Community chimes in on last week’s photograph

February 16, 2021

The aerial picture published as the historic photo in the Feb. 9 edition of the Cape Gazette ( generated considerable interest.  Because of the extent of the information, we decided to publish it again with comments from two readers.  Bob Kotowski, long involved with Lewes Historical Society, provided the first response.  The second response came from Earl Webb who originally provided the photo.  Here are their responses:

    “Concerning the aerial photo of piers sent by Earl Webb and published on  page 7 in the Feb. 9 Cape Gazette, I think I can help,” wrote Kotowski.

    “The large plant and pier in the foreground appears to be Otis Smith’s Fish Products Co. The other menhaden piers also likely were owned by Smith. As for the remaining piers, starting from the top of the photo: the Army Mine Pier (now Cape Henlopen fishing pier), remnants of the old Iron Pier, and at the bottom of the pic, the Coast Guard Pier.

    “The photo likely is an aerial shot taken by Col. Riley E. McGarraugh sometime in the 1950s. McGarraugh was post commander at Fort Miles in the early 1950s and was an avid photographer.

    “I know this because I used that photo in the history of piers in Lewes,  which I researched and wrote for the Lewes Historical Society.  

    “The entire article was titled “Fingers Into the Bay,” pp. 28-44 of  “Lewes History,” Vol. XVI, 2013, the Journal of the Lewes Historical Society.  The photo, by the way, is in the LHS archives.”

    Earl Webb then produced his research:

    “We have all heard the popular saying that ‘it takes a village.’  That saying reflects the process that helps us all better understand Lewes.

     “I ended up getting input from Hazel Brittingham, Mike DiPaolo, Richard Bryan, Bill Heronemus and last but not least, Robert Kennedy. Robert and his father, Robert Sr.,  worked at Otis Smith’s Fish Products Plant.

    “At the bottom of the photo, out of the view of the camera and likely removed already would have been the location of the Queen Anne’s Railroad Pier. 

    “I  thought the first pier, from the bottom, was the Queen Anne pier but the end was turned the wrong way and no building was on the pier.  Robert knew the answer.  It was the Pilots Association pier.

    “The next pier was the Smith plant.  

    “According to Robert the third dock was the fish net dock.

    “Next up is the fishing plant owned by the Hayes family and called Consolidated Fish Products.  I remember reading that In the late 1800s the Luce Brothers along with S.S. Brown & Co. built the first fish processing plant in Lewes.

    “The next pier up is a bit of a mystery.  Thoughts range from a military pier for Fort Miles mine laying operations from WWII or general military use.  

    “The same can be said for the final pier. It appears to be the current fishing pier that is in disarray or perhaps from the Quarantine Hospital.”

    So there you have it.  Thanks to Bob and Earl.  As mentioned last week, the photo shows the intensity of activity near the point at Cape Henlopen in Lewes in the mid-20th century.   

  • Delaware Cape Region History in Photographs, published every Tuesday in the Cape Gazette, features historical photos from Delaware's Cape Region - particularly - and from throughout Sussex County and Delaware generally.

    Readers are invited to submit photos of historic interest. They can be mailed to the Cape Gazette at PO Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958, or via email to

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