Now in its third year, the Coastal Towns Historical Village Cottage Tourwill take place on Saturday, October 12 from 10 am – 4 pm. The tour, which spans six historic houses and is organized by the Ocean View Historical Society, gives visitors a peek inside earlier times in South Bethany.
(Credit: Town of Bethany Beach)
The Ocean View Historical Society is made up of the neighboring communities of Bethany, South Bethany, Fenwick, Clarksville, Muddy Neck, Cedar Neck, and Millville. Not only are these coastal communities beautiful, but they are rich with history. The Ocean View Historical Society is dedicated to preserving the history through tours, such as the Coastal Towns Historical Village Cottage Tour in October.
It is reported that Bethany was founded in the early 1900s by members of the Christian Church that lived in Washington DC and Pennsylvania. The members originally wanted land for a yearly seaside assembly, they were not looking to develop a town. The original six businessmen from Pittsburgh who founded Bethany Beach were R.S. Latimer, a tea merchant; John M. Addy, a plumber; W.R. Errett, a lawyer; W.S. Kidd, a steel manufacturer; Dr. T.E. Cramblet, the president of Bethany College in West Virginia; and W.A. Dinker, the first president of the new company.
H.L. Atkinson is credited with naming Bethany Beach, although Wellington and Gladmere were among the considerations. As the winner of the naming contest, Atkinson received an oceanside lot in Bethany Beach.
Once Bethany had its name, in the early 1900s, there was heavy marketing to sell the lots. 150 lots were sold quickly, particularly to families from Washington DC, Pittsburgh, and Scranton, PA. By 1901, the Tabernacle underwent construction and was home to church services and events. Also during this year, a temporary town government was created and the seaside town celebrated its first summer season. Until 1910, there was no efficient way to get to Bethany Beach, which is how the name the “Quiet Years” was developed. In 1910, the Loop Canal was completed and visitors could begin visiting Bethany Beach by boat. During the Quiet Years, the town gradually developed more amenities, including a post office, newspaper, coast guard, theater and boardwalk. The Bethany Beach Post Office was housed in the Dinker-Irvin Cottage from 1922-1925, which is located at Garfield Parkway. The Dinker-Irvin Cottage is open for visitors to tour the first floor of the cottage and is officially the oldest public building in Bethany Beach. There are plans to open the cottage’s second floor, which has three bedrooms.
Until the Chesapeake Bay Bridge opened in 1952, the Quiet Years progressed as normal. The bridge was a gamechanger for the small seaside town since it was the first time motorists could drive from Washington, DC, Pittsburgh and Baltimore directly into Bethany. As a result, the Delaware coast became a popular vacation destination, and the development in the beach town began. By the 1960s, there was a real estate boom in Bethany Beach and led to another bridge being constructed in 1973. As a result, access became even easier, development was accelerated, and the original Tabernacle was demolished. You could say the Quiet Years were finally over.
Storms have repeatedly landed down in Bethany. A destructive storm landed in 1962, but that did not deter residents and developers in Bethany Beach. Construction and rebuilding began after the storm, and new public buildings were opened in the mid and late 1960s. A bandstand was built on the boardwalk in 1976, and in the early 1980s, the Bethany Beach Fire Department offered the town’s first emergency medical center. Another storm arrived in 1985, badly damaging the boardwalk, in 1992, a nor’easter struck Bethany with 85 mph winds and in 1998, two storms landed a week apart from each other.
It wasn’t until 2001 when a new Tabernacle was constructed.
There’s nothing that Bethany Beach can do about the weather, but there are measures in place the seaside town can take to reduce the impact of storms. In 2008, the town’s beaches underwent a beach replenishment program. According to The State of Delaware’s website, “the relationship of the beach and dune is an important symbiosis.” Dunes are hardy – they’re tolerant to high salinity, direct sun and extreme heat.
(Credit: Adaption Stories)
Today, Bethany Beach is developed with homes and modern amenities, but the town has not forgotten its past.