You know all the typical landmarks. Now go discover the offbeat sites!
From the May 2017 issue
Anybody can find the Rehoboth Beach Museum, the Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes (but can you pronounce it?) or the Nanticoke Indian Museum in Millsboro. And you should! But there are other amazing historical — and hysterical — sites (and sights) here on the Delaware coast.
I came to this topic after my own weird discovery on a trip to southern Virginia. Along the road I spied a sign that said “Foamhenge.” I stopped to investigate and discovered a hilarious life-size replica of England’s iconic Stonehenge, constructed entirely from foam rubber. You can’t make these things up.
So, it got me thinking. Does the Delaware coast have some oddities of its own? Curious, I rounded up some friends and we went on a hunt for local oddities that are worth a look. The safari was so much fun, we here at Delaware Beach Life want to send you on a hunt of your own.
Here are a delicious dozen unique sites within driving distance of the beach. How many of these fascinating but relatively unbeaten-path attractions can you find? You can take the trip all at once in a full day of drive-and-seek, or track down a few attractions at a time. Whatever way you approach it, there’s fun to be had.
We’ll also publish some of the photos on the Delaware Beach Life Facebook page. So, what are you waiting for? Go on a Delaware Beach Life adventure! These sites may be out of the way or in plain sight, but all of them are coastal Delaware gems.
Transpeninsular Line Monument Stone
Sitting just outside the fence surrounding the Fenwick Island Lighthouse, this is the oldest standing man-made object on the coast between the Indian River and Ocean City inlets. It is the first stone set in place by commissioners of Maryland and Pennsylvania to mark the Transpeninsular Line of 1751. It marks Delaware’s southern boundary with the State of Maryland. Known as a “crown stone,” the monument bears the coat of arms of the Calvert family and the Lords Baltimore of Maryland on its south side and those of the Penn family, proprietors of Pennsylvania and “The Three Lower Counties Upon Delaware” on its north side. Go find this sturdy old thing and you might even catch the lighthouse open for a visit as well. Good to know I am not the area’s oldest sturdy thing.
Bethany Beach Totem Pole
The termites almost won at the site of Bethany’s famous totem pole, fondly referred to as “Chief Little Owl” by locals. The original 24-foot tall statue, donated by sculptor Peter Wolf Toth, was installed in 1977 at the entrance to Bethany’s downtown, Routes 1 and 26. Unfortunately, termites found it to be delicious and it keeled over in a 1992 storm. The remains of the original totem pole are at the Nanticoke Indian Museum in Millsboro. A replacement totem pole, sculpted by Dennis Beach was installed at the site and lasted until the early 2000s, when those twin beach hazards, rot and termites, took over. Bye, bye, Chief Little Owl. But third time’s a charm. The current totem pole, installed in 2002, is expected to last 50 to 150 years, as it’s made of red cedar log, which apparently makes termites nauseated.
The Mayor of Maryland Avenue Plaque
Tourists strolling downtown Rehoboth often spy small marble plaques at the base of trees along the sidewalk. Some folks read the names on the plaques and are aghast, wondering if folks are buried under there. Ummm, no. In the mid- to late-1990s, the city promoted a project to fund tree planting and to honor dearly departed locals. Joseph Carroll, the man who was Santa for years in the Rehoboth Beach Christmas Parade was memorialized in 1995 with a plaque proclaiming him the “Mayor of Maryland Avenue.” Go find it.
Woman’s Christian Temperance Union Fountain
In Rehoboth Beach, a town overflowing with restaurant liquor licenses, it’s fun to find this granite water fountain located at the boardwalk at Rehoboth Avenue. It was installed in 1929 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Delaware branch of the organization and was refurbished recently. It’s good to know that fresh water is always available for beachgoers, boardwalkers and those of us needing to cleanse our palates after a night of Moscow Mules or Margaritas. I can see those Temperance Union ladies’ lips curling in horror even as I type.
Henlopen Cemetery’s Tomb of the Not Dead
When you see this marker in the Henlopen Avenue graveyard, you’ll get the point. Here do not lie two gentlemen from Rehoboth, who bought real estate and made sure their environmental concern was etched in stone, as they assume the monument will be underwater some day. It’s high and dry at the moment, and we all hope the owners don’t rush to get there.
Lewes Fountain of Youth
Ponce de Leon was definitely not here. Legend has it that this particular Fountain of Youth on Pilottown Road in Lewes was discovered by the area’s first Dutch colonists in 1631. The tiny gazebo that marks the spot was built by the Lewes Chamber of Commerce in 1973. Oddly, the fountain is now bone dry. A big sign next to the fountain notes that the property belongs to the Daughters of the American Revolution. Let me know if you find it with water running and I’ll be right there for some rejuvenation.
The De Vries Monument
Erected in Lewes in 1909, this site celebrates the 1631 Zwaanendael Colony, the first European settlement on the Delaware Bay. A group of settlers led by David Pieterszoon de Vries, landed near this spot along Pilottown Road to establish a whale-hunting station and agricultural settlement. “Hey, they said, “Let’s stay here and wait for a table at Agave.”
You can find a remaining Futuro flying saucer house by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen along Route 1 near Milton adjacent to the Eagle Crest-Hudson airfield. Designed in the late 1960s, less than 100 of the prefab plastic and fiberglass homes were ever made. Find this one and say “Scotty, beam me up!” But don’t trespass; somebody lives inside!
Located along Route 1 near Milford, this huge metal prop weighs around 50,000 pounds. Now it’s plopped down in a rural area, in front of a restaurant. The prop came from the USS Shangri-La, an aircraft carrier that saw service in both World War II and the Vietnam War. According to the restaurant owners, this huge hunk of metal was purchased from the U.S. government in 1991 when the carrier was being scrapped. To keep it from rusting, the 25-ton relic is covered in gold paint. I hope they never have to get it into a U-Haul.
Built in 1929, this rolling-lift bascule bridge was rehabilitated in 1952 and again recently. Its official name is Bridge 21, and it was built to relieve traffic congestion along Route 113 through downtown Milford. The ever-increasing demand for better roads during the early 1920s led to the passage of a motor vehicle fuel tax in 1923. The initial 1-cent-per-gallon tax was increased to 3 cents by 1927. It soon surpassed bond issues as the principal source of revenue for the Delaware highway department. I suspect the tax is higher today. And if you ever have to pilot a boat through the waters under the bridge, waiting for it to open is a lengthy and excruciating process. Pack lunch.
Giant Metal SpongeBob
On Route 24 nearing Millsboro, drive carefully, as many a driver has been stunned by the sight of a waving metal SpongeBob SquarePants at the side of the road. He is joined by a huge T-Rex and other charming sculptures, made from recycled metal by Judy and Lou Hagen, the clever and talented artists who live on the site. My favorites are the M&Ms.
Lighthouse rental home
At the very tip of S. Bayshore Drive at Broadkill Beach sits a historic-looking screw-pile lighthouse replica. A look-alike to the famed Thomas Point Shoal Light, the most recognizable lighthouse on Chesapeake Bay, this one is available as a summer rental! That’s right, it’s one cool-looking private home. Oh, and it’s not out in the middle of the water. Better for vacationers.
OK, so go forth and snap photos! They can be of the sites themselves or selfies, but the site must be recognizable. Before I submitted this article, I did the hunt myself to make sure everything is where it should be. We had a blast. Now it’s your turn. Ready, set, go scavenge! n
Fay Jacobs is the author of the books “As I Lay Frying — A Rehoboth Beach Memoir,” “Fried & True — Tales of Rehoboth Beach” and “For Frying Out Loud — Rehoboth Beach Diaries.”