Former Lewes National Bank for sale as historic home

People can see part of city’s past on Franklin Avenue
July 27, 2023

The building that once housed the first bank in the First Town in the First State is now renovated and will be on the market this weekend.

Now located at 126 Franklin St., the building was constructed in 1850 as the Lewes National Bank on Second Street. The bank even printed money from about 1898 until 1913. Soon after that, the decision was made to build a bigger bank. So, local sea Capt. James Bartlett bought the old building and moved it a few blocks to what was then called Morris Street. Bartlett is famous for knowing exactly where the H.M.S. DeBraak sank in Delaware Bay in 1798. The building is also one of the few remaining federal structures in Lewes.

“I knew this house deserved the best for finishes and staging,” said Mike Finkle, the founder and owner of Main Line Estate Company, the current owner of the historic house.

Finkle called himself the “maestro” of the 16-month restoration project, building a team of craftsmen to make the house look as close to the original as possible. 

“Every piece of trim is all new, hand done, correct to period,” he said during a tour, which became “House Hunters” meets Lewes history.

Finkle said he relied on old photos and local archives to get the restoration right. The connection to Capt. Bartlett was visible.

“Capt. Bartlett’s great-great-great-niece reached out to me, and she has been sending documents and stories,” he said. “There’s a photo of his family sitting right on the porch at one point.”

Finkle showed off one of the original beams that he kept exposed so people can see what the bones are made of.

“Legend has it that Capt. Bartlett himself found this, that it’s a keel from an 18th century brig that sank in the Lewes Canal,” Finkle said.

Inside and outside, the five-bedroom, three-bathroom home is a mix of old and new. Antiques and accessories were sourced from around the region. The kitchen has modern appliances side by side with 19th century Wedgwood dishes and a island bar that Finkle said came from a Pennsylvania pub. A British ironstone bowl on the bar dates to the late 1800s and belonged to Finkle’s grandmother. The ceiling tiles in the kitchen date to 1900 and once hung in a municipal building in Lancaster, Pa. The bathrooms are strictly modern.

Finkle is especially proud of what his team was able to do with the downstairs front room. 

“Real historic homes always had some sort of drawing room or study or gentlemen’s room,” he said. “It was bare drywall, no trim, [and] the fireplace didn’t work. But I knew this being the front of the home, this location, it had to be a special study room.”

Finkle said his team restored the fireplace from the ground up. The room is filled with antique furniture and paintings that give a sense of what life was like in decades past.

Other original beams were left exposed throughout the house. Some have numbers etched into the wood. 

“While the structure was up, they probably marked them off [so when they took it apart] they knew how to put it back,” said Finkle.

Outside, Finkle bought the green shutters from a farm in Annapolis, Md. The Lewes National Bank sign is an exact reproduction. The chimney was rebuilt to exactly match the original.

The previous owners built an addition in 2001. Standing on Franklin Street, one can see the difference between the original gray cypress cedar shingles, which Finkle said were probably made locally, and the new brown-colored ones.

So how much would an old bank where they used to print money go for? Finkle said the exact asking price is not set, but it will “start with a two.”



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