LHS History Happy Hours series kicks off June 6

Hazel Brittingham to present “Miss Lil’s Waterfront Enterprise”
Lewes Historical Society Executive Director Mike DiPaolo speaks at a previous History Happy Hour. SOURCE SUBMITTED
May 23, 2014

The Lewes Historical Society resumes its popular History Happy Hour series at 4 p.m., Friday, June 6 when Hazel Brittingham will present “Miss Lil’s Waterfront Enterprise.” Lillian Lawrence, Lewes’s famous/infamous Miss Lil, ran an illegal house of entertainment for men in two locations near the waterfront during the first quarter-century of the 1900s. She and her girls made news at the time, and hearsay accounts of the brothel remain a part of Lewes’s colorful coastal history.

Brittingham has heard many of the stories and will share her notes taken during discussions with local folk about the subject. All of those interviewed have now passed away.

Brittingham, a native of Lewes, has had a lifelong interest in local history and its recording. She was a charter member of The Lewes Historical Society and has enjoyed uninterrupted membership. Following a 25-year career as administrative secretary in the Lewes and then Cape Henlopen school districts, she has devoted time to writing and speaking about Lewes history. Brittingham had a book published in 1998, "Lantern on Lewes - Where the Past is Present."  A subject receiving her special attention over the years has been the Cape Henlopen Lighthouse, which fell in 1926.

History Happy Hours continue Friday, June 13, as speaker William H.J. Manthorpe Jr. presents “The Navy at Cape Henlopen 1898-1994.” This presentation documents the presence of the U.S. Navy on Cape Henlopen from 1898 to 1996. It highlights the principal U.S. Navy installations that were on the Cape, illustrates what the facilities looked like when they were operational and what the locations look like today. It pictures the equipment used and the daily life of the sailors.

Manthorpe is a retired U.S. Navy captain, government senior civilian executive and university professor. He currently teaches at Delaware Technical Community College.

During a special History Happy Hour Friday, June 20, speaker Marilyn McMahon will present “USLSS: Breeches Buoy & Surf Cart.” During the era of the lifesaving stations, when a ship's crew and passengers were in peril, it was up to those manning the lifesaving station to bring them to safety. Among the tools at their disposal were the Lyle Gun, the breeches buoy, and the surf car.  The public is invited to the Lewes Lifesaving Station Boat House on the canal at 4 p.m., Saturday, July 26, to learn about the adventures of those who used this equipment. 

McMahon was born and raised in western Pennsylvania and moved to Delaware in the early '70s. She taught English at Seaford High School for 26 years, as well as at the James H. Groves Adult High School. She has been a docent at the Rabbit's Ferry House and the Lewes Life-Saving Station. She is also education chair for the Sussex County Genealogical Society.

On Friday, June 27, Michael Morgan will present, “He Must Burn All Their Homes (Destruction of Lewes, 1673).”   After the original Dutch colony of Swanendael was destroyed by Native Americans, and the utopian settlement of Pieter Plockhoy was decimated by the English, colonists had begun to return to the area. Those colonists, however, soon became entangled in conflicting claims to the Cape Henlopen area. In 1673, several dozen armed men from Maryland arrived in the settlement on Lewes Creek, roused the colonists out of their houses, and announced that they had orders to burn all their homes. This presentation will detail the power and politics behind this tragic incident that left the homes along Lewes Creek in ashes.

A retired history teacher, Morgan has been writing freelance newspaper articles on the history of southern Delaware and the Mid Atlantic region for over three decades. He is the author of Delaware Diary, which appears weekly in the Delaware Coast Press and the Sussex Journal, which is a weekly feature of The Wave. Morgan has also published articles in The Baltimore Sun, Maryland Magazine, Chesapeake Bay Magazine, Civil War Times, World War II Magazine, America’s Civil War and other national publications. He is the author of "Pirates and Patriots, Tales of the Delaware Coast," "Rehoboth Beach, A History of Sand and Surf," "Bethany Beach, A Brief History," "Ocean City, Going Down the Ocean," and "Civil War Delaware." Morgan’s look at history is marked by a lively, storytelling style that has made his writing and lectures popular.

These featured presentations will be offered free of charge at 4 p.m. every Friday through Aug. 29. Lectures run for 20-30 minutes, followed by a question-and-answer period. During the presentations, a glass of wine will be served by Rose & Crown, Lewes’s upscale British pub. These programs are sponsored by and take place at Hotel Rodney, 142 Second St., Lewes.

The Lewes Historical Society extends thanks to History Happy Hour sponsor Hotel Rodney; the Rose & Crown also supports the History Happy Hour program. For a complete listing of speakers, subjects and locations of The Lewes Historical Society’s History Happy Hours or for more information go to