Ocean View museum aimed to unite town

‘Why is Ocean View called “Ocean View” anyway, if the ocean is miles away?

Coastal Point • Monica Fleming: The Ocean View Historical Society is using this house on Central Avenue to build a museum honoring the town’s heritage.Coastal Point • Monica Fleming
The Ocean View Historical Society is using this house on Central Avenue to build a museum honoring the town’s heritage.

Where does Ocean View end and Millville begin?

What’s the difference between Cedar Neck and Muddy Neck?

Who was Lord Baltimore?

These, and many other questions about the history of Ocean View, are a few the Ocean View Historical Society hopes to get answered in converting the old “Shores House,” at 39 Central Avenue into a museum of rotating exhibits. The group has had workshops, speakers, a quarterly newsletter and a small exhibit at town hall in the past, but they are ready to branch out and truly showcase the rich history of the town.

“The history of Ocean View is dying,” said Councilman and OVHS member Richard “Dick” Nippes. “There is still plenty out there; but if we don’t preserve it, it will be lost forever.”

The house — itself an artifact, at an estimated age of more than 100 years old — badly needs renovation to get up to current code standards. All the doorways need to be widened to be Americans with Disabilities Act- (ADA-) compliant. New ceilings are needed, as is new lighting and floors, and a bathroom remodel, according to Nippes.

“What he is trying to say is we need money badly,” interjected Wanda Powell, only half-jokingly. Powell, another member of the group, was born in nearby Millville but has lived in Ocean View for more than 50 years. “I was always aware of the history because, growing up, I lived with not only my parents but my grandmother, and she knew a lot of the history of the area.”

Powell went on to say that of the 17 people in her graduating class at Lord Baltimore School, two were from Bethany Beach, two were from Millville and the rest from the outlying areas.

“We were always just known as ‘Lord Baltimore.’ We did everything together,” she remembered. ”The only way to get people to know our history is by starting this museum.”

Turning the house into a museum is a stepping stone on the path to creating a historical district within the town. Nippes plans to introduce an ordinance to create one, and he said that will open doors to grants for sidewalks, lighting and more tourism.

“A lot of people live in Ocean View and don’t know what it is,” said Nippes. “We want them to be proud of the history of Ocean View. Once people see the rich history and the sacrifices people made to make it what it is today, they will be able to have a sense of identity and be proud to say they live in Ocean View.

“When people used to ask me where I lived, I said ‘Bethany Beach,’” he admitted. “We don’t have a totem pole. We need something to bring them here.”

Powell and Nippes join an eclectic group of longtime residents and newcomers alike, all with the collective goal of preserving the history of the town they have all come to love so much.

Relative newcomer Dennis Jensen said that the preservation of the town’s history is vital to its future.

“In order to know where you are going, you need to know where you have been,” he said. “There’s value in letting the children see what is was like before. They get a better perspective.”

Besides the renovations to the house, the group aims to have a working well and a replica chicken coop and outhouse on the property, so the museum can truly be a “hands-on” experience for kids and adults alike.

“We want it to be an interactive museum,” explained Nippes, “with not only pictures.”

They plan to change out the museum’s displays frequently, so people will be encouraged to visit more than once. Maps, pictures and artifacts of times past will be displayed, and the group has visions of relaying audio and visual memories via modern technology as well.

The Ocean View Historical Society has big plans for the house and believes that the creation of the museum is a step in the right direction of bringing residents together in the unified spirit of preserving the town’s rich culture and history.

“The end result is we want to bring the town together again – as it used to be,” said Powell.

The Ocean View Historical Society has received their 501c(3) non-profit status and is planning a verity of fundraising events. The first is set for Nov. 8, at the Dunes at Bear Trap. They will hold a sock hop and silent auction from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets cost $10. For more information on the sock hop, contact Felice Arnold at (302) 539-9174, Mary VanScoyoc at (302) 537-7783 or JoAnne Weber at (302) 539-1636.

Arnold expressed gratitude to the many area merchants that have donated silent-auction items already.

Membership to the society is open to the public. Committees include membership; grants; fundraising; publicity; artifacts and exhibits; research and acquisitions; and events. Meetings occur on the third Tuesday of each month at 1 p.m. at Ocean View Town Hall.

If anyone would like to be interviewed for the historical preservation project, or would like to share other Ocean View information, pictures or artifacts, they should contact Dick Nippes at (302) 539-8374.