Former squatters’ cottage a home and home-away-from-home for decades

The Outten-Sirman cottage, located at 909 Bunting Avenue (oceanfront, between Cannon and Dagsboro streets) in Fenwick Island is among the historic Fenwick Island homes being featured on the Historic Coastal Towns Cottage & Lighthouse Tour on Sunday, Oct. 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“Doc” Lawrence Outten and Mary Ada Outten built their brown-shingled cottage in 1936. The Outtens, like the McCabes, were part of the original group of squatters who fought to keep their cottages in 1940 when the State of Delaware wanted them removed.

In 1941, the Outtens purchased two corner lots on the south side of Dagsboro Street — one on Coastal Highway and the other on the corner of Bunting Avenue — where they moved one of the old camp meeting “tents” at the lighthouse to the lot.

The Outtens loved Fenwick so much that some winters they stayed, with only an oil burner to keep warm. Like the other cottages of this time, they had a pitcher head pump for water and a privy.

Doc Outten was Fenwick’s first dentist; he also had offices in Laurel and Selbyville. He saw patients in the corner cottage until 1949, when he built the yellow cottage on the same lot as this oceanfront home.

After Doc’s death in 1955, Mary Ada Outten stayed less in Fenwick, yet she was, and still is, well-known for cooking many great breakfasts for her grandsons and friends who used the cottage both as a launch pad and crash pad for their various adventures at the beach.

Their grandson and his wife, Ben and Ellen Sirman, still own the cottage today. They continued Mary Ada Outten’s tradition of renting it out — although for a bit more than the $35 per week she charged in the 1950s! Ellen Sirman handles the rental business today, with most of the renters being repeaters. A couple of families have rented it each summer for more than 40 years. And, perhaps most amazingly, this cottage has weathered all storms since it was built.

Tickets to the Historic Coastal Towns Cottage & Lighthouse Tour are limited and must be purchased in advance at Sea Shell City in Fenwick, at the Ellen Rice Gallery in Ocean View, at Made By Hand in South Bethany or online at Tickets cost $25, and proceeds support the creation of a new Coastal Towns Museum at 40 West Avenue in Ocean View. While Fenwick Island homes are open on the tour this year, historic cottages in South Bethany will be featured in 2019, again to support the developing Coastal Towns Museum.