Leave the net reel where it is

February 12, 2021

“Break on through to the other side.”The Doors, with inspiration from metaphysical poet William Blake.

The great net reel controversy in Lewes has sparked spirited and informative dialogue, touching on such lofty considerations as rhythm and scale, positive race relations, history as art, and more.

But now the discussion is becoming worn out, as threadbare as some of the cotton menhaden purse nets that eventually had to be discarded after a few too many trips to the reel for drying, cleaning and mending.

It’s time to move on, celebrate everything we’ve learned through the controversy, break on through to the other side, and realize the profound role in Lewes’ history manifested physically and metaphorically by the net reel. 

Its presence in the heart of Lewes’ historic district is overt and tangible evidence of the menhaden industry and its thousands of men and women, black and white, old and young, and of many ethnicities, working side by side. 

Emblematically, the net reel represents the value of concerted and fruitful labor, and the unifying satisfaction of cooperative accomplishment.

Lewes Historical Society may have erred in terms of communication prior to relocating the reel from the canal banks to the historic complex at the corner of Third and Shipcarpenter streets. However, in light of the amazing, almost incredible litany of works this organization has achieved in its 60 years of existence, contributing so much to the town’s positive culture and economy, this inconsequential fumble should be quickly forgotten.

Officers say they plan to expand historical interpretation efforts around the reel and its surrounding community. That is needed. Better signage could add much to the public's understanding of the reel and its significance.

Lewes Historical Society executed a masterful, tasteful and attractive relocation and restoration which adds to the interest of the historic complex. That effort enhanced the Lewes core value which celebrates the town’s historic and intimate relationship with the sea.

Majestic in its humility, the net reel deserves to remain exactly where it is.

  • Editorials are considered and written by Cape Gazette Editorial Board members, including Publisher Chris Rausch, Editor Jen Ellingsworth, News Editor Nick Roth and reporters Ron MacArthur and Chris Flood. 

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter