Engel giving new life to old Ellendale Post Office

November 26, 2021

Many people regularly pass through Ellendale in their travels across the Delmarva Peninsula. To me, the town has never looked better.

With a 2010 census population listed at 381, Ellendale is one of Delaware’s smallest incorporated communities. But with its churches, post office, town hall, central park, Southern Grill restaurant, volunteer fire department, and Family Dollar general store, Ellendale is unquestionably a real town.

Several years back, the federal government replaced Ellendale’s old wooden post office with a newer brick-and-composite-siding structure. The new post office is just off Ellendale’s Route 16 main drag, while the older structure fronted on that main street.

In the past week, John Davidson’s East Coast Structural Movers moved the old post office to a 25-acre parcel of land near Harbeson. There, Lewes native Tommy Engel plans to restore the old post office to its original look from the 1930s or ‘40s.

“I’m creating a little old town on part of my property,” said Engel, a self-professed picker and collector. “It’s my own personal museum-like thing. The inside of the building was gutted, but I plan to return it to the look of an old post office. I might make the outside look like an old gas station with pumps. I have all kinds of memorabilia to be part of the complex, including what I think is the largest existing collection of Lewes Dairy items.”

Engel said he had been keeping an eye on the old Ellendale Post Office building for a few years and had mentioned his interest to a number of people.

“Then one day my phone started ringing off the hook. Friends were telling me a sign had been posted. It said the building could be had for free to anyone who could move it off the property in two weeks. Otherwise, the owner planned to tear it down. Two other people expressed interest, but I know John Davidson well and knew I could get the job done, so that’s what happened. Now I’ll start adding post office memorabilia to my collection.”

Engel started out in the landscaping business but over the past several years has branched out into Service First Containers – a regional dumpster business – as well as crawl space conditioning, and managing several rentals and commercial properties.

“Though I was born and raised in Lewes, I travel all up and down the East Coast for business and my collecting. I’m a picker, like on the ‘American Pickers’ television show. Two weeks back I was in North Carolina; last week I was outside Philadelphia, and Thanksgiving week I was off to Savannah, Ga. That is kind of a getaway, but I’ll take my Sprinter van and probably come back with it loaded up. I go to a lot of antique shops and do a lot of door knocking. And people call me up when they think they might have some stuff I would be interested in.”

For now, though, Engel will be focused on preserving a piece of old Ellendale and its postal history.



Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter