5 Historic Sites to Visit in Lewes, Delaware
Although most families may come to Lewes Beach , Delaware for beach vacations, the town offers much more. A great alternative to those hot summer beach days is to take a stroll into town and learn about its history. The historic buildings are hosted by volunteers who are more then happy to not only give you a tour, but also answer any questions you may have.
Ryves Holt House, Circa 1665
Upon entering the home, kids and adults alike will feel like giants under its low ceilings. Designed to keep the heat in during the winter, the house served as a tavern for many years, allowing English colonists to learn of news and stop for a friendly chat. This is also where sailors would find Lewes river bay pilots to help navigate their ships up to Philadelphia. Families will see one of the rooms set up as the tavern would have looked in the 1700’s. This home also serves as the Lewes Historical Society Visitor Center, where you can receive information about the town of Lewes, and local events and surrounding sites.
Fun fact: When everyday plates, cups or other home items broke, the property owners would throw them in the latrine. Archeologists dug up the original latrine to discover many of the homes artifacts.
211 Mulberry St, Lewes
Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church, Established 1681
I can remember running around the grave site as a kid, ice cream in hand. I still find the cemetery interesting to stroll through, still with an ice cream in hand and my own kids running through. The original church was completed in 1724, but has been replaced twice by larger structures. In the front yard of the church lies a graveyard with some noteworthy graves of the inhabitants of Lewes. You can walk through the graveyard reading the tombs and looking for the oldest grave there (hint–it dates back to 1707).
2nd Street Lewes
Lightship Overfalls, Built in 1938- Retired in Lewes 1973
The lightship, used originally in New England, was an aide for navigation. With the use of the light and foghorn, she helped many ships navigate safely in difficult and different weather conditions. However, with increased automation and radio signals, these ships became obsolete. Now, families can take a guided tour of the lightship and learn about her structure, various functions and how the crew lived on the ship. Watch your head though!
219 Pilottown Rd, Lewes
The Cannonball House, Circa 1760
This was one of my favorite houses as a child. As a kid, looking at a cannonball from the war of 1812, lodged in the brick foundation of the house, was the coolest. It is still fascinating to me today and for our kids; they love to pass by and admire the cannon and the large anchors outside. However, it is more than that. It is a maritime museum filled with artifacts from the river bay pilots of Lewes. This is also the most haunted house in Lewes, haunted by three spirits. One who died in a fire in one of the original rooms of the house. The house was built in 1765, and was owned by two river bay pilots originally.
Here you will also learn about pirates invading Lewes Beach, the bay’s fishing industry and pilots, and the important role they played navigating ships into Philadelphia. Lewes was typically the first stop for many of the colonists and traders. There’s even an iron Spanish treasure chest on display.
Fun fact: An old English custom, when you rebuild or put an addition on a house, you put a shoe in the wall for good luck. Shoes were found in the walls of this house.
118 Front Street, Lewes
Lewes was first settled by the Dutch in 1631, until this colony was wiped out by the native Lenape Indians. The Dutch returned in 1658 and resettled until the English eventually took over. The museum was modeled after the town hall in Hoorn, Netherlands, commemorating the town’s Netherlandish heritage. They have a wonderful exhibit of the English warship DeBraak, which was lost off the shores of Lewes. Kids can learn about all of her cannons, crew while seeing actual artifacts from the ship.
102 Kings Highway, Lewes
More Tips and Places of Interest
The five sites mentioned above should take no more than an hour and half to two hours to visit. Prior to visiting them, you can grab a wonderful brunch at Nectar Lewes. They have an array of breakfast favorites and an assortment of blended fresh juices and vegetables.
Lewes Historical Society
They offer a walking tour of select historic buildings, offered on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 2pm from July – beginning of September. These start at the Ryves Holt House. I would not recommend this tour for younger kids as it is an hour with a lot of historic detail. However, for older kids who have learned some American history will find this tour interesting. The tour is will take you the Shipcarpenter street campus, home to 9 historic buildings including a blacksmith house, doctors office, school and an example of a plank house constructed by Swedes in the late 17th century.
The Lewes History Museum
A small but interesting museum into Lewes’s past with a focus on it’s famous families, decorative arts, maritime history with a strong emphasis on the bay pilots. The Chamber of Commerce and the Historic Society are excited to open a Children’s Discovery Center in the fall of 2018. It will feature an interactive general store and a scale replica of the Cape Henlopen Lighthouse.
110 Shipcarpenter St, Lewes
Thank you to Mike Michael DiPaolo, Executive Director of The Lewes Historical Society for sitting with me in the The Lewes Bake Shop to share his enthusiasm, in-depth information of Lewes, and upcoming additions to the historical town of Lewes Delaware.
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