|Image painted by Ed Bronstein|
Museums of The Lewes Historical Society:
Ryves Holt House Museum Gift Shop (c.1665)
Located at the corner of Second and Mulberry Streets in historic Lewes, the Museum Gift Shop is currently open Fridays-Mondays 11:00am-4:00pm. FREE admission.
The Ryves Holt House is the oldest house still standing in the State of Delaware. It has survived pirate invasions, fires, and just under 400 years of architectural change. The house is named for the first Chief Justice of Sussex County.
Upon entering the Ryves Holt House one would experience the low ceilings and small rooms. It was built circa 1665. It was a Tavern and an Inn. It has been a Court House, Insurance Office, Church Office, family home and now it is the Museum Gift Shop.
In the Museum Gift Shop, you will find everything from regional reading, maps, cards, original art, prints and posters, and Lewes items. This is also location where the Lewes Museum Tours, Lewes Maritime Tours, Haunted Lewes Tours, Cemetery Tours and Architectural Tours begin. A Visitor Services volunteer on duty will be happy to give a brief history and answer any questions.
Cannonball House (c. 1760)
Located at the Corner of Bank Street and Front Streets in historic Lewes, this Maritime Museum is currently open Sundays 12:00pm-3:00pm and Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays 11:00pm-4:00pm. Admission is free through March 31. Donations are appreciated.
Struck by a cannonball during the War of 1812, the Cannonball House – which is home to the Society’s immense collection of maritime artifacts – carries a long relationship with the sea. Artifacts that tell of Lewes’s storied past with the sea are exhibited, including the Fourth Order Fresnel Lens from Fourteen Foot Bank Light in Delaware Bay.
Lewes Life-Saving Station (c. 1884)
Located on the Canal at the intersection of Shipcarpenter Street and Pilottown Rd in historic Lewes, the Lewes Life-Saving Station is only available for touring via The Lewes Historical Society’s Maritime Tours. The Maritime Tours cost $10 and includes admission into the Cannonball House. Members, Children and Students are free. Tickets can be purchased at the Museum Gift Shop at the corner of Second and Mulberry Streets, where the tour begins.
The third station in Delaware commissioned by the U.S. Life-Saving Service, the Lewes Station is best known for its heroics during the Blizzard of 1888 when dozens of ships were wrecked in the Breakwater during a freak March squall. It now contains collections and exhibits of local maritime history and is also home to a “Sufficient for Life-Saving” exhibit Memorial Day-Labor Day.
The Historic Complex
Located at 110 Shipcarpenter Street in historic Lewes, The Lewes Historical Society Complex buildings are available for touring with a knowledgeable volunteer Docent during a walking tour called Lewes Museum Tour. The Maritime Tours cost $10. Members, Children and Students are free. Lewes Museum Tours leave from the Ryves Holt House Museum Gift Shop located at the corner of Second and Mulberry Streets in historic Lewes. Tickets can be purchased at the Museum Gift Shop.
Our grounds hold 9 historic buildings dating from the mid 1600’s to the late 1800’s and clearly illustrate the impact of the sea on the community and Lewes’ss penchant for moving buildings from site to site. With the exception of the Hiram Rodney Burton House, all the buildings have been moved from other locations in Lewes or surrounding communities. On the Complex, you can view the Hiram Rodney Burton House (c.1694), Burton-Ingram House (c. 1785), Rabbit’s Ferry house (c.1741), Midway School #178 (c.1898), Doctor’s Office (c.1850), Early Plank House (c.1700s), Thompson Country Store (c.1800), Ellegood House and Lewes Blacksmith Shop (c.1785).
Museums at the Historic Complex:
Burton-Ingram House, c. 1789:
The Society’s first preservation project in 1962, the Burton-Ingram House is noted for its fine Federal period architecture and colonial furnishings. Several extraordinary museum objects are displayed in this elegant home.
Hiram Rodney Burton House, c. 1730:
The only house in the Complex on its original foundation and location, the Hiram Rodney Burton House is named after a prominent local physician who also served two terms in Congress from 1904-1908.
Midway School #178, c. 1898:
The Society’s most recent addition, Midway School #178 is one of only a handful of one-room schools left in Delaware. The Society’s educational programming is carried out within the school.
Old Doctor’s Office, c. 1840:
The Society’s Old Doctor’s Office contains excellent collections of mid- to late-nineteenth century medical instruments. Boasting the only example of Greek Revival architecture in Lewes, the Office also houses nearly 500 volumes of medical texts ranging from the late 18th century to the early 20th.
Rabbit’s Ferry House, c. 1740:
An outstanding example of rural Sussex County architecture, the Rabbit’s Ferry House reflects the hard and simple life of southern Delaware’s 18th century farmers. Hearth-cooking demonstrations are being planned for its kitchen.
Early Plank House, c. 1690:
Constructed by early Swedish settlers in the late 17th century, the Plank House contains examples of rugged, hand-hewn timbers, lofted sleeping spaces, and a small fireplace where meals that were truly earned were cooked.
Ellegood House, c. 1800:
The Ellegood House is another example of an early Sussex County farmhouse. Sheathed in clapboards, the Ellegood House houses the Avery Exhibit.
Thompson Country Store, c. 1800:
Built in Thompsonville, just east of Frederica in Kent County, Delaware, the Thompson Country Store functioned as just that up until 1963 when it was acquired by the Society. Step inside and enjoy a game of checkers, pick up the local papers, or gaze on the Society’s unsurpassed collection of milk-bottles from local dairies.
Blacksmith Shop, c. 1790:
Formerly the home of a Lewes blacksmith, the Society’s Blacksmith Shop compliments the Ellegood House.