ATLANTIC AVENUE, PILOT TOWN BANK
1846 – 1905
OCAEN HOUSE AND FISH FACTORY'S
Atlantic Avenue, Pilot Town Bank, today's Pilot Town Road, of Lewes, a village built upon a sand heap, made of clapboard houses, the homes of river pilots and seafaring men, with the pretense to be a “watering place”. There in 1846 , the Rev. Solomon Prettyman, a regional native, had built a structure 105 feet in length, by 40 feet in width, four stories in height, on two lots which were at one time the property of Danial Rodney, one time Delaware governor. In the garret, or 4th floor, was an
eight foot wide room, the whole length, from one end to the other, of the building, that was “the observatory”, and four rooms opposite, on the land side. The third floor had 25 rooms and the second and first floor each had eight rooms . There was a brick basement with nine rooms, plus the heater for the dinning room and 'gentleman’s and ladies parlors'. Each floor had a hallway the entire length of the building. Advertising told the room were large, airy and comfortable. This property was 'held in fee' by
Solomon Prettyman, valued at $7000, a 'house of public entertainment'. This was the Ocean House.
Solomon had his brother , Asbury, as the Ocean House manager and they advertised Lewes and the Ocean House as a great watering place. In the 19th century, 'watering place' was a bathing beach, salt air, fine foods and lodging. They had a foot bridge built across the Lewes Creek so the gust of the Ocean House could visit the Delaware Bay beach and enjoy splashing in the salt waters.
During the 1851 season the Prettyman brothers instituted a steamship liner, “The St. Nicholas” to ply between Philadelphia and Lewes, as a method to attract visitors.
1869 the railroad arrived in Lewes and vacationers came from Wilmington, Philadelphia, and other northern areas to the Great Watering Place on the Delaware.
Also with the railroad came the Luce Brothers and the S. S. Brown Company with fish processing factories on the bay front which produced, other than oils and fertilizes, an odor that was overwhelming. Then there were the biting flies which feasted on the beach goers and Ocean House visitors.
It was not until 1905 that the government took the fish factories to court for 'public nuisance'
and they were ordered to use disinfectants and apply other methods to reduce odors which had 'some' effect.
Visitors were told that the breathing of the fish house odor is what keeps Lewes residents 'healthy' and local laborers likened the smell to 'money'.
Source: Michael Morgan , 29 March, 2017, Delaware Coast Press/ Hazel Brittingham's LHS Vol 5, “Ocean House Hotel”. Abstracts.