Lewes – Community Profile

This community profile of Lewes was created for the 2018 Communities in Bloom international competition.  This document took many hours by many volunteers to prepare, edit, review and proofread and provides an excellant summary of Lewes and its volunteer organizations and is very informative and great reading.   ENJOY!

We love our city

Special thanks also go to reviewers and proofreaders: John Hanson, Alison Kirk, Diana O’Hagan, Joan Russo, Marty Sechehay, Marilyn Vai. Photographers: Sandy Ahn, Tom DeMarco, Rose Minetti, Fred Phillips, Sue Sandmeyer


INTRODUCTION - written by Sue Sandemeyer

Introduction to Lewes, Delaware, USA

“Those who come to love Lewes – be it for a brief visit or an extended stay – almost always have a tale of discovery to share, of how they unexpectedly happened upon this unlikely historic town at the cape where the Delaware meets the Atlantic. And of that moment of personal recognition when they intuitively understood without having to be told, ‘to treasure its uniqueness.’”

Neil Shister, Living Lewes: An Insider’s Guide

“The City of Lewes, Delaware is located where the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean meet, the area known as Cape Henlopen. The naturally beautiful area with beaches on both the ocean and the bay, trails, and nature preserves add to the many reasons to visit this small historic town founded by the Dutch in 1631. In addition to natural beauty, this charming city offers a wonderful historic district, with architecture dating back to the 17th century, museums, special tours, cozy accommodations, restaurants to please any palate, and unique shops and boutiques all within walking distance of each other.”1

A stroll through historic Lewes also reveals the diversity, balance, and harmony that makes the city so unique and draws visitors and residents to walk, bike, and play. One can readily see the design principles of hardscape and landscape that combine to offer an overall effect of beauty as it seamlessly blends historic preservation with landscaping and sustainable development.

What visitors may not know is that behind all of this are capable personnel, volunteers, action plans, environmental initiatives, and commitment to maintaining Lewes’ historical integrity while envisioning current and future landscape suitability, location, integration, and standards. From the authentic Shipcarpenter Square that captures the past 200 years of architecture to the Children’s Learning Garden, Lewes both treasures the past and teaches our children and adults to be good stewards of our environment for the future. And much of the beauty and historical preservation of Lewes would not be possible without its volunteers.

Lewes is a desirable place to live and visit. We are proud of its high visual impact, made possible by an unwavering commitment to its past and future.

  1. Lewes Chamber of Commerce

Harbor of Refuge Light

Lewes Chamber of Commerce

Gateway Garden

2018 Lewes City Information


Population: 3083
Website: http://www.ci.lewes.de.us/ and www.lewesinbloom.org
Area in Square Miles:               4.6      
Acres of Active Recreation:      54% of City is open space (see below*)
Acres of Passive Recreation:     see below*
Lewes has a large group of volunteers on committees that help maintain Lewes’s tidiness, cultural heritage, environment, landscaping, trees, and floral displays:

Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee
Board of Adjustments
Board of Ethics
Canalfront Park Marina Committee
Commercial and Architectural Review Commission
Finance Committee
Greenways and Trails Committee
Historic Preservation Commission
Parks and Recreation Commission
Planning Commission
Historic Lewes Byway Committee       

*City Parks: 
· 1812 Memorial Park 
· Alfred A. Stango Park (2 acres) 
· George H. P. Smith Park at Blockhouse Pond
· Lewes Canalfront Park (4.6 acres) 
· Mary Vessels Park 
· Otis Smith Park 
· Zwaanendael Park (partly owned by State) 

*Maintained Open Space Areas: 
· Canary Creek Open Space (25 acres) 
· Great Marsh Park off of New Road (66 acres) 
· Black Harry’s Spring · Prickly Pear Natural Area
Public lands of the City of Lewes Additional Park and Open Space Lands within the municipal boundaries that are owned by other government entities include: 
· Beach Plum Island Nature Preserve and Trail (130 acres, state-owned) 
· DeVries Monument (less than one-half acre, state-owned) 
· Lewes and Rehoboth Canal (Army Corps of Engineers owns a 100-foot right-of-way) 
· Lewes Beach (19 acres, state-owned, Lewes-maintained) 
· Lewes Boat Ramp (state-owned and maintained, 128 parking spaces)
  • Cape Henlopen State Park (state-owned and maintained) (5,193 acres)

The City and the Orton Family own the 3.1-acre Little League Park, which is leased to the Little League, the Lightship Overfalls, and the Lewes Historical Society. The Cape Henlopen School District also owns and maintains recreation lands adjacent to schools within and adjacent to Lewes that are used by members of the public.

Tidiness - written by Sue Crawford & Sue Sandemeyer

You would never know as you walk Second Street or along the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal, that this was one time a major fishing town. In the not too distant past, the streets were ‘paved’ with clam shells or just plain dirt. There were no street lights to speak of and the smell of fish from the local menhaden processing plants filled the air. Walk or ride through the area now and you won’t see any evidence of the fishing industry, instead, you will see a city that has meticulously preserved its historical character. There is tremendous pride among businesses and residents alike who work hand in hand with the city to make Lewes a desirable place to live, work, and visit.


Overall impressions, Anti-litter, regulations, cleanliness, municipal properties appearance

Lewes is a coastal town and destination city known for its history that each year attracts thousands of visitors. The streetscape of downtown Lewes plays an important role in the experience of this historic city. Second Street is the main shopping and dining area. This narrow street, adorned with hanging baskets and barrels filled with flowers, has generous sidewalks and visible crosswalks. Benches and trees within landscaped islands offer residents and guests an old-town atmosphere.

Lewes has beautiful beaches along the Delaware Bay where it meets the Atlantic Ocean that on any nice summer day are crowded with families spending a day swimming, picnicking, and having fun. The city prides itself on its appearance, and has rules in place to preserve it. The City of Lewes Park and Beach rules http://www.ci.lewes.de.us/pdfs/Park_Rules_2017.pdf range from how to treat city
 property, the beach, pet owner responsibilities, and much more.

The Lewes Mayor and City Council created an ordinance in September 2009 banning smoking in seven city parks and two playgrounds. In 2014, the Mayor and Council amended the ordinance to include all Lewes public beaches. Smoking is prohibited in any indoor enclosed area to which the public is invited or in which the public is permitted, including workplaces. Ash stash waste receptacles have been placed at the entrance of each park and beach.

The city’s Streets Department is charged with keeping the town clean and tidy. The department works diligently to keep the streets clean, signs in good order, and beaches free from litter. It is responsible for trash and recycling collection, facility repairs and maintenance to city property and buildings, coordinating and assisting with city-sponsored and non-profit events, such as the Christmas Parade and Christmas tree lighting, July 4th activities, St. Peters Art Show, and many others. They also clean and stock the bathrooms in Zwaanendael Park, Mary Vessels Park, Canalfront Park, Beach 1, and Beach 2.

The Parks and Marina Administrator manages the citywide lawn and landscape maintenance contract which was awarded to Distinctive Landscaping. The contract covers lawn and landscape maintenance including mowing, edging, trimming, weeding, pruning, weed, insect/pest and disease control, maintaining weed-free walkways and property, irrigation system operation and tree care maintenance.

The Board of Public Works provides sewer, water, and electric services to the city and is a separate, private entity.

Businesses and Institutions, overall impressions and site conditions

The City Streets Department and the Parks and Recreation Commission oversee the condition of benches as well as litter and recycling containers. Extra trash and recycling containers are provided for public events and provided where the events are located.

The Street Department is also responsible for keeping the beaches as trash-free as possible, the public facilities clean, and the various public receptacles from overflowing. The department uses a street cleaner once a week, sweeping up whatever may have been tossed or blown from a passing vehicle. The department maintains a set schedule of activities and are on call as needed.

The state has a program through which businesses and/or groups adopt a road and are responsible for picking up any litter. In addition, many businesses support volunteer groups who participate in clean-up or beautification projects. For example, Lewes in Bloom receives financial or in-kind support from more than 50 businesses.

Proud to be America in Bloom champions

The University of Delaware, which maintains a campus in Lewes, holds a Volunteer day hosted by the Delaware Native Plant Society. Activities include planting and maintaining gardens of varieties indigenous to Delaware.

Residential, overall impressions and site conditions

The Street Department provides solid waste pick up and curbside recycling to housing developments throughout the city. Each single-family residential property has a recycling container. Trash pickups are weekly, but from July1 through Labor Day, pick-up is increased to twice a week. Recycling pick-up occurs every two weeks and is increased to once a week during the busy summer season. The city also has a hazardous waste and electronic waste collection program. In the fall it offers curbside leaf collection.

The Lewes Historic Preservation Commission was established by the Mayor and City Council with the passage of the Historic District Preservation Ordinance, City of Lewes Code Section 197, Article X- Historic Preservation Regulations. The purpose of the Ordinance is to preserve the character and ambiance of the city, which includes a blend of architectural styles that span nearly four centuries. The pride shows through as homeowners go above and beyond maintaining their yards as well as the public sidewalks.

Community Involvement, Participation and Support

Community involvement in keeping Lewes tidy is widespread. Lewes in Bloom is just one of many volunteer organizations working to keep the city clean and beautiful.

Throughout the year, Lewes in Bloom volunteers plant, weed, deadhead, and clean out flower beds in the city’s parks. Each fall, Lewes in Bloom volunteers remove dying annual plants, and a short-time later, plant more than 20,000 tulip bulbs that will bloom the following spring.

The Lewes Historical Society uses volunteers to keeps its grounds looking attractive. These volunteers assist in planting, trimming and the overall beautification of the society’s grounds. They meet regularly to ensure that the gardens and grounds are properly maintained and inviting for the public. Volunteers may be involved in the planning of new projects, in the restoration of existing buildings, in the modernization of things like plumbing and electrical wires, or in the repair of doors and windows. This also includes the general care and maintenance of facilities.

1812 Park

National historic landmark Lightship Overfalls volunteers help with the continued restoration and maintenance of the ship, from painting to mechanical work, prepping and repainting, and making repairs on a continuous basis.

Other examples of activities that make the city beautiful and clean include:
  • Residents tidying and opening their properties for the Lewes Garden Tour
  • Volunteers building new plant boxes for Savannah Road/Front Street intersection and in the Children’s Learning Garden
  • Coastal Clean Up Day (spring)
  • Shop owners planting flowers in pots the entries or near their stores       
  • Volunteers from different organizations participating in clean-up days at Cape Henlopen State Park.
  • Friends of the Henlopen State Park maintaining the different beach and wooded areas
  • Arbor Day programs with lectures and tree plantings in a park
  • Involving children in planting and caring for fruits and vegetables in the Children’s Learning Garden in Stango Park
  • Scouts performing clean-up/recycling projects.The once utilitarian, smelly fishing village that everyone by-passed on their way to the ocean towns has morphed into a city where people come to stay, enjoying the beauty and cleanliness.

    The once utilitarian, smelly fishing village that everyone by-passed on their way to the ocean towns has morphed into a city where people come to stay, enjoying the beauty and cleanliness.


    Hillside at Canalfront Park

Environmental Action - written by Pam Meador and Linda Rancourt

Surrounded by an abundance of natural resources, Lewes is focused on ensuring their protection for ecological and economic reasons. More than 50 years ago when faced with a choice to preserve the lands that have become Cape Henlopen State Park, or allow their sale for private development, the City chose to ensure their protection. That decision continues to shape and inform many of the city’s conservation policies today.

Lewes Beekeepers

As a coastal town located where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, Lewes is focused on policies that will help mitigate the effects of coastal flooding and sea level rise. Recently, the Mayor and City Council agreed to remove parcels of city-owned land from sale to preserve as open space. The lots, primarily located between the city’s beach and the Canal, will protect wetlands in the area as well as act as a buffer in the event of flooding. Protecting wetlands also helps to ensure the quality and quantity of the city’s drinking water, which comes from ground water drawn from the Columbia Aquifer.

Conservation activities range from rain gardens at Canal Front Park and the University of Delaware to adopting a city-wide recycling program to reduce the amount of waste headed to the landfill. The city’s vision includes embracing steps to reduce the effects of plastics on the ocean as well as mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing its carbon footprint as well as preserving naturally significant wetlands along its borders.

The First Town of the First State is proud of the growing number of households and businesses taking advantage of wind and solar energy. Seventy-one households now have solar panels, and the wind turbine located at the University of Delaware campus powers the entire campus, selling a percentage back to the city.

Other highlights include the Historic Farmers Market, a community-based, producer-only market held from May through October, and a Children’s Learning Garden. Both the market and the Garden offer programs to educate children and their families about food production and the importance of the agricultural lands and farms that surround the city. The Lewes Beekeeping Club, which maintains hives at Black Hog Farmstead, has offered programs to the community to highlight the vital role honey bees and other pollinators play in the production of our food.


Sustainable Development Strategies

    • 19th year as a tree city committed to increasing the tree canopy; policy is to try to replace every tree lost with two new ones.
    • Removed buildable city-owned lots from development along Cedar Street as well as a 22-acre parcel of land off American Legion Road to preserve as open space and act as a buffer in the event of flooding.
    • The city has an Integrated Coastal Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan, reviewed annually.
    • All new major developments in Lewes are required to include on-site storm water management techniques to manage both water quantity and quality, which are the responsibility of each homeowner’s association.
    • The Lewes Subdivision Code, section 170-26(B)(1)(b), requires that open space will be provided within all major subdivisions at a minimum of 10 percent of the gross area of the subdivision.
  • The Byway Corridor Management Plan, approved by the Delaware Department of Transportation, City of Lewes, and Sussex County, includes recommendations regarding increased traffic without sacrificing the byway’s scenic or historic character.
    • Historic Lewes Byway master plans: The Kings Highway and Gills Neck Road Master Plan, the first of a series to be produced for each segment of the 12.5-mile Historic Lewes Byway, was completed in September 2016. Lewes Byway is the southern terminus of the Delaware Bayshore, a series of trails and pathways that highlight areas of significance, both ecologically and historically, within the state.
  • Ongoing conversion from oil and propane to natural gas.

Waste Reduction:

  • Recycling for yard waste with regular pickups throughout the growing season. Landscape maintenance companies serving many rentals and seasonal homes haul organic waste to nearby centralized mulching or composting sites.
  • The city provides regular collection of trash, recyclables, and yard waste from all neighborhoods, including those whose streets it is not responsible for, except for the Jefferson Apartments. The city also collects from non-profit organizations, but not from commercial establishments.
  • The Board of Public Works hosts Hazardous Household Waste Drop Off and electronics collection twice a year.
  • State of the art waste water treatment plant built in 2008, expanded in 2010.

Water Conservation

  • Timed irrigation at city parks
  • Water use reduction programs are in place at local hotels and inns, which encourage guests to reuse towels and sheets to save water.
  • Board of Public Works has a water reduction plan in place in case of drought.

Energy Conservation

  • Wind turbine based at the University of Delaware produces electricity for the campus’ six buildings and any excess is sold to the Board of Public Works.
  • State-wide policies that support solar panel installations. Currently, 71 of 1,392 households in Lewes have solar panels.
  • Board of Public Works offers home energy audits, online tools, and resources to help customers better understand and manage home energy use and costs
  • All street lights in the city have been converted to LED lights, and all lights that illuminate public areas are either operated by timers or light sensors.

