Nassau School in Belltown gets a new roof

State officials take step to protect historic building from the elements
July 16, 2020

Story Location:
Five Points
Lewes, DE 19958
United States

While no decision has been made for the eventual use of the historic Nassau School, state officials are taking a preventative step to stop any water damage from occurring to the historic Belltown building.

Although it’s not a step toward restoration, Delaware Department of Transportation officials decided to put a new roof on the structure located off Route 9 near the Five Points intersection.

DelDOT officials purchased the property where the school sits as part of a deal when they bought the 4-acre Best property, location of Bests' Ace Hardware, for possible future Five Points intersection improvements.

Since the property was purchased in September 2019, the school has been cleaned out by the Best family, who used it for storage. Overgrown vegetation was removed from the southwest corner of the building and a small patch was placed on the roof to stop a leak.

Recently, a honeybee colony was removed and new shingles were added to the west end of the building in consultation with the Sussex County chapter of the Delaware Beekeepers Association and the state Historic Preservation Office.

Constructed in 1922, the two-room school was one of more than 80 African American schools built throughout the state with more than $2 million in funding from Delaware industrialist and philanthropist Pierre S. du Pont; more than 30 schools were built in Sussex County. The Nassau School served students in the Belltown area until 1965 and has remained almost unaltered since.

Belltown's roots date back to the mid-1800s when Jacob Bell purchased land to establish a community for area Black residents, many of whom worked in Lewes.

By 1850, the small town was thriving with businesses, homes, a church and a school. The current two-room building replaced the original one-room schoolhouse at the site.

DelDOT held a workshop Feb. 24 seeking public input on how the school could be repurposed. Potential future uses include a museum, welcome/visitors center or community center.






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