A historic 100-year-old bungalow in Rehoboth Beach has received a new lease on life after being moved and then renovated by Tom Kelly.
It took about 15 months for Kelly to renovate the house. He took ownership of the building that once stood at 413 Rehoboth Ave. in early March 2021. A couple of weeks later, it was moved nearly a mile south to an empty lot on Lincoln Street.
The cottage sat on one of three adjoining lots – 413, 415 and 417 Rehoboth Ave. – owned by Clear Space Theatre Company, which at this point has been engaged with the city for multiple years trying to get a new theater approved on those lots.
To help finance the project, Clear Space applied to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a multimillion-dollar community facilities loan. As part of the application process, an environmental assessment was conducted, and the house at 413 Rehoboth Ave. was designated as a rare surviving example of a beach bungalow. The designation meant Clear Space was required to try to preserve the structure. A house at 415 Rehoboth Ave. did not receive the same designation, and it was demolished.
The bones of the house remain the same, but Kelly renovated the interior layout. There’s a master bedroom and bathroom downstairs. The kitchen is primarily the same, including a large sink. What used to be the porch is now an interior dining room with vaulted ceilings and a window into the living room.
“I didn’t even know that was there until I started to get to work on it,” said Kelly, of the new interior through-window.
Two small bedrooms have been added on the second floor, but not much else. Just enough for someone to sleep upstairs, he said.
Kelly said getting the floor of the porch level to the floor of the living room was a task because the porch was inches thicker than the living room. The house was put on the new foundation, and it pitched hard toward the living room, he said.
Kelly found a few artifacts during the renovation, including about 30 bottles of sherry from the 1940s. He also found a “well-used” corn cob pipe and a match book from the Robert Lee Snack Bar, which was a restaurant on Rehoboth Avenue from the late 1940s to the late 1960s.
Whoever did some earlier work on the house liked to smoke and have a few drinks, Kelly said, laughing.
Kelly ended up rewiring the whole house. There were three different types of wires running through it, he said. He also installed ductwork for the central air and a heating unit.
Of all the work done to update the house, Kelly said he was happiest about having two extra layers of cinder blocks added to the height of the foundation and then putting down a concrete slab. He did almost all the work underneath the house and having that extra height made it a lot easier to get stuff installed.
There was a lot of rolling around on his back under that house, he said.
Looking back on the project, Kelly said he’s glad to have been a part of saving the house. It took longer to fix up than anticipated, but that’s the case with everything right now, he said.