Environmental Initiatives, Innovations and Actions

  • “Charging Up Delaware”: A collaborative research agreement between the University of Delaware (UD) and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) begun in 2014. The program is designed to promote a network of electric vehicle charging stations to facilitate long-distance trips with electric vehicles within the State. Two electric vehicle charging stations have been installed at the Lewes Terminal of the Cape May – Lewes Ferry.
  • Canal Front Park has permeable sidewalks
  • Lewes is a bicycle friendly city:
    • The city maintains designated bicycle lanes throughout, some of which connect to the Breakwater Trail that connects Lewes with Rehoboth.
    • A 3.2-mile section of rail bed will be converted to a multi-use path as part of the second phase of the Lewes to Georgetown Trail. Work on Phase 2 is expected to begin this fall.
    • Bike rentals at Cape Henlopen State Park, the Cape May-Lewes ferry terminal, and at the head of the Breakwater Trail to encourage use in the park and as a means of transportation into the city from the ferry terminal
    • The city hosts an annual bike to work day in May
  • Recently opened transportation center on Coastal Highway serves the City of Lewes; carries passengers to the Cape May-Lewes Ferry as well as retail outlets along Route 1 and the neighboring town of Rehoboth. Also maintains a route to Georgetown.
  • Residents have access to farmer’s markets any day of the week all along coastal Sussex County
  • Board of Public Works voted unanimously March 28 to expand water-quality tests beyond the requirements set forth by the state and federal governments. (BPW meeting minutes)

Business and Institutions
Participation in the Environmental Effort

  • Businesses for Better Bags initiative: Optional program developed by students at the University of Delaware in partnership with the Green Team at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and the Lewes business community, this initiative seeks to reduce the number of plastic bags given out by businesses in the city. A Lewes specific bag, made from recycled plastic bottles, will be offered for sale in businesses throughout the city beginning in early July. This program is designed to demonstrate that businesses within the community are actively attempting to solve the problem of plastic bag consumption. Each participating business will have a sticker in the window demonstrating its participation. The program, which is self-sustaining, benefited from a startup grant through Delaware SeaGrant. This pilot project will be used as a model for the state.
  • No straws initiative: Many restaurants along the main street in the city have agreed to offer straws to customers only as requested.
  • Hotels and others encouraging conservation of water through re-use of towels and sheets; as well as serving water only when requested.

Corporate Environmental Actions

  • From January 2017 to December 2017, Beebe Healthcare recycled: 11.7835 tons of computer / electronic equipment; 352.94 tons of cardboard / paper; 5.42 tons of medical supplies for reprocessing; additionally, an unknown amount of batteries, toner cartridges, and wood pallets went to local recycling centers or were hauled away.
  • SPI Pharma uses seawater to make its product and has done so since 1969. Doing this reduces the number of trucks that are needed to ship raw materials to the site. The process is largely carbon-free, so its waste water does not contribute to bioburden.  SPI’s wastewater is clean, filtered, slightly diluted seawater, and has been since its inception in 1969.

Community Involvement

Public Participation—Civic Action

  • City held numerous public meetings during a year-long process to update its Comprehensive Plan, a significant portion of which contains environmental initiatives focused on open space, water conservation, and addressing the effects of climate change.
  • Public participation in the review of Hazard Mitigation Plan

Public Participation in Activities

  • Hundreds of volunteers participate each year in planting dune grasses along the Delaware shore. The grasses build and stabilize the dunes, which protects the areas from flooding. These efforts are organized by Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Shoreline and Waterway Management Section.
  • Lewes in Bloom has more than 200 volunteers who maintain gardens and planters throughout the city
  • Volunteers are an integral part of Marine Education Rehabilitation and Research Institute, a nonprofit based in Lewes. The Institute is authorized by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the State of Delaware to be the official stranding respondents for marine mammals and sea turtles of Delaware.
  • Volunteers participates in the annual horseshoe crab surveys (see photo above). The Bay hosts one of the largest populations of horseshoe crabs in the world.

Annual Horseshoe Crab Survey

Community Support

  • The Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau of Lewes is a key partner with the University of Delaware in the implementation of the Better Bags Initiative as well as the initiative to reduce the number of plastic straws used by patrons of restaurants and other establishments throughout the city.
  • St. Peter’s Episcopal Church has a Green Team in place that is working on ways to reduce waste and conserve energy, including the Better Bags Initiative.
  • Students enrolled at the University of Delaware campus in Lewes have been instrumental in developing and implementing a number of conservation ideas, including the Better Bags Initiative, and Charging Up, a plan to add a number of electric charging stations throughout the state.
  • Businesses throughout Lewes, and in particular those along Front and Second Streets, frequently provide monetary and in-kind donations to support Lewes in Bloom, the Lewes Beekeeping Club, and other entities.
Delaware SeaGrant provided a $10,000 grant to the University of Delaware to design and implement the
Better Bags Initiative.

