Place:Bethany Beach, Sussex, Delaware, United States

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NameBethany Beach
TypeTown
Coordinates38.541°N 75.062°W
Located inSussex, Delaware, United States
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names


the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

Bethany Beach is an incorporated town in Sussex County, Delaware, United States. According to the 2010 Census Bureau figures, the population of the town is 1,060; however, during the summer months some 15,000 more populate the town as vacationers. It is part of the Salisbury, Maryland-Delaware Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Bethany Beach, South Bethany and Fenwick Island are popularly known as "The Quiet Resorts". Assisting Bethany Beach's reputation as a "quiet" place is the presence of Delaware Seashore State Park immediately to the north of the town.

Despite its small size, Bethany Beach boasts the usual attractions of a summer seaside resort, including a short boardwalk, a broad, sandy beach, motels, restaurants, and vacation homes. Because Bethany Beach does not sit on a barrier island, residential areas continue some distance to the west of the town's limits.

Contents

History

the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

Before 1900

There is a lack of evidence of Native American activity in the Bethany Beach area. Prior to the arrival of European settlers in North America, Native American settlements appear to have been limited to the area north of the Indian River, north of what is now Bethany Beach; even after Europeans pushed the Native Americans—mostly Nanticokes—out of their coastal settlements in the mid-17th century, the Native Americans moved west to settle around Oak Orchard, Delaware, and in the Millsboro, Delaware, area rather than south toward what would become Bethany Beach.

Caucasians also did not settle the area prior to 1900, probably because Indian River Inlet cut the area off from their settlements to the north and because the town of Ocean View, founded in 1889 and now Bethany Beachs neighbor to the west, did not expand its boundaries eastward toward the coast.[1]

The founding of Bethany Beach

In 1898, F. D. Powers—a minister at the Vermont Avenue Christian Church (today the National City Christian Church), a congregation of the Disciples of Christ in Washington, D.C.—was serving as president of the annual convention of Washington-area Disciples when he suggested that a Christian meeting place be established on the Atlantic coast of the United States. He envisioned it as analogous to the Chatauqua adult-education summer-camp movement popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and played a key role in selecting the site of what would become Bethany Beach. The Christian Missionary Society endorsed his idea in 1898 and established a committee to study the matter; under his leadership, it recommended the Delmarva Peninsula as a suitable location for such a settlement, and later selected the empty coastal area east of Ocean View owned by the Ocean View landowner Ezekiel Evans as the specific site for the community.

In 1900, the Disciples of Christ held a nationwide contest to name the proposed community, the winner to receive an oceanside lot there. A committee of three men from Scranton, Pennsylvania, was responsible for choosing a name from among the entries; although it considered the names "Wellington" and "Gladmere", it chose the name "Bethany Beach" suggested by H. L. Atkinson of the University of Chicago. Powers supposedly also suggested the name "Bethany Beach," but the committee received Powers' entry two weeks after Atkinson's and thus Atkinson was deemed the winner.

Also in 1900, the Disciples of Christ formed the Bethany Beach Improvement Company, which raised the money to purchase the land for the new town from Evans. Marketing the new community aggressively, the company sold 150 lots—mostly to families from Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Scranton—in Bethany Beach. It laid out streets and began the construction of the Tabernacle, an octagonal auditorium which was dedicated on July 24, 1901, while still under construction and would serve as the towns central meeting place and cultural center, hosting both church services and entertainment events. The company also made plans to build cottages on the lots it had sold and to establish a railroad branch line that would connect Bethany Beach with the main line to the west at either Dagsboro or Frankford, Delaware, promising that the railroad would begin operations on July 4, 1901.

A temporary town government began to operate in 1901. This event is celebrated as the founding of Bethany Beach, although the town would not be incorporated for another eight years.

The financial crisis of 1902-1903

Bethany Beach soon encountered financial problems which threatened to bring the planned town to an end almost before it could begin. Bankers in Georgetown, Delaware, hesitated to loan money for the development of Bethany Beach because they had lost money on the development of Rehoboth Beach to the north. Without sufficient financial backing, the Bethany Beach Improvement Company was unable to act on its plans, and little development occurred in Bethany Beach; basic services were lacking, construction stalled, work on the hoped-for railroad never began, and there was little agreement on how to address the new communitys problems. In May 1902 the Christian Missionary Society withdrew its endorsement of Bethany Beach.[2][3]

Twenty-three landowners, mostly from the Pittsburgh area, concerned that the value of their Bethany Beach lots would drop, selected a committee to address the situation. The committee studied the problem, communicated with the Christian Missionary Society, and in September 1902 organized a meeting in Washington, D.C., which led to lengthy negotiations about putting Bethany Beach on a firm financial footing. The negotiations dragged on until 1903, when six Pittsburgh-area investors agreed to buy all of the Bethany Beach Improvement Companys stock, selling three shares to a Delaware resident so that there would be at least some local ownership. This put the company on a firm financial footing and allowed the development of Bethany Beach to resume.[2]

The Christian Missionary Society eventually restored its endorsement of Bethany Beach, and summer programs modeled on the Chatauqua movement began in the town,[2] meeting with modest success. Soon, the Bethany Beach Improvement Company dug a well to provide the town with fresh water.[2] In 1903, the company completed the Tabernacle and built a surface-level boardwalk along the beach.[4]


The "Quiet Years"

Longtime residents and regular visitors came to refer to Bethany Beachs history prior to the early 1950s as the "Quiet Years." Despite the plans of the towns founders to build one, no railroad ever came to Bethany Beach,[3] so visitors typically had to travel by train to Baltimore, Maryland, spend the night there, then travel by boat across the Chesapeake Bay to the Delmarva Peninsula and by train across the peninsula to Rehoboth Beach. Until 1910, they then had to take the steamer Atlantic across Rehoboth Bay and Indian River Bay to Ocean View, and then travel by horsedrawn carriage to Bethany Beach. On July 8, 1910, the Loop Canal was completed in Bethany Beach, allowing the motorboat Allie May—replaced in 1912 by the motorboat Helen Marie II—to dock at the town itself.[5] Even with this improvement, however, the trip to Bethany Beach was uncomfortable and exhausting and from anywhere outside Delaware took at least a full day; from Pittsburgh it took two.

Bethany Beachs remote location meant that most beachgoers preferred to visit Rehoboth Beach to the north or Ocean City, Maryland, to the south, both of which they could reach directly by train. The small population of permanent residents of and regular visitors to Bethany Beach came to know one another well, and the town remained a quiet place that contrasted with the busier and more crowded atmosphere of Rehoboth Beach and Ocean City. Throughout the Quiet Years, it was unusual to find more than 20 people on Bethany Beachs wide beach at any one time.[6] Bethany Beachs origin as a Christian community also tended to favor a quieter lifestyle; in its early years, for example, the religious character of Bethany Beach was expressed through the prohibition of non-religious activities on Sunday, although swimming in the ocean was permitted on Sundays between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m.[7] Although Bethany Beach became more and more secular and more developed over the years, it retains its "Quiet Resort" reputation to this day.

Many of the property owners during the Quiet Years were from Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh. Those from Pittsburgh tended to have homes in the northern part of Bethany Beach—at least part of which became known as "Little Pittsburgh" for a time—while Washingtonians tended to build their houses on properties in the southern part of town.


During the Quiet Years, Bethany Beach gradually acquired more and more amenities and its government provided more and more services. The Ocean View Post Office established a branch in Bethany Beach in 1904.[4] A town newspaper, the Bethany Herald, began publication in 1904; later renamed the Bethany Booster, its name eventually was switched back to Bethany Herald, and it published until the late 1980s. The boardwalk was reconstructed in 1905,[3] a United States Lifesaving Service station began operations in the town in 1907, and the Town of Bethany Beach was incorporated in 1909.[2] The Bethany Beach School was established for students in grades one through six; after the sixth grade they had to attend Lord Baltimore School in Ocean View. The boardwalk underwent yet another reconstruction in 1912.[3]

When the U.S. Lifesaving Service merged with the United States Revenue Cutter Service to form the United States Coast Guard in 1915, the town's lifesaving station became a Coast Guard station. The Delaware National Guard established a summer training camp just north of town in the early 1920s. The Ringler Theater, which showed movies and hosted dance parties, opened on the boardwalk in 1923; generally considered to be the first commercial enterprise on the boardwalk, it became one of the town's major attractions. A privately owned electric lighting plant began operations in 1924, lighting the town hall and street lamps; in 1926, the town bought the plant and began garbage collection. The town's lone bowling alley opened in 1930 and became a popular social attraction, The first restaurant on the boardwalk that was not part of a hotel opened in 1933 and stood until destroyed by a fire in 1953. Bethany Beachs first tennis court was completed in the mid-1930s.[6] A dirt road between Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach, the first road between the two towns, opened in 1934.[4]


The Quiet Years were not without dramatic events. Shipwrecks had occurred along the Delaware coast for centuries, and were not uncommon in Bethany Beachs area even in the early 20th century. A 1920 storm destroyed some beachfront houses[6] and the original surface-level boardwalk,[8] which soon was replaced by a new, elevated boardwalk. Another damaging storm struck in 1927. The intense 1933 Chesapeake–Potomac hurricane passed through the area in August 1933, causing flooding in Bethany Beach but no deaths anywhere in Delaware.

No church came to Bethany Beach other than that of its founders, the Disciples of Christ, until 1940, when an Episcopalian church opened in the town. A Roman Catholic church opened in Bethany Beach in 1956.

World War II

World War II temporarily interrupted the Quiet Years. The United States Government took an increasing interest in defending the Delaware coast after war broke out in Europe in 1939 and paved the road from Rehoboth Beach to a point south of Bethany Beach in 1940. The impact of the war on the area increased after the United States entered the war in December 1941: the town was blacked out at night beginning in 1942 to reduce the chance of German submarine attacks on ships offshore, and the beach and boardwalk closed at 9:00 p.m. to make it easier for military personnel to patrol against landings by enemy agents and saboteurs. Many personnel of the various armed forces were billeted in the town or based nearby, German prisoners of war were held in the area, a radar station was built nearby to the west, and the United States Army built a gunnery control tower south of town to support the Coast Artillery guns at Fort Miles on Cape Henlopen. Patrol dogs intended for use along the entire United States East Coast were trained just north of Bethany Beach. Wartime gasoline rationing made frequent short trips to Bethany Beach impractical, and many of the visitors during the war years spent entire summers at Bethany Beach instead.

The 1944 storm

During the war, a destructive storm struck Bethany Beach in mid-September 1944. It destroyed the Ringler Theater, which was not rebuilt, and badly damaged the boardwalk and the towns pavilion.[4] The boardwalk was rebuilt later that year.[3]

Postwar

The customary atmosphere of the Quiet Years resumed soon after World War II ended in 1945. By 1946, all Bethany Beach residents received water service.[4] In 1948, the all-volunteer Bethany Beach Fire Department was established, and the town acquired property for a fire station in 1949.[9]

Bethany Beachs growth years

The 1950s and early 1960s

In 1952, the first span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge opened, heralding the end of the Quiet Years and the beginning of accelerated development of the area as a beach resort. The bridge allowed motorists for the first time to drive from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore to the Delmarva Peninsula without a lengthy drive circling around the northern tip of the Chesapeake Bay. This made the Delaware coast a more popular vacation destination, and the development of real estate in and around Bethany Beach began in earnest. A real estate boom began, and was in full swing by the late 1960s; banking flourished in the area. The opening of the bridges second span in 1973 made access even easier and, if anything, accelerated development further. Bethany Beach residents generally opposed the development of the area sparked by the opening of the bridge, and much political fighting occurred over the various real estate projects proposed for the area. Ultimately, economic pressure to develop the area was too great, and the Quiet Years came to end.[10]

The first development north of Bethany Beach, Sussex Shores, opened in either 1953 or 1958. South of town, the Middlesex Beach community was built in 1958-1959. South Bethany, to the south of Middlesex Beach, considered the first major new development in the area, was built in 1962 and incorporated as a town in its own right in 1969.[10]

In 1961, the original Tabernacle, which had deteriorated badly since its completion 58 years earlier, was demolished.

The 1962 storm

The most destructive storm in Bethany Beachs history, the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962, was a surprise nor'easter that struck in March 1962. Created by the combination of what had been two separate storms, the norEaster arrived on the evening of March 5, with 80-mile-per-hour (129-kilometer-per-hour) winds and 30-foot (9.1-meter) waves. The storm continued through three high tides while the tides were at their monthly peak before abating on March 7. Destruction was widespread; many of the beachfront structures that had stood since Bethany Beachs early decades were destroyed, including the bowling alley and many of the inns and houses, as were the boardwalk and town pavilion. Only one beachfront house in the southern part of town survived. Flood waters penetrated as far inland as Ocean View, and only three houses anywhere in Bethany Beach escaped flooding. Extensive beach erosion occurred, and sand several feet (over a meter) deep buried streets and cars and filled entire rooms in some houses. Damages along the Delmarva Peninsula's Atlantic coastline exceeded $50 million (USD).

After the storm, the town rebuilt the boardwalk and put new regulations in place requiring that beach houses be built on 30-foot (9.1-meter) pilings.[3][11]

The 1962 storm had a lasting effect on Bethany Beach. Some longtime residents left Bethany Beach for good, while others noted that much of the old Bethany Beach of the Quiet Years had been destroyed, changing the character of the town forever. [11]

1962-1979

Development of the area resumed after the 1962 storm. A new post office opened in 1965 and the towns first bank in 1966.[4] Construction of Bethany West, a major new development in the western part of Bethany Beach proper, began in 1966-1967.[10] A new town hall and police station opened in 1970.[4]

Plans for a beach and tennis community, Sea Colony, centered around nine high-rise condominiums situated on a private beach between Bethany Beach and South Bethany, began in 1969; these buildings, the Bethany Beach areas first and only high-rises, opened in the early 1970s. The 1,200-townhome Sea Colony West low-rise beach and tennis resort development later was added just inland.[12] Plans for Sea Colony met bitter opposition from longtime Bethany Beach residents, who were dismayed at the thought of high-rises and large crowds in the area; town regulations had been designed to prevent the construction of high-rises within town limits. Opponents of Sea Colony marched in protest and engaged in protracted legal efforts to block construction of the resort, but the property lay outside the town limits and their efforts to block the construction of Sea Colony failed.[13] Sea Colony went on to become a very successful resort.[14]

Bethany Beach installed its first parking meters in 1974, and they have become a major source of seasonal revenue for the town. In 1975, Bethany Beach installed a sewerage system and repaved its roads.[4] A bandstand was built on the boardwalk in 1976, and serves to this day as the venue for musical performances and cultural events. The Bethany Beach-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce began operations in 1976.

On December 22, 1976, a sculpture (widely but incorrectly referred to as a "totem pole") created by Hungarian sculptor Peter Toth – who erected a sculpture in each of the 50 U.S. states as a tribute to Native Americans – was dedicated at the intersection of Delaware Avenue (Route 1) and Garfield Parkway.[4] The installation of the sculpture was controversial; many residents viewed it as irrelevant to Bethany Beach, where no history of Native American activity has been found. Although opponents of the sculpture suggested that its installation at Oak Orchard, the hub of Nanticoke settlement since the mid-17th century, would be much more appropriate, Toth wanted a more visible location and the sculpture was erected in Bethany Beach.[1][3]

1980s and 1990s

Given its Christian roots and its secular desire to remain a "Quiet Resort," Bethany Beach historically had resisted the sale of alcoholic beverages within its jurisdiction. In 1982, the State of Delaware granted the Holiday House in Bethany Beach a liquor license, the first to an establishment in the town, prompting a lawsuit by the town and local landowners. Ultimately, Bethany Beach accepted the sale of alcohol, but the town strictly limits the number of bars within town limits, generally limits alcohol sales to restaurants, and permits no sale of alcoholic beverages after 11:30 p.m.

In the early 1980s, the Bethany Beach Fire Department offered the towns first emergency medical center, operated for the fire department by the Beebe Medical Center of Lewes, Delaware.[9]

Hurricane Gloria struck Bethany Beach in September 1985, badly damaging the boardwalk.

In July 1987, the Bethany Beach Fire Department opened a substation in Fenwick Island, Delaware, on the coast a few miles south of Bethany Beach.[9] A major beach replenishment project took place in 1989.[4]

On January 4, 1992, a destructive norEaster struck Bethany Beach with 85-mile-per-hour (137-kilometer-per-hour) winds. It inflicted $250,000 in damage to the boardwalk, severely damaged beachfront structures, flooded eastern Bethany Beach and the fire station, and caused Toths Native American sculpture to lean over dangerously. A victim of termite as well as storm damage, the sculpture was replaced in 1994 by a new one known as "Chief Little Owl" created by Dennis Beach.[3]

The towns library, the South Coastal Library, opened on January 17, 1994. The town inaugurated a "Concerts at the Beach" program in 1995. On September 11, 1996, Bethany Beach broke ground for its new town hall and community center on what had been the site of its water tower. The building was dedicated on May 24, 1997.[6]

Severe noreasters struck a week apart in 1998. The first, on January 28, was damaging, but the second, on February 4, was worse, and prompted the evacuation of low-lying areas due the danger of flooding, those areas not having recovered from the first storm a week earlier. Severe beach erosion resulted from the 1998 storms.

Since 2000

In 2001, Bethany Beach celebrated its centennial and completed a new tabernacle.[4] Also in that year, Dennis Beachs Chief Little Owl statue, badly damaged by termites, was replaced by a new Native American sculpture created by Peter Toth.[3]

Over the winter of 2008-2009, the towns beaches underwent a vast beach replenishment program that cost the U.S. federal government approximately $20 million. The dunes put in place with the program are controversial because they reach over the height of the boardwalk, blocking most views of the ocean. Much of the criticism of them came from editorials in newspapers such as the local Delaware Wave and Coastal Point, along with Washington, D.C. media outlets. Remnants of Tropical Storm Ida hit the town in November 2009, destroying most of the dunes, leaving cliffs, making the beach significantly narrower, and revealing old jetties. Losses are likely to cost the state of Delaware $40 million {USD} and repairs are not going to be made until after the 2010 summer beach season.[1]

By 2011, Bethany Beach had joined a growing number of communities in instituting a smoking ban, covering most of the beach and boardwalk areas.

The Indian River Life Saving Service Station, Poplar Thicket, and Wilgus Site are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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