Menhaden fishing net reel appeal postponed to September

Historic artifact may remain in place until fall
June 4, 2021

Story Location:
110 Shipcarpenter St
Lewes, DE 19958
United States

The menhaden fishing net reel may remain on the Lewes Historical Society campus until at least this fall after an appeal hearing before the city’s board of adjustment has been delayed until September. 

The hearing was scheduled for June 1, but postponed just a few days prior. 

The historical society is appealing a decision by the city’s historic preservation architectural review commission that would force removal of the historic artifact from its location at the corner of Shipcarpenter and Third streets, where it has now resided for nearly a year. 

The net reel in question had for many years sat along the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal behind the Lewes Life-Saving Station and next to the Lightship Overfalls. During a September meeting before the historic preservation commission, LHS Executive Director Jim Abbott said circumstances out of the society’s control required the net reel to be moved. After repairs, the net reel was reassembled on the society’s Shipcarpenter Street campus.

The group did not seek permission to do so, saying that they had not needed permission to place artifacts on their property in the past. A small group of neighbors objected to the net reel’s new location, and the historic preservation commission determined it did not fit in with the rhythm and scale of the streetscape, and denied an application for it to remain in place.

LHS Executive Director Jim Abbott said the net reel is important in telling the 20th century history of Lewes, particularly during a pre-civil rights time when African Americans and Caucasians worked side by side. 

Abbott said the net reel would be included in a walking tour that educates the public about the contributions African Americans have made to the Lewes community. The tour is being developed by the Lewes African American Heritage Commission. 

The dimensions of the cylindrical wooden reel, which was used to pull cotton fishing nets out of saltwater to dry, are 19 feet in height, 32 feet in length and 18 feet in depth.

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