Lewes-area landmark gets a facelift

By Lynn R. Parks Photograph by Kevin Fleming
From the Holiday 2015 issue

townsendbarn Our Content - Delaware Beach Life - Results from #114When retired U.S. Sen. John G. Townsend Jr. bought a farm at the corner of Kings Highway and Gills Neck Road near Lewes in September 1941, it didn’t have a barn on it. There was a house that had been owned by William H. Virden, a widower, and before him the Carter family. But no barn for livestock, or for storage of hay, or even for a good old-fashioned hoedown.

Townsend, who served as Delaware’s 55th governor from January 1917 through January 1921 and in the Senate from March 1929 to January 1941, soon fixed that. He hired William Ritter, who owned large pieces of farm equipment and who moved houses, to transport a dairy barn from an area farm to the Townsend land.

Howard Ritter, founder of Howard L. Ritter & Sons, a Lewes-area company that provides topsoil and gravel, was William’s brother. His son, Ronnie, who now owns Ritter & Sons, remembers his dad telling him that William enlisted the help of another Ritter brother, Roy, who worked for Townsend, to move the barn.

“All I know is what I’ve been told, just hearsay,” Ronnie says. “But Dad told me that they had a lot of snow that year. So William and Roy put the barn on skids and pulled it with a farm tractor to its new location.”

Thanks to endangered-species protections, growing numbers of this majestic raptor are nesting in Delaware again

By Jane Scott  |  Photograph by Ken Arni
From the Holiday 2015 issue

eagles Our Content - Delaware Beach Life - Results from #114The bald eagles are back! In honor of their dramatic return from the brink of extinction, Gov. Jack Markell has proclaimed that henceforth June 20 will be known as “American Eagle Day” in Delaware.

In fact, eagles are one of the major success stories of the Endangered Species Act. It wasn’t so long ago that they were listed as threatened in every state except Alaska. Credit for their recovery must go to the dogged efforts of many conservation organizations, both public and private; it was a truly impressive accomplishment.

We know from records from the early 1900s that there were once more than a thousand nesting pairs of eagles along the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware’s Atlantic coast, averaging one pair for every five miles of shoreline. Not that they were ever safe from harassment; a man named W. Stone wrote in a Delaware magazine of 1919 that “farmers with their usual antipathy to all birds of prey, make a practice of chopping down the eagle tree or of shooting the old birds.” Egg collecting was also a common practice of the time and eagles’ eggs were so highly prized that their nests were robbed with impunity. By 1940, the impact of such practices had become so serious that Congress passed The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, making it illegal to harm, harass or possess an eagle, alive or dead, as well as their eggs or feathers.

Science and mystery collide in the area’s long history of odd occurrences and strange sights

By George Contant and Michael A. Hamilton
From the Holiday 2015 issue

henlopentriangle Our Content - Delaware Beach Life - Results from #114Unexplained oceanic explosions, freakish mirages, devastating storms in perfect weather, ships that disappear, eerie “electrical fogs,” mysterious sea creatures, UFOs … the list goes on. Such strange and seemingly paranormal occurrences have been reported all over planet Earth for centuries. Intrigued, people search for answers while science mocks or attempts to explain away these incidents. Still, they continue to challenge an unbelieving world.

Mike Hamilton, a fellow researcher of Cape Henlopen history, and I pride ourselves as being rational historians who always prefer to deal in fact. But, like the flat-earth theory of long ago, fact is relative to what we actually know at a given point in time. For hundreds of years, surviving ship captains and crews told of titanic waves that came from nowhere, destroying vessels as though they had been tossed over Niagara Falls. How many tellings did it take before science finally determined that rogue waves are real?