In 1989, then-Lewes Historical Society President Judy Roberts received a letter that most heads of non-profit organizations only dream of receiving -- The Lewes Historical Society was the sole beneficiary of the estate of John Farrace.
Farrace, a quiet man, was not a member of the Society and mostly kept to himself. A former employee of the Pennsylvania Railroad who vacationed frequently in Lewes, he was known as a great collector of Americana and Delawareana and on several occasions opened his collections to the public through displays at his home on Savannah Road and exhibits at the Zwaanendael Museum. Occasionally, John visited with Fred Hudson -- the Society's Maintenance Supervisor -- to see if there was a piece of wood available that would match a damaged antique or to share a cup of coffee. Outwardly, there was no sign that he held a special place for the Society or any other organization in Lewes.
Slowly, as Judy Roberts read that letter that fateful day in 1989, the realization struck her that this was a transforming gift. The Lewes Historical Society could move forward, confidently. Much needed repairs could be made, the size of the collections more than doubled and the heart of an Endowment Fund was finally in place. Roberts read that truly the entire estate was to be transferred to the Society -- real estate holdings, personal affects, finances.
John Farrace's gift transformed the Society and allowed it to grow in ways he most likely could have never imagined. The Society was able to consolidate its holdings into one large parcel at the Historic Complex by purchasing the Hiram Rodney Burton House, c. 1725, re-roof and re-shingle several historic house museums through the interest of his estate and the income the Society received renting his house. Ultimately, the sale of his property at 312 Savannah Road and the sale of Society property on Third Street, Market Street and Chestnut Street would be funneled into The Future of the Past Endowment Fund, ensuring that John Farrace's selfless gift in 1989 would continue to transform and enhance The Lewes Historical Society into the future.