Dinker Cottage offers a glimpse into Bethany’s rich past
Even on a frigid January morning, well-worn rockers on the porch of one of the last original cottages in Bethany Beach seem to beckon visitors to sit and relax.
The “Dinker Cottage,” as the house on Garfield Parkway with the white siding, green trim and wide porches is known, may be about to enter a new phase in its long, fruitful life. Current owner Christina Edgar, whose family has owned the cottage for about 90 years, hopes to soon complete arrangements for the cottage to be moved and transformed into a town museum.
Edgar, 72, recalls spending summers in the cottage where her Grandma Jenny’s narrow quarters contrasted with the beds lined up dorm-style in the larger room where all the children slept.
The smooth, battleship-gray painted floors — original to the circa-1902 cottage — must have felt blessedly cool to the generations of Edgar’s family whose sunburned feet trod the pine slats for five generations. The front windows, also original to the house, bear the wavy imperfectness of antique glass. Stained hardwood beadboard ceilings appear to have their original finish — a deep, rich, timeless brown.
There are also signs of adventurous times, such as the hole in the stained glass lampshade over the kitchen table — which, according to Edgar, is the result of an errant shot decades ago by neighbor and then-Bethany Beach Postmaster Sid Bennett, who was shooting at squirrels across the street. A small divot in an adjacent wall indicates where the bullet ended up.
“My aunts were shelling peas!” Edgar said.
She also recalled the time a family of raccoons took up residence in a large metal pipe that had originally led away from a stove in the main room of the cottage.
There are also more pedestrian memories — sitting on the porch steps after days on the beach, scraping tar from passing ships off her feet with a stick. Watching the ice delivery men carrying 25-pound blocks of ice up the street to the cottage, “drip, drip, dripping as they walked” — destined for the small icebox still tucked in a corner of the kitchen.
Edgar and her husband, Clem, built a larger house next to the cottage where they have lived for the past 10 years. She recalled that, during the years when she and her husband had three children in the college, renting the cottage out provided extra income. In recent years, though, it has housed only family.
While younger relatives are sad about the prospect of giving up the cottage, Edgar said the younger generations only come for a few days or weeks each summer. Upkeep of the cottage has been increasingly difficult for her and her husband, she said.
While the house is called the “Dinker Cottage” in town historical publications, Edgar’s family mostly thinks of it as the “Irvin Cottage.” The house was built in 1902 by William A. Dinker, one of the “Pittsburgh Six” — a group of religious leaders who foresaw a booming summer retreat on the stretch of shoreline east of the existing town of Ocean View. Sometime around 1922, it was moved from its original location on First Street, westward to 310 Garfield Parkway, where stands today.
The first “Irvin” to own the cottage was Edgar’s great-aunt, Ida Mae Irvin. When she died in 1946, the cottage passed to Edgar’s grandmother, Jenny Lind Irvin Hayes. After Hayes died in 1980, at the age of 98, Edgar’s mother, Mary Jane Hayes Hicks, became its owner. In 1983, after Hayes’ death, it passed on to Edgar.
Stacks of photo albums and scrapbooks in the Edgar home tell much of the story of the family’s time in Bethany Beach — and of the town itself.