LATE 19TH CENTURY
In the late 19th century, Fenwick Island, was a desolate place, acres of sandy dunes ,
surrounded the lighthouse and the houses of the beacon's keeper and his assistant.
One and a half miles to the north was the Fenwick Island Life Saving Station where the
surfmen maintained their lonely vigil watching for ships in distress.
South of the lighthouse the broad natural beach stretched into the distance as far as the eye
Here, thought the Wilmington land developers, was the place to start a modern watering
resort to rival any on the North American coast.
In 1894, Fenwick Island land Company and the Fenwick Gunning club Preserve, proposed
building a new resort on 800 cres of empty beach that straddle the boarder between Delaware and
Maryland. The lots in the new, “Fenwick Island City”, would be long and narrow, parcels along them would sell for prices, $50 to $500 . The lot would be only 25 feet wide and 200 feet deep.
Several parcels would be saved for hotels, service club house, and a grove.
It was believed at this time that the bulge in the coast pushed Fenwick Island east and closer
to the Gulf Stream. They contended the winds came from the south and the climate was always
moderate. Very seldom was the thermometer over 80 and then for only an hour or so. This made
the ideal location for the growing practice of ocean bathing. .
In addition to attracting beach vacationers during the summer the developers planned to
attract sportsmen for the wildfowl hunt in the cooler months. In 1876 the monthly magazine “Scribners” it was reported by T. Robinson Warren, that the coastal wildfowl here seemed to be
inexhaustible and there would be countless thousands of ducks and geese each spring and fall.
An electric railway from Frankford to the sea was planned but never built. A hotel was
built on the beach but buyers failed to snap up the ocean front lots. Fenwick Island would remain
an isolated and undeveloped part of the Delaware coast well into the 20th century.
Abstract: July 16, 2017, Harrison, from Michael Morgans Delaware Diary, 20 May 2014 Delaware Wave at Bethany Beach.