The old Queen Anne's Railroad Station in Lewes was rescued from a bulldozer's wrath and has found a new home, thanks in part to an event sponsored by the Historic Lewes Farmers Market.
But we are getting ahead of the story.
On Dec. 20, an East Coast Structural Movers crew moved the station from its former home off Kings Highway to Lavender Fields at Warrington Manor off Coolspring Road.
The owners of Lavender Fields, Marie Mayor and Sharon Harris, with the help of Rowland Bradley and Nancyfaye Autenzio, plan to restore the station to what it looked like decades ago. The station was not an actual railroad station but served as the office/station for a commercial venture that included a train ride, dinner and sometimes a murder mystery. The company went out of business in the 1990s and since then, the station has sat empty in a parking lot near the railroad tracks.
That's where it was one day Bradley of Lewes saw a backhoe preparing to tear it down. “I really think it's a cute building, and ever since I moved here, I thought it would be nice to rehab it,” Bradley said. He knows something about bringing old buildings back to life because his Lewes home was once a lifesaving station.
In reality, the station is really not that old, probably built in the 1980s. Even so, it's worth saving, he said.
Because he didn't want to see the station demolished, he took over ownership and set on a mission to find a spot to put it. It turned out that it wasn't an easy task.
He looked at land all over Lewes but couldn't find an affordable lot. It's at this point that the farmers market connection comes into play.
Bradley mentioned his plight to Mayor during the farmers market annual fund-raising hoe-down April 27. “She told me move it to her farm,” Bradley said.
The deal was sealed, but it took another eight months before the station was loaded onto a trailer and actually moved.
Mayor said they aren't 100 percent sure what the building will be used for once it's restored. “But the important thing is it's here now,” she said.
Bradley said part of the restoration will include the addition of large cupola like one that once towered over the station.
It's appropriate that the station has found a new home in such a historical locale. The original farm was deeded to the Warrington family in 1776. It's also been home to the Fisher and Martin families and the Brittinghams once operated a dairy farm for Lewes Dairy on the property.
Harris said history has come full circle with the station moving to Warrington Manor. Twenty-two years ago, a building left the parcel for a new home in Lewes. The Lewes Historical Society took ownership and moved the Fisher Martin House off the Warrington farm property in 1980. The building is the home of the Lewes Chamber of Commerce, off Kings Highway in Zwaanendael Park in downtown Lewes.
Railroad was vital Delmarva link in late 1890s
While the dinner train borrowed the Queen Anne's name, there actually was a Queen Anne's Railroad that provided a vital link from Kent Island, Md., into Sussex County, ending in Lewes. Over the years, steamer service at each end of the line provided transportation to Baltimore and Cape May, N.J.
The last major railroad built on Delmarva, Queen Anne's history is a brief one. The company was formed in 1894 in Maryland and by the mid-1920s most of the line had been abandoned. The last passengers rode the train in 1931.
Even so, the train was vital to the people in the Cape Region; two state historical markers in Ellendale and Milton note the importance of the railroad to the towns. The first passengers arrived by train in Milton on Aug. 29, 1897, after years of negotiations to get a rail stop in the town, according to Delaware Archives.
In 1901, summer-only service was offered between Queenstown, Md., and Lewes, with steamer connections to Cape May, N.J.
In 1905, the line was sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad, and it wasn't long before service was cut back.
But the railroad is not forgotten.
• Some portions of the line are used today by the Delaware Coast Line Railroad.
• The restored Georgetown rail station is located on track formerly used by Queen Anne's Railroad.
• The popular Cross Island Trail on Kent Island, Md., is located on parts of the former Queen Anne's rail bed.