhibit starting January 16....

Cost: $25.95 for adults; $18.95 for children ages 2-12

Where:
Adventure Aquarium
1 Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ  08103
View map »


Sponsor: Adventure Aquarium
Telephone: 856-365-3300
Website »

More information

This summer, Camden’s largest residents, Adventure Aquarium’s hippopotamuses Button and Genny, invite you to join them in their exciting new home, Hippo Haven. As the only aquarium in the...

Cost: $18.95 - 25.95

Where:
Adventure Aquarium
1 Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ  08103
View map »


Contact Name: Amanda Perez
Website »

More information

Somerville Manning Gallery presents a solo exhibition of works by Jamie Wyeth concurrent with the artist’s major retrospective on view at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Somerville Manning Gallery
101 Stone Block Row
Brecks Mill, 2nd Floor
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Somerville Manning Gallery
Telephone: (302) 652-0271
Contact Name: Marisa Nolan
Website »

More information

Visitors may take a two-hour guided tour of Hagley’s 235-acre site. Stops include Eleutherian Mills, the first du Pont family home built in America; the First Office of the DuPont Company; a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Hagley Museum and Library
Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society and the Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation are proud to present The Metropolitan Opera’s live broadcast of Offenbach’s “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” on...

Cost: $15 - $25

Where:
Cape Henlopen High School Theater
1250 Kings Hwy
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society and the Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation are proud to present The Metropolitan Opera’s live broadcast of Offenbach’s “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” on...

Cost: $15 - $25

Where:
Cape Henlopen High School Theater
1250 Kings Hwy
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom.

Where:
Longwood Gardens
1001 Longwood Road
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »

More information

Delaware native, Carson Zullinger, has been exhibiting his figural and landscape fine-art photographs for forty years. Zullinger often subordinates his dynamic and thoroughly modern compositions to...

Cost: Free

Where:
406 Federal Street
Dover, DE  19901

More information

Tobacco Cessation Location: Bayhealth Kent General, Private Dining Room 1–2, 640 S. State St., Dover Time: 5 p.m.–6:30 p.m. More info: Must be at least 18 years old to register...

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General
Private Dining Room 1–2
640 S. State St.
Dover, DE
View map »

More information

Chips for Charity is a Monte Carlo-style cocktail event that boasts table games and dealers, an open bar, catering, a photo booth, a silent auction, 50/50, raffle prizes, a DJ and much more! Unlike...

Cost: $75/ticket

Where:
Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts (DCCA)
200 S. Madison St.
The Riverfront
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Next Gen North
Telephone: 609-665-6001
Contact Name: Danielle Dick
Website »

More information

“Smokey Joe’s Cafe” is a high-energy song and dance celebration honoring the works of two rock 'n' roll pioneers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The show includes 40 of their hits, including...

Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 W. Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 764-1172
Website »

More information

Epifania is pretty boss when it comes to making money. Finding love, though? Not so much. But when the richest woman on earth finds a guy who holds her fancy, will she meet his challenge to live...

Where:
Resident Ensemble Players/Thompson Theatre
110 Orchard Road
Newark, DE
View map »


Website »

More information

Make no beans about it—you won’t want to miss Jack face off against the mighty Giant. 

Where:
Delaware Children’s Theatre
1014 Delaware Ave
Wilmington, DE
View map »

More information

These ain’t your granddad’s matchboxes—check out 60 rare examples of decadent 19th-century cases.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Pkwy.
Wilmington, DE
View map »


Telephone: 571-9590
Website »

More information

It’s a tag team on the pipe organ for this month’s Dickson Theatre Organ Society concert.  See them put it down at John Dickinson High School

Where:
John Dickinson High School
1801 Milltown Road
Wilmington, DE
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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