Methodist-Episcopal Tabernacle added to historic Rehoboth diorama

February 18, 2024

One of the first structures to be erected in Rehoboth was the Methodist-Episcopal tabernacle. It was built a mile away from the ocean in what was described as a beautiful grove of oak trees, approximately where Egg Restaurant stands today.

The tabernacle hosted its first camp meeting in June 1873, just six months after the town streets were surveyed. There was no canal in 1873, but within six years, a railroad line was extended from Lewes to the tabernacle itself. The Surf House Hotel was also built in the spring of 1873, where the Henlopen Hotel is today. It was completed in time to house some of the folks attending that first town meeting. Attendees came from across the Delmarva Peninsula.

Sponsored by Samuel and Leslie Kaplan, a model of the tabernacle is now displayed on Paul Lovett’s diorama of 1910 Rehoboth Avenue. The lighted scene includes the original structure as it appeared in a grove of oak trees, sitting near the railroad tracks in about 1885. Besides the main tabernacle, there are 11 tent house buildings. Horse-drawn carriages and religious camp meeting folks adorn the scene.

Religious camp meeting events began to lose favor shortly after Rehoboth was established. The last camp meeting in the town was held in 1881. It is not known how long the structure itself survived. One guess is that it burned down or was demolished by the 1890s.

The diorama itself is a multi-year project to replicate Rehoboth Avenue during its railroad era, which lasted 85 years.

After three years in Rehoboth Beach Main Street’s conference room, the miniature village is now on display in the atrium at Rehoboth Beach City Hall. To learn about the project, go to While the diorama can be viewed weekdays whenever city hall is open, it is best experienced by making an appointment with Lovett, who hosts free, informal, small-group presentations with the diorama, which now features more than 100 exact replicas of the buildings that existed along Rehoboth Avenue during the railroad era. All main buildings are lighted. Viewers can watch the train come up the avenue, and see and hear the rotating merry-go-round, power plant smoke, seagulls singing and the Scott’s Chapel bell tolling.

To confirm a time, contact Paul Lovett at or 302-893-9391.


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