A historic Ocean View house will serve as a new museum of Sussex County regional history.
The Evans-West House, a two-and-a-half story wood frame house at 40 West Ave. across Oakwood Avenue from John T. West Park, was built in 1901. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places this year after a lengthy submission and review process.
The Ocean View Historical Society announced in March that the house has been donated to them, and it will become the new Coastal Towns Museum. They will host a dedication ceremony and outdoor party on the grounds of the house April 22 at 4:30 p.m. The event will be held rain or shine.
For Barbara Slavin, who will become the society's president next year, it's a family affair.
"It's been in the Evans family since it was built in 1901. I used to be an Evans, and it was where my father was born," Slavin said. "The lady who donated it is my cousin, and it was her mother's house. My great-grandfather's house is right across the street, so it's all one big happy family."
The National Park Service described the structure as a well-preserved "vernacular interpretation of the Late Victorian-Gothic Revival style architecture with minimal alterations." Among the outbuildings is one of the oldest barns in Sussex County.
The house joins the society's growing collection of historical houses clustered around West Park. The Lewes Historical Society has attracted some attention with its own campus of historical homes and restored buildings.
"Ours is a lot smaller than theirs," said Carol Psaros, the current president of the Ocean View Historical Society. "We've only been in existence eight years."
Other jewels in the Ocean View crown are the Tunnell-West House, added to the National Register in 2015, and Ocean View's first free-standing post office, built in about 1889.
"We've done some amazing things in just a few years," Psaros said.
"It's really significant to me"
Once a working farm, the house, barn and a woodhouse for storage of firewood are all that's left on less than a quarter-acre. The house, which was in use as a home until recently, is in good condition, but the two outbuildings required some restoration.
The barn will become a museum of Sussex County farm life incorporating the society's growing collection of farm tools, and the 10-by-15-foot woodhouse will be used for other exhibits. Two ground floor rooms of the house will become the Coastal Towns Museum, displaying artifacts from all over the Baltimore Hundred to reflect other historical lifestyles in the area, including those of mariners and surfmen.
"My grandfather was a surfman in Fenwick Island," Slavin recalled. "He had the house built so they were able to move in in 1901. The barn was built first. They actually lived next door while waiting for the house to be finished. My father's sister was born in that other house, and my father was the only one of the three children born in (the Evans-West House)."
The third ground floor room is the kitchen, which the society doesn't want to alter, Slavin said.
"It really is the way it was when the house was built, except it has running water now. I remember there was a (hand) pump in there when I was a kid," she said.
Slavin said her cousin donated the house because she feared it would be demolished if she sold it.
The house and grounds will be open for tours during the dedication event. The focal point of the celebration will be the unveiling of the National Register plaque, which was awarded three months ago.
Members of the society and the Coastal Towns Committee will be present to talk about their visions for the museum, the capital campaign and to solicit donations to help create the museum.
Several members of the Evans family will also be present.
"We're just hoping for a large crowd," Slavin said. "Mostly because the family will be there and we want them to feel honored by the presence of many folks. We're excited about the whole process. Obviously it's really significant to me."
Refreshments will be provided by local restaurants Sedona, The Café on 26, Misaki Sushi, Nantuckets, Big Fish Grill, The Cottage Café, McCabe's Gourmet Market, DiFebo's Modern Italian Grill, Off the Hook Restaurant Group, Perucci's Classic Italian Restaurant, Mio Fratello Italian Steakhouse and Three Blonde Bakers.
Free parking will be available at town parking lots and at Interiors by Kim at 33 Central Ave.