Six long-enduring buildings offer a timeless connection to coastal Sussex’s past

By Lynn R. Parks  |  Photographs by Carolyn Watson
From the May 2018 issue

feature-then-and-nowPeople who spent idyllic summer childhoods in coastal Sussex and return decades later — perhaps to show the area to grandchildren, or to try to recapture the joys of youth — will find the ocean unchanged. Waves still crash onto the shore, just as they have for eons; sand still washes out from under the feet of anyone standing in one spot at the edge of the surf.

But beyond that, change is evident everywhere. Fields are transformed into shopping centers, two-lane roads have become six-lane highways. And many buildings that were significant parts of the landscape are gone, having been torn down and replaced with more modern structures.

There are exceptions, though. Sprinkled throughout area towns are old buildings that have managed to survive for decades, centuries even, and that are still of good use in the early 21st century. Here are descriptions of six of them, each in a different town. All are cared for by people and organizations that understand their value.

Tracy Lewis is an officer with the Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse, which oversees the 19th-century structure and plans to set up a museum in one of the two keeper’s houses there. She is also descended from one of the men who served as assistant keeper at the light.

Lewis says that preserving old buildings is important for people who want to “stay in touch with the history of the area.” In Fenwick Island, “the lighthouse and structures around it have been permanent fixtures” — constants to the people who know the area.

Preserving old buildings also benefits the communities in which they are located, boosting property values and encouraging economic development, says Mike DiPaolo, executive director of the Lewes Historical Society. “When you take care of the core of a community, you can create a great atmosphere around it,” he adds. “It is very easy to see that historic preservation has played a large part in making Lewes what it is today.”

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