From Captain Kidd and the eternal rhythms of the tides to the salty courage of the Delaware pilots and the nationally recognized architecture of the historic district, Lewes’ past is colorful, unique and proud. The ancient beam of old Cape Henlopen Light still haunts the local seas and local imaginations in “Delaware’s Saltiest Town.”
With Lewes’ wealth of intriguing historical sites and fascinating museums, The Lewes Historical Society invites you to tour the region and explore the rich local history. Discover historic destinations downtown, learn fun facts about the region’s maritime history, and experience history as it comes alive.
The Lewes Historical Society celebrates over 50 years of embracing Lewes history by offering multiple tours to the public. Experience one of the many different tour options offered by the Society. All tour options are available at HistoricLewes.org.
Tickets for guided tours can be purchased for a small fee at the Ryves Holt House, Zwaanendael Club, or online at www.HistoricLewes.org. Private tours can be scheduled for large groups. There is no charge for enjoying the Society’s park-like grounds, any time of day.
For additional points of interest, visitors can continue down Second Street toward St. Peter’s Church, then head over to the Cannonball House Maritime Museum on Front and Bank Streets. From there, visitors move on to the 1812 Memorial Park on Front Street and make a final stop at the Lightship Overfalls and Life-Saving Station on Shipcarpenter and Front Street. In addition, visitors may also be interested in seeing the Zwaanendael Museum, Fisher-Martin House and the Lewes Presbyterian Church, located on Kings Highway.
The Historic Complex tour includes the following:
- 1. The Rabbit’s Ferry House – A beautifully restored building, this is an early 18th-century farmhouse with a sleeping loft. It contains original cypress shingles and brick nogging in walls, woodwork and fireplace paneling.
- Burton-Ingram House – Restored by the Lewes Historical Society, this house is constructed of hand-hewn timbers and cypress shingles. Cellar walls are of sailing ballast, stones and brick.
- Hiram R. Burton House – Dating back to before 1780, this house boasts a number of renovations. Built on one of the first land grants in Lewes in 1660, its original owner was Helmanus Wiltbank. Around 1900, Dr. Hiram Burton of the 59th Congress of the U.S. lived here. Notable is the Victorian peak roof and three different kinds of woodwork inside.
- Thompson Country Store – The Country Store was originally built in Thompsonville, Delaware around 1800 and was then moved to Lewes in 1963. It has since been restored to its original state.
- The Doctor’s Office – This Greek Revival structure was built around 1850 by Dr. David Hall, who practiced medicine here until just before 1900. It now stands as a museum showing a turn-of-the-century doctor’s office.
- The Early Plank House – Restored in 1963 to its original look as an early settler’s cabin, it is one tiny room in the early Swedish style with a wood floor and hand-carved clothes pegs. Before restoration it was used as a smokehouse.
The following historical sights are not part of the historic complex, but are recommended as additional points of interest:
Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church – Built in 1858, it has been restored to its original state. A congregation of the Church of England existed on this site in 1681; plots dating to 1631 are maintained.
Ryves Holt House – Believed to be the oldest house still standing in Lewes, it dates back to before 1665. Once a colonial inn, this is the house that Holt, Naval Officer of Port Lewes, came to in 1721.
Cannonball House and Maritime Museum – Dating back to the 1730s, this house gets its name from being hit with a cannonball during the War of 1812. It now houses the Lewes Maritime Museum, which contains many of Lewes’ historic marine artifacts.
The 1812 Memorial Park – Constructed by the Daughters of 1812, this site was a defense battery during the War of 1812. The park displays several guns of the era.
The Lightship Overfalls – One of the last lightships to sail on the East Coast, the Overfalls is the same type that patrolled the entrance of the Delaware Bay from 1892 to 1961.
Life-Saving Station – This station, dating back to the late 1800s, used to be located just north of the Lewes-Cape May Ferry terminal. It contains antique life-saving equipment and a pictorial collage of rescues at sea.
Zwaanendael Museum – At the corner of Kings Highway and Savannah Road, this is a replica of the Town Hall in Hoorn, Holland, and commemorates the 300th anniversary of the first Dutch settlement in Delaware. Contains permanent and loaned exhibits and artifacts that re-create the history of Lewes and lower Delaware.
Fisher-Martin House – Behind the Zwaanendael Museum, this house was brought to Lewes to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the first European settlement in Delaware. It houses the Lewes Chamber of Commerce & Info. Bureau.
The Lewes Presbyterian Church – Also on Kings Highway and part of the National Register of Historic Places, this structure was built in 1832 to replace the original church built in 1707.