Lewes residents honored for preserving history

Banquet highlights positive work in historic district
Brenda B. Jones receives a plaque from Lewes Historical Society Executive Director Mike DiPaolo at the 2014 Preservation Awards April 11 at Irish Eyes in Lewes. Jones was honored with the Renovation Award. BY NICK ROTH
April 21, 2014

The hard work of several individuals to preserve Lewes' long and robust history was highlighted and honored at the Lewes Historical Society's annual Historic Preservation Awards.

Ned Maull, secretary of the historical society's board of trustees, said the preservation awards recognize those who offer unique contributions to the preservation of the 383-year-old town.

“It is not just about the buildings," he said. "It is also the character of the town that changes, and yes, the people who live and visit in that town. We as a community have to protect the reason people chose to visit and make Lewes their home.”

Honored at the ceremony were Mayor Jim Ford, Amy and Craig Felker, Brenda B. Jones and Hal and Holly Brundage.

In a ceremony held at Irish Eyes April 11, the history of each property was highlighted and the owners were awarded with a plaque to be placed on the homes. Sen. Tom Carper served as the event's keynote speaker and commented on Lewes and Delaware's commitment to preserve history.

“Here in Delaware, we have refused to let the history of our state die. What we have sought to do is preserve it. We've preserved things not just for our own enjoyment and satisfaction, but for our children and people who will be coming here for decades and centuries to come. They'll learn the story.”

Community Service Award

As Jim Ford gets ready to step down from 22 years as an elected official, the historical society honored the outgoing mayor for his contributions. Elected to city council in 1992 and mayor in 2004, Ford worked hard to establish committees for commercial and residential architectural review to preserve the external appearance of the city's historical structures. The result was the commercial architectural review committee and the historic preservation commission.

“During [Ford's] watch, Lewes has grown and prospered, yet it's retained the historical charm and character we all love,” Maull said.

Outside city hall, Ford owns Custom Carpentry, a business that specializes in historic restorations. He personally thanked two employees – Neal Murabito and Tom Morris – who have worked with him since before he took public office. He said he wouldn't have been able to maintain a business and be the city's mayor without both men.

“They have a lot of good knowledge and information and take a lot of pride in what they do,” he said. “To have two dedicated employees, I've been very fortunate to have them.”

He also thanked his wife, Teresa, for her support and sacrifice during more than two decades of obligations as mayor, a city council member and board member of many organizations and groups.

And just as his wife and colleagues worked with him, so did the community. Without a good working relationship with the community, Ford said, many of his accomplishments may not have been possible.

“If I didn't have this community, I wouldn't have this award,” he said. “It's a wonderful relationship back and forth between myself and what we have here in this environment in a town called Lewes.”

Stewardship Award

After renovating moving and renovating Lewes' first bed and breakfast, Craig Felker vowed to his wife, Amy, he would never buy an old home again. That vow did not last. In October 2012, the couple purchased the old Methodist Meeting House at 214 Mulberry St. and embarked on a project to preserve the historic building. The Felkers work was rewarded with the historical society's Stewardship Award.

“I think [Craig] is the greatest partner in the world because he's the one who maintained the 200-year-old fence,” Amy said, noting Craig and a friend dug the old fence out by hand and moved it to the road. “He's been instrumental while I'm trying to run a bake shop.”

The structure was built in the late 1700s at the corner of Third and Market streets, the current location of M&T Bank and the Rodney Hotel parking lot. It was moved to the corner of Market and Church streets in 1828, where an addition was built to accommodate the growing Methodist congregation. It was again moved in the early 1870s to Mulberry Street, where it has remained.

Renovation Award

The Depression-style cottage at 121 E. Third St. was in rough shape when Brenda Jones bought it in 2011. Many thought the structure was a lost cause, but Jones had other ideas.

“When I purchased this house, everyone did think it was a tear down or they thought I was crazy,” she said. “As my son said, 'If we see it through your eyes, it's going to be something.'”

Built in 1929, the original farmhouse had horse stables in the rear of the lot. The home was still in the possession of the original family until Jones bought it, and it came with a few surprises. A shipping crate in the attic belonged to the wife of a family member who served in the Korean War. While overseas, the man fell in love with a Korean woman. She shipped all of her belongings to Lewes in the crate, where it has remained since. To incorporate this bit of history in the home, Jones had the crate made into a door. The name and address of the house as shown on the crate are preserved in the door.

When it came to renovations, Jones had to gut the structure, replacing the electrical, plumbing, heating, air conditioning and windows. She also restored the front porch to its original appearance, which she found in a photograph inside the home.

“This project is an excellent example of renovation over demolition and the superlative results that can be achieved,” Maull said.

The home has been featured in This Old House Magazine and was honored with the historical society's Renovation Award.

“I think it's turned out to be quite a charmer, and I love it there,” Jones said.

Restoration Award

The final award recipients of the afternoon were Hal and Holly Brundage, who restored and expanded a home at 325 Market St. The restoration of the two-story, gable-roof framed home was the joint vision of the Brundages and their team of architects, designers and builders. The couple's goal was to retain its historic appearance and character while upgrading it with modern conveniences and making it energy efficient.

It was stripped back to the studs before new studs and beams were added to square the structure. A rear addition provided room for a master suite, kitchen and break room, Maull said.

Upstairs, the floor plan and roof line were maintained, and the front facade was restored to its original appearance.

“This is the culmination of a long road, but one I think had a very successful completion,” said Hal. “We love being in Lewes, and we're glad we could do our project.”

Along with the Brundages, Maull said, all of the honorees at the awards banquet are setting a good example for the positive results of historic preservation.

“Lewes is a living, growing city and always in transition, and that transition is sometimes painful,” he said. “These four honored award winners have helped the Lewes community to understand, to respect, to appreciate and to learn about its past, its present and also to see the prospects for the future.”