For decades, long before it was commonplace, Rehoboth Beach’s Poodle Beach has been an oceanside destination for the LGBTQ community looking for a fun – and safe – place to enjoy the summer sun. It appears that history will soon be recognized with a Delaware Public Archives historical marker.
Rehoboth resident Frank Cooper submitted an application to the state requesting the marker in late June. During a city commissioners meeting Dec. 18, he announced the state had given preliminary approval.
After the meeting, in an email Dec. 23, Cooper said he and some other individuals have been trying for years to figure out a way to commemorate and honor the interesting history of Poodle Beach.
In his application to the state, Cooper argued Poodle Beach, located immediately south of the Boardwalk, deserved the marker because it’s been a historic refuge for members of the LGBTQ community for over 70 years. He suggests the marker be placed at the south end of the Boardwalk near Prospect Street.
“In the past, when the LGBTQ community faced pervasive, often violent discrimination, this one area of beach provided fun, relaxation, and socializing free from harassment,” said Cooper in his application. “For decades, it was one of the few such beach resorts in the United States that were safe for members of the LGBTQ community. It is still popular today and is considered one the city's great assets.”
Katie Hall, Delaware Public Archives Historical Markers Program coordinator, told Cooper the marker had been approved Dec. 17.
Hall said the proposal will also be reviewed by city officials. If approved, she said in an email Dec. 21, next steps include drafting the marker text and working with the city to determine the marker placement.
Rehoboth Beach Mayor Stan Mills said he enthusiastically supports the idea of the historic marker, which was a specific part of his campaign for mayor this past summer. He said he wants to work with CAMP Rehoboth on ways to recognize the history and contributions of the LGBTQ community in Rehoboth Beach.
Mills said he’s sure the historical marker will have the clear support of the LGBTQ community, local residents and the commissioners. He said the next step is getting those statements of support to state officials.
Mills said he expects to bring the topic before commissioners in February or March. Once the support is formalized, he said, the city, the citizens who applied for the approval and the state archives can work on the appropriate wording for the marker.
A historical marker for Poodle Beach would be the second recognition of the LGBTQ contribution to the Rehoboth Beach community in recent years. In 2019, city officials dedicated the sidewalk connecting Rehoboth Beach City Hall to Second Street and Baltimore Avenue in honor of Steve Elkins, who founded CAMP Rehoboth with husband Murray Archibald in 1991.
Hall said Delaware Public Archives maintains 688 historical markers throughout the state. There are 283 in Sussex County, nine of which are in the Rehoboth Beach area, she said.