Heritage Conservation - written by Diana O'Hagan and Linda Rancourt

Lewes has a rich and abiding history. From the original residents who were attracted by the abundance of seafood, to the early Dutch and English settlers who arrived in search of new beginnings, a number of inhabitants were attracted to the city now known as Lewes before it was incorporated as the first town in the first state more than 350 years ago.

The Siconese, ancestors of the modern Lenni-Lenape people, traveled to the coastline every spring and summer to enjoy the abundant shell and fin fish. During planting time in the spring and early summer and harvest time in the fall, the Siconese lived in established towns, at least one of which was near the cape that marked the entrance to the bay. (Hidden History of Lewes, Michael Morgan)

Europe’s lust for new lands came to Delaware Bay as early as 1609, when Henry Hudson explored the bay for a water route to the Pacific. Once the bay was on European charts, it was just a matter of time before ships bearing settlers began to lay claim to lands along the Atlantic Coast in the New World. The first Dutch colony, established in 1631, is commemorated by a monument erected by the State of Delaware on Pilottown Road, a portion of which reads: “Here was the cradling of a state.”

In addition to its Native American and Dutch heritage, Lewes’s African-American community has been an integral part of the city since the colonial days. (2017 Journal of the Lewes Historical Society). Cato Lewis – a freed black– ran one of the earliest African-American-owned shipyards in the country, and George H. P. Smith, for whom the park is named, served as mayor from 1992-2004.

The city’s historical fabric has been woven together over centuries and is evident in the city’s museums as well as in how the city and residents work together to maintain Lewes’ unique story of conservation.

Today, the city capitalizes on its history through the work of the Lewes Historical Society, the Historical Preservation Commission and the Lightship Overfalls Foundation among others. History has such a prominent role that Lewes hosted the first annual History Book Festival in the country last September and plans to do so again this coming September 28-29. http://www.capegazette.com/article/celebrating-books-history-and-joy-reading/143671

The Historical Society hosts educational programs and exhibits throughout the year and earns about $8 million for the local economy by attracting thousands of visitors to its museums, tours, events, and programs. The society has restored and maintains 12 historic properties and hundreds of thousands of artifacts, photographs, and archival materials, many of which are on display at the Margaret H. Rollins Community Center

In addition to the work of these organizations, Lewes in Bloom contributes to the city’s heritage preservation through plantings throughout the city and specifically in gardens at the Fisher-Martin Herb Garden, behind the Cannonball House, and in the Children’s Learning Garden.


Natural Heritage Strategic Plans

    • Canalfront Park: Development pressure threatened to convert a historic boatyard along Lewes and Rehoboth Canal into condominiums. To preserve the site, the city acquired the 3-acre parcel and incorporated a park adjacent to the canal into the city’s overall master plan. The park includes the Lightship Overfalls, a waterfront boardwalk, handicap accessible fishing pier, floating docks, shade arbor, stone walkways, butterfly garden, and other landscaped areas. http://duffnet.com/?page_id=554
  • Preservation of the Great Marsh in partnership with The Sussex County Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy and neighboring farms.
  • Preservation of Beach Plum Island and Cape Henlopen State Park, which is a stop along Delaware’s Coastal Heritage Greenway. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Henlopen_State_Park

Natural Heritage Management Plans

Natural Heritage Promotion

  • Children’s Learning Garden, ongoing programs to teach children about the importance of food plants and how to grow them, sponsored by Lewes in Bloom.
  • The Chamber of Commerce/Visitors Bureau actively promotes events throughout the year at Cape Henlopen, within the city, as well as at the Children’s Learning Garden and other outdoor venues.
  • The Chamber of Commerce and private enterprises promote whale watching and dolphin tours. Bottlenose dolphins are a common sight in Lewes, as they breed in the waters directly off the coast.
  • The city promotes and participates in the annual horseshoe crab festivals and surveys. The Bay hosts one of the largest populations of horseshoe crabs in the world. Each spring this “living fossil” lays eggs along the bay, attracting thousands of migrating birds and bird-watchers. This event is actively promoted by the Delaware Nature Society, Audubon and the local Chamber and Visitors Bureau.

Cultural Heritage Strategic Plans

  • Lewes Historic District encompasses 122 contributing buildings and 6 contributing sites, including most of the homes and buildings along Front, Shipcarpenter, and Second, Third, and Fourth Streets and side streets. Some of the most prominent buildings include St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and Cemetery, the Fisher Homestead on Pilottown Road, and the Ryves Holt House, now a part of the U.S. National Park System and purported to be the oldest surviving home in the U.S. located at 218 Second Street. (National Register of Historic Places)
  • City of Lewes established a Historic Preservation Commission in 2004 to protect the integrity of the historic buildings within the city.
  • American Discovery Trail: Cape Henlopen State Park is the East Coast terminus of the trail, a transcontinental trail that extends from Lewes to Point Reyes National Seashore in California.
  • Maritime markers that speak to Lewes’ long association with the sea line the parking lot at the city’s beach at the end of Savannah Road that are part of the Lewes Maritime History Trail. http://explorecoastaldelaware.com/feature/lewes-maritime-history-trail
  • Lewes Historical Society recently placed a plaque on Pilottown Road highlighting the location of the historic cemetery associated with St. George AME Church.
  • Zwaanendael Museum, created to honor the 300th anniversary of Delaware’s first European settlement, is modeled after the former City Hall in Hoorn, Netherlands. Exhibits represent history of Sussex County, including shipwrecks and lighthouses. (Zwaanendael – “theValley of the Swans” – was how the Dutch explorers referred to Lewes.)

Cultural Heritage Activities

  • Tulip Celebration each spring to highlight the city’s earliest settlement by the Dutch.
  • Volunteer tours of Lightship Overfalls listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Overfalls is one of the few remaining lightships and was one of the few still operating during World War II.
  • Local groups sponsor tours of the lighthouses in the Harbor of Refuge, the waterway just off the Lewes Beach. The Harbor of Refuge is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Other activities include Historical Society’s annual Christmas tour, the Chamber of Commerce Garden tour in the spring that highlight the most beautiful gardens in the city, ghost tours that celebrate the city’s history and some of the inhabitants of the historic cemeteries, and tours sponsored by the Zwaanandael Museum to the HMS deBraak shipwreck

Business and Institutions

Natural Heritage Assets

  • The Fisher-Martin Herb Garden in Zwannendael Park showcases more than 80 species of herbs and plants used by 1700s housewives and Native Americans of the region for culinary, medicinal, and household uses. The garden is lovingly overseen by volunteers of Lewes in Bloom

    Historic Fisher-Marten Herb Garden

  • Colonial gardens at the Canon Ball House was inspired by Colonial Williamsburg and other historic gardens. The garden supports flowers and bulbs that a woman living in the house in 1765 might have used.
  • Pollinator garden at HP Smith Park and butterfly and rain garden at Canalfront Park, a 3-acre parcel that is now a central focus of downtown along the canal.
  • Cape Henlopen State Park and Beach Plum Island Reserve
  • Great Marsh Park
  • Black Hog Farmstead B&B (preservation of agricultural land)

Cultural Heritage Assets

  • De Vries Monument and Marker https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=38631
  • Zwaanendael Museum with child-friendly activities as well as historic lectures and exhibits. https://history.delaware.gov/museums/zm/zm_main.shtml
  • Fort Miles Museum and Historical Area at Cape Henlopen: The historical area encompasses the museum, which includes Battery 519, six barracks, a fire control tower, and Fort Miles Artillery Park. The museum tells the story of Fort Miles, a key piece of the United States coastal defense from World War II to ‘70s
  • Remains of the HMS deBraak which sank in a squall in Delaware Bay in 1798. The shipwreck can be seen at Cape Henlopen, and artifacts from the ship as well as a detailed story of its history and sinking can be found at Zwaanendael Museum.
  • First State National Historical Park: Ryves Holt House, c.1665, Lewes. Oldest building on original site. https://www.nps.gov/frst/planyourvisit/ryves-holt-house.htm
  • Features Tavern Talks sponsored by Lewes Historical Society https://www.historiclewes.org/events/tavern-talks-sea-lore-and-superstition
  • Lewes Life-Saving Station, c.1884, Shipcarpenter Street and Pilottown Road.
  • Historic Breakwater and Junction Trail created from historic rail bed.
  • The Silent Sentinel Sculptures recently placed at the Trailhead opposite the Lewes Public Library
  • Lewes History Museum located in the Margaret H. Rollins Community Center, 110 Adams Avenue.
  • Museum Store, c.1898. Savannah Road and Third Street
  • Historical Society Preservation Awards: 2017 Lewes in Bloom awardee
  • Yearly Journals since 1997. Feature article, Observations and Insights on the Recent History of the African American Community in Lewes by Lewes in Bloom member Joan Russo, Vol. XX pg. 17 (Lewes Historic Society)
  • Curriculum based programs for students. https://www.historiclewes.org/education/curriculum-based-programs



Cultural Heritage Initiatives

  • The Shipcarpenter Street Campus, 110 Shipcarpenter Street, owned by Lewes Historic Society.
  • Shipcarpenter Square is a historic preservation homeowners’ association dedicated to creating a community of authentically restored 18th and 19th century homes.
  • Cannonball House, c. 1760, first Historic Society acquisition, Bank and Front Streets. The house is so-named for the cannonball, fired from a British ship during the siege of the town in 1813, that is lodged in the house’s foundation. It is still visible today.

    1812 Park

  • Virden House B&B: John Penrose Virden, a Delaware River Pilot, built this house in 1888. He was co-founder and first president of the Pilots Association.
  • Home of Holly H. and Osamu Shimizu, 431 Kings Highway, aka “Selby Hitchens House” with parts dating back to 1730 is also known for its amazing dooryard gardens established in 2015 with a nod to 18th century style. The owners are a well-known horticulturist and a garden designer who have adopted the spirit of Lewes heritage.
  • The Thomas Maull House, 536 Pilottown Road, c. 1739. One of the oldest houses in Lewes, ballast stones brought here in the holds of ships can be seen in the foundation. Owned and maintained by the Col. David Hall Chapter, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (https://www.dar.org/national -society/historic-sites-and-properties/thomas-maull-house
  • Historic Home of Major Henry Fisher, 624 Pilottown Road, considered the “eyes and ears of the Continental Congress” during the Revolutionary War. https://archives.delaware.gov/markers/sc/SC-204.shtml
  • Home of Marty and Norman Last, 421 Park Avenue built in 1990 is an example of a modern home built in a style to conform with the historic architecture nearby. The Japanese-style garden is a quiet oasis in the middle of the city.

Community Involvement                                                                        

Natural Heritage Public Participation

    • Annual tulip celebration: Recognition of the city’s Dutch heritage and the importance of these flowers
  • Presentations about the importance of bees in the pollination of more than a third of the foods we eat by the Lewes Beekeeping Club at Children’s Learning Garden, Historic Society and to Lewes in Bloom members.

Natural Heritage—Community Support

  • Involvement by both The Nature Conservancy and Sussex County Land Trust in gaining conservation easements on farms adjacent to Great Marsh
  • Delaware Nature Society, involvement in horseshoe crab survey and enlisting volunteers for this effort.
  • Sussex Birdwatching Club: Participants support the work of Friends of Cape Henlopen as well as Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, and conduct a migratory bird count each fall.
  • Friends of Cape Henlopen State Park, volunteers who fundraise for the park as well as help to maintain trails.
  • Lewes in Bloom, with its more than 200 volunteers, caring for city-owned gardens.
  • The Lewes Beekeeping Club conducts regular education programs about the importance of bees and other pollinators and encourages the creation of pollinator gardens throughout the area.

Cultural Heritage—Community Support

  • City of Lewes provides annual financial support to Lewes in Bloom to help care for the parks
  • Each November the Lewes Historical Society presents a Speaker Series program celebrating the heritage of the Nanticoke People. https://www.historiclewes.org/events/nanticoke-dance-culture-november-17
  • Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. parade
  • Chamber of Commerce Memorial Day parade
  • Halloween pumpkin carving and trick or treating with historical society, city park and Lewes in Bloom
  • Lewes in Bloom has more than 200 volunteers who participate in the maintenance and care of gardens
  • The Greater Lewes Foundation provides financial support to charitable organizations in the city, including Lewes in Bloom, Lewes Public Library, and Canalfront Park.
  • Friends of Canalfront Park http://lewescanalfrontpark.org/about-the-park/
  • Endowments to Lewes Historical Society
  • Friends of the Lewes Library annual fundraising and public support in building new Library
  • The Zwaanendael Women’s Club, founded in 1905, supports the local community through volunteering time and resources to members of the community in need. The Lewes History Book Festival was one of the club’s many beneficiaries.
  • Lewes “Preserve Our Post Office” Project http://www.capegazette.com/node/53997?cid=1100640
  • Overfalls Foundation preserving Lightship Overfalls (LV-118), built by the United States Lighthouse Service in 1938, is only one of 17 remaining lightships out of a total 179 built from 1820 to 1952. http://www.overfalls.org/
  • Generous donations from the business and corporate community for Lewes “Go Fourth” Fund, to pay for the 4th of July Fireworks display Residents also celebrate the 4th with the Doo Dah Parade.
Urban Forestry - written by Mardi Thompson


Overall Impression: Lewes has been committed to its urban forest for nearly two decades, as evidenced by its Tree City designation by the Arbor Day Foundation for the last 17 years. https://www.arborday.org/programs/treecityusa/directory.cfm The city owns and cares for trees on its streets, in its parks, and on other city property. Even though the salt air and high winds do not support many tall trees, a variety of species, including redbuds, dogwoods, and honey locusts are abundant throughout the city.

Strategic Plans: The City Code creates the Parks and Recreation Commission. Chapter 40, Parks and Recreation Commission, https://ecode360.com/7032014 The Commission includes a Tree Commissioner who looks after trees throughout the city and works with each Park Commissioner to look after the trees in the various parks. The City Code has a separate chapter covering trees. Chapter 177, Trees, https://ecode360.com/7034131  https://www.arborday.org/programs/treecityusa/directory.cfm City Code establishes policies to maintain the appropriate amount of tree cover on public lands, maintain an inventory, maintain city trees in a healthy and nonhazardous condition through good arboricultural practices, establish and maintain diversity toward native tree species and age classes to provide a healthy and stable urban forest, assist and work with people as they develop their properties, including new residential, commercial or industrial sites, and to preserve existing trees or oversee proper replacement of trees removed from the site being developed. See section 177-1.B. of the Code.

In 2011, the City Council adopted a Tree Canopy Resolution calling for increasing the tree canopy from 25% to 35% in 10 years. http://www.ci.lewes.de.us/index.cfm?ref=12530

The city has nearly met this goal, having achieved a tree canopy of 34.2%. Each year more trees are planted and nurtured to increase the canopy.

Tree Canopy Survey

http://delaware.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=dd9aceee50ab440c949ccab9d64e1a13. Attachment A shows this report.

The city budgets $15,500 each year for the tree program and applies additional funding for special projects throughout the year. The funds are used for planting, pruning, mulching, removing trees, controlling pests and diseases, and educating the public and the Commissioners. For example, for calendar year 2017 our application to the Arbor Day Foundation for Tree City showed that the city expended $22,989 (which included $19,207 in funds and $3,781 in volunteer time). This amounted to $7.66 per capita for our 3,000 residents, far more than the minimum $2 per capita requirement for Tree City.

The funds are supplemented with grants for special projects. In 2017, a $2,310 matching grant from the Delaware Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program was provided to plant six cherry trees on Savannah Road, Grant #TP 2017-03. In 2018, 16 trees were planted at the Trail Head next to Lewes Public Library, assisted by matching Grant #TP 2018-19 for $3,920 provided by the Delaware Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program. http://delawaretrees.com/58244-in-urban-and-community-grants-awarded/.

Urban Forestry Plan: The city maintains an on-line inventory of its trees, ArborScope, which includes the locations, species, size, condition, and other information. Each tree is marked with a brass tag with a number, which can be used to find information about that tree in ArborScope. With this system, users can zoom in and see more details by clicking on the dot for each tree. https://www.arborscope.com/mapDisplay.cfm?id=0CC8C3. Attachment B shows where all the city trees are in ArborScope.

Tree Inventory

Each year the Tree Commissioner works with certified arborists to perform maintenance, such as pruning, removals, and disease and pest control, to maintain a healthy forest. As funds allow, trees are added to the inventory each year. When significant new construction is proposed, the city often adds trees to the approved plans. For example, part of the approval for the Lewes Public Library (a non-profit organization), which opened in 2016, included landscaping. As a result, about 65 trees were planted around the Library as part of the original construction program (as well as shrubs, perennials, and ornamental native grasses). This area is a partnership with the city, and the Parks and Recreation Commission is responsible for maintaining the grounds. Attachment C shows the ArborScope inventory for the Library and Trail Head, along with Stango Park, which is adjacent to the Library.

Plan of Action: The city works to ensure a diversity of species, and carefully considers which trees are proven to thrive in our environment in general as well as the particular location (such as a hot and dry planting location in a parking lot). The city uses recommendations from the State Forester and also consults a list of recommended species published by the Delaware Department of Forestry  http://delawaretrees.com/publications/recommended-trees/, http://delawaretrees.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Recommended-Trees.pdf.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)/Plant Health Care (PHC): To address pest and disease issues, certified arborists are consulted as needed. The best protection is to ensure that trees are planted correctly and nurtured to promote long-term health.

The Tree Commissioner takes continuing education each year. The progress of the emerald ash borer, which does not have a strong presence in Delaware yet but likely will in the next few years, is being followed. Affected ash trees are being identified for removal or treatment.

Public Information Program: Each year an Arbor Day celebration educates the public on best practices. This year a seminar by Dr. Neil Hendrickson of Bartlett Tree Research Lab, emphasized the importance of good planting practices, especially taking care to plant at the correct depth and to ensure there are no circling roots. http://www.capegazette.com/article/lewes-offer-free-arbor-day-tree-care-seminar-april-27/154452.

Maintenance Quality: The city applies best practices and continually improves its trees program. Each year certified arborists conduct pruning as needed. The Parks and Recreation Commission requested and received funds for a water truck from the City Council, and starting this year has a pickup truck with a water tank to water newly-planted trees. In addition, other trees are watered as needed during dry times in the summer. The city has begun mulching street trees to keep root systems cooler and preserve moisture. By the end of FY2019 all street trees will be mulched each year. A certified arborist plans to replace certain street trees that are not thriving by first improving the planting hole with better soil, then making better selections on tree species.

Qualified Resources: The city uses only certified arborists to provide advice on problematic trees, and conduct pruning and pest and disease control. The Tree Commissioner has been a Master Gardener for 20 years and took tree care classes as well as others. The Tree Commissioner attends continuing education classes each year, including the Annual Arborist and Tree Care Seminar conducted by the Delaware Department of Forestry (which serves as continuing education for certified arborists). http://delawaretrees.com/education/arborist-seminar/ The Delaware Department of Forestry, Urban & Community Forestry provides advice in selecting tree species and other matters.

Business & Institutions

Those institutions with trees have demonstrated a commitment to their care. For example, the Lewes Historical Society has a number of large, old trees that it nurtures.


Residents in general cherish their trees and nurture them. For example, the Canary Creek Subdivision Homeowners Association has funded a great deal of tree planting on its land and has donated to the city more than 20 street trees. They also hire certified arborists to provide advice and pruning.

Community Involvement

As noted, all Parks and Recreation Commissioners are volunteers (except for the Chair, who is a city employee). The city has a tree dedication policy, which has resulted in a number of trees funded by citizens in dedication or in honor of someone.

Landscape - written by Dave Beck and Eric Wahl


  • Gateway impressions. There are four main gateways into the city of Lewes:
    • New Road, a tree-lined road through farm property and scattered residential areas;
    • Savannah Road, leading directly into historic downtown Lewes and across the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal to Lewes Beach;
    • Kings Highway, site of the Gateway Garden and a welcoming lighthouse, which leads directly into downtown Lewes;
    • and Cape Henlopen Drive, connecting Lewes with the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal and Cape Henlopen State Park. All are