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06/14/2013 - 07/14/2013
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Downtown Rehoboth Beach History
The earliest settlers to this area were Native Americans who traveled to the beach in the summer months to enjoy the cool breezes and abundant seafood. Between 1650 and 1675, English and Dutch settlers put down roots here as the area became home to farmers and members of William Penn’s earliest legislatures. Later owners participated in the Revolutionary War.
According to information from the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society, in 1872, Reverend Robert W. Todd, of St. Paul’s M.E. Church in Wilmington visited a Camp Meeting area on the Jersey Shore. He soon pursued the idea of starting a camp area here, on the Delaware coast. In 1873, on 414 acres purchased from local farmers, the Rehoboth Camp Meeting Association was formed.
The grounds were laid out in a fan-shaped design, with wide streets, parks and specific building lots. That design remains largely intact today.
While the Association discontinued its formal meetings by 1881, other groups utilized the site for services until about the turn of the 20th century. In 1891, Delaware’s General Assembly established a municipality for the territory, naming it Henlopen City. It was soon renamed Rehoboth Beach.
The Boardwalk, now a mile long, was originally built in 1873 on high ground between the beach and Surf Avenue, which ran the full length of the ocean front. Many storms have changed the configuration over the years, but in 1879, the original Henlopen Hotel was built on the site now occupied by a hotel of the same name.
With the coming of the railroad – which ran right down Rehoboth Avenue – the second block of Baltimore Avenue became the new center of camp meetings and city life. Many of the original tent houses (small, one-room buildings surrounding a center structure) were moved there, with new ones constructed as well.
In 1925, a paved highway was completed from Georgetown, DE to Rehoboth. It helped link the resort with the paved roads towards Washington, D.C., and many legislators, diplomats and government employees began to visit and vacation here. It wasn’t long before Rehoboth Beach came to be known as the “Nation’s Summer