Based on a painstakingly accurate diorama of life on Rehoboth Avenue in 1910, the Rehoboth Beach Museum and longtime resident Paul Lovett have begun a documentary series showing what life was like in the oceanside town more than 100 years ago.
Lovett has been working on the diorama for more than two years. Around this time last year, he presented work to that point at the museum. Since then, historically accurate representations of the buildings and businesses around the grassy oval near the Boardwalk have been added.
Lovett said he planned to present an updated diorama at the museum, but COVID-19 forced those plans to change. Adjusting on the fly, Lovett said Rehoboth Beach Museum Executive Director Nancy Alexander asked if he would make videos instead.
Lovett has hired two professional model builders to build the diorama, but he’s the one doing all the research and has the vision for how the project should look. Research includes scouring the museum’s oral history archives and city commissioner minutes at Rehoboth Beach City Hall dating back to before 1900.
“It’s filled with great stuff,” said Lovett. “It gives perspective on how the city dealt with storms and livestock on the grassy oval. For some reason, I’ve become obsessed. I have to keep reading more.”
One of the builders, located in Newark, is building Horn’s Pavilion. Lovett said he had gone up to the shop to see the progress at least three times before COVID-19. The other builder is based in Florida.
“The specifications for how Horn’s Pavilion should look was 20 pages long,” said Lovett, about the detail he’s providing. “If a building looks too new, I’ll ask for it to be aged, so it looks like it's been in the weather a while.”
Rehoboth Beach Museum Executive Director Nancy Alexander said the museum is fortunate Lovett was willing to help the museum remain connected with members and friends.
“This situation has provided us with a unique opportunity to reach out to many more people than would fit in our lecture hall,” said Alexander, in an email April 28. “We have had a great response to our new YouTube channel, and the diorama videos are an important part of that new connection.”
The first video, a brief explanation of the series, was posted April 23 and it already has nearly 700 views. Lovett said he was thrilled with the number. A second video on Horn’s Pavilion was posted April 28.
“I would have been happy with 80,” he said. “I haven’t even shared it with the people who contributed to the creation of the diorama or any of my primary contacts.”
Moving forward, Lovett said he has enough information to create as many videos as needed. He said he has five to 10 minutes of history for every building on his diorama.
“I can keep going the rest of the duration,” he said.