Community celebrates donation of Evans-West house

Date Published: 
April 28, 2017

Coastal Point • Shaun M. Lambert: Carolyn Brunner was the hit of the party last weekend, as she and her son, Daniel McCann donated the Evans-West house to the Ocean View Historical Society.Coastal Point • Shaun M. Lambert: Carolyn Brunner was the hit of the party last weekend, as she and her son, Daniel McCann donated the Evans-West house to the Ocean View Historical Society.The weekend’s gray weather did not keep people from flocking to celebrate the Ocean View Historical Society’s latest acquisition, the Evans-West house.

The home, located on West Avenue, adjacent to John West Park, was donated to the historical society by Carolyn Brunner and her son Daniel McCann.

Barbara Slavin, president of the OVHS, is Brunner’s cousin and the granddaughter of James and Mary Evans, who built the home in 1901 on land given to them by Mary Evans’ father, George H. West.

“Jim was a surfman in Fenwick; she was a homemaker. They both were very active in the Presbyterian church, which still exists on Church Street. They had three children —Sadie, who was born in 1893, who was Carolyn’s mother; Mary, who was born in 1900; and Morris, who was my father, born in 1907,” said Slavin.

She said the family moved to Ocean View after the house was built because they wanted Sadie to have an education. Both of the Evans daughters would go on to college.

Slavin said that today much of the house looks like it did when it was built in 1901 — an example of gothic revival with unique pointed attic windows.

The property featured a wood house, chicken house, corn crib and a barn, which was built in 1900. In 1919, the family bought its first car, a Buick, which was housed in the barn.

“At that time, my grandfather had never driven a car, and when he pressed on the accelerator it lurched forward, destroying the well. To stop it, he yelled, ‘Whooooah,’ as he had many times before to Dolly the horse, but too late. From that point on, he had his 11-year-old son, my father, drive the car, as well as Aunt Sadie and Aunt Mary.”

Slavin went on to thank Brunner and McCann again for their generous donation to the historical society, ensuring that such a beautiful and historic home would be preserved for generations to come.

Many attended the lawn party, including Delaware historians Dick Carter and Russ McCabe, along with Sussex County Councilman George Cole, former Ocean View mayor Gordon Wood and Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long.

“It is great to be home, to be back in Ocean View,” said Hall-Long. “To learn about our future, we have to know of our history.”

Hall-Long said she and Gov. John Carney are thankful for organizations such as OVHS, who have an appreciation and mission to preserve history in the state.

“We cannot thank you enough for the contributions of your work. It really does make a difference because we know, most likely, with development and progress a lot of historic homes are torn down and that history is taken away,” she said. “Thank you to those who have made this contribution and those who are going to preserve it.”

OVHS Board Member and Fundraising Chairman Kimberly Grimes also spoke to the crowd, encouraging those in attendance to become more active in the historical society.

“We have a lot of really great vision and plans for this property and to continue with our historic complex,” she said. “Become a member of the Ocean View Historical Society… Once you become a member, you receive so many benefits I just can’t list them all today.”

She also mentioned the society’s brick campaign, wherein businesses and community members may purchase a brick to financially support the society’s planned Hall’s Store education center.

“I’m going to give you all a chance to become immortal… We have a wonderful brick campaign. We are going to be putting bricks out for brick walkways… What a great way to honor yourself, honor your family, honor your friends, honor loved ones who may have already gone to the big historical museum in the sky.”

Those who wish to participate in the buy-a-brick program may purchase a 4-by-8-inch brick for $50 or an 8-by-7-inch brick for $100. They can be engraved with a business or family’s name, or a message.

“There’s no donation too small, and there’s no donation too big,” she said.

The Evans-West home, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places, joins the society’s first registered property, the Tunnell-West house.

OVHS Vice President Richard Nippes worked with Madeline Dunn, National Register coordinator for the Delaware Division of Historical & Cultural Affairs, on the application, which was unanimously approved by the Delaware State Review Board for Historic Preservation in April 2015.

At the event, Nippes unveiled the plaque and praised Dunn for her work, noting, “Without her expertise, very few places would be recognized.”

“It’s wonderful and it’s bittersweet for me, too,” said Brunner, who was the guest of honor at the celebration.

Brunner has family living all over the country and said coming down to Ocean View from Wilmington to stay in the house became too much, and donating her home to the society would ensure its preservation.

“I’m getting too old to come to the beach anymore. I don’t put bikinis on anymore,” she said with a laugh. “It’s great that they’re going to take care of it. I’m happy for them to have it, and I know my grandparents would be pleased.”

For more information about the Ocean View Historical Society, or how to become a member, visit www.ovhistoricalsociety.org or www.facebook.com/oceanviewhistoricalsociety. Those who are interested in purchasing a brick may email ovhsociety@gmail.com or contact Nippes at (302) 539-8374.