A Walk Through History
The story of Lewes’ important maritime past hasn’t been well known by visitors. A new self-guided tour will help change that.
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Hikers and beachcombers probably had no idea the fishing pier they passed at Cape Henlopen State Park was once a quarantine station for immigrants. Nor did strollers looking out at breakwaters in Delaware Bay have a clue the structures once provided a safe harbor for commercial ships in treacherous waters. Most people in Lewes’ Canalfront Park didn’t know fisheries—and all their glorious aromas—once dominated the town.
Now they do.
Visitors and locals alike can learn about Lewes’ past on the new Lewes Maritime History Trail, a 4.3-mile, self-guided route that encompasses 10 sites, each with signs that detail information about the people, industries or events that shaped the town. Some markers, like those at the lifesaving station and the lightship Overfalls, explore historical movements and trends, not just the attraction itself.
“It’s a very nice addition to Lewes,” says Ted Becker, managing partner for Stewart-Becker Properties in Lewes. “It’s self-directed. You’re not dependent upon a museum being open. You can visit all 10 sites or do two at a time. It’s a real good fit, especially for the population in this community, which is interested in history.”
The project was funded in part by a grant from Preserve America, a federal initiative that supports cultural and natural heritage. To receive the grant, Lewes had to become a designated Preserve America Community, which it did in 2006. It then received $35,000 from the federal organization, which it had to match.
“We were able to cobble together other grants and include volunteer time as a match,” says Mike DiPaolo, executive director of the Lewes Historical Society. The narrator on an accompanying audio tour, for instance, did the project pro bono.
Costs add up quickly, DiPaolo says. The Lewes Maritime History Trail includes heavy-duty, full-color signs complete with photographs or illustrations, a brochure and the audio tour, which is played on the kind of handheld devices typically seen in museums.
The project started with only eight locations but, before anyone knew it, the number jumped to 10. “We realized there was so much to talk about—and still there was so much we didn’t talk about,” DiPaolo says.
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