The state’s Division of Parks and Recreation has agreed to take granite stones from a Route 1 farmhouse that used to be a part of the old Cape Henlopen Lighthouse. How they’ll be used hasn’t been figured out yet.
It’s a unique opportunity for the state to preserve a piece of local history, said Taylor Reynolds, DNREC Division of Parks and Recreation chief of cultural resources, while standing on the threshold of the house Nov. 8. The lighthouse played an important role in coastal Delaware for a long time, he said, salvaging some portion of it is significant.
Originally built in 1769, the Cape Henlopen Lighthouse stood atop the Great Dune in what is now Cape Henlopen State Park until it collapsed into the Atlantic Ocean in 1926.
The house in question is located immediately off the southbound side of Route 1, near Bob Evans. The structure is estimated to have been built around the 1930s, when it was used as a horse racing stable. More recently, it has been home to a number of businesses, including Parsell Funeral Home, Cape Henlopen Wicker, and most recently, Willow Marie & Co.
Local development company Reed Ventures purchased the property in January 2022. Earlier this year, Brent Reed said there are plans for a drive-thru Starbucks and retail/office space on the property.
Rather than simply demolish and then build, Reed Ventures hired Second Chance, a Baltimore-based company specializing in saving all usable pieces of old houses, to take the structure down piece by piece.
Deconstruction began this summer. Reed said the company didn’t know about the historical significance of the stones until after it purchased the property, but once the owners found out, they thought it would be important to save the history.
Shortly afterward, Reed reached out to the state parks.
Reynolds, who came to his new position from Delaware Public Archives in July, said figuring out what to do with the stones is already on the to-do list.
“The state tries to be good stewards of all its cultural resources,” said Reynolds. “This kind of stuff is really easy to get excited about.”
Reynolds said he’s aware of several homes in the area that contain stones from the lighthouse. After the lighthouse fell, a lot of local people salvaged the stones and incorporated them into their homes, he said.
Short of doing a chemical analysis of the stones, there’s no way to be 100% certain a stone is from the lighthouse. However, he said, the Lewes Historical Society has a stone known to be from the lighthouse, which is pretty much identical to what’s found in the Reed Ventures farmhouse.
“It’s got the exact same crystallization pattern,” he said.
Reynolds said he’s been told the stones will be placed on pallets and delivered to the state park.
Once that happens, they’ll sit in storage for a period of time as state parks staff figure out what’s next, he said.
“It’s important to remember and preserve our history, and a project like this does that,” Reynolds said.