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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Cape Henlopen State Park Fishing Pier
In the 19th century, millions of immigrants sailed for America. They also carried the threat of epidemic diseases, such as yellow fever, cholera, smallpox and typhus. Delaware Breakwater Quarantine Station, which processed more than 200,000 immigrants, opened in 1884 as part of the National Quarantine System. Located on what is now Cape Henlopen State Park, the facility was also known as the Delaware Breakwater Quarantine Hospital or the Marine Hospital.
Ships heading up the Delaware River stopped at the station, where a doctor would board and have a look. If there was no sign of disease, the ship proceeded to Philadelphia. Those suspected of disease were taken to the hospital. Later, officials also removed anyone who had come in contact with the patients. The remaining passengers stayed aboard the anchored ship for two to 12 weeks for monitoring. The station became a Navy base during World War I, then closed in 1926. By 1932 buildings were demolished, moved or incorporated into other buildings.
But thanks to the Lewes Maritime History Trail, its story lives on. For more information on the trail, call the Lewes Historic Society, 645-7670, or visit www.historiclewes.org. The brochure and audio tours can be picked up at the society, at 110 Shipcarpenter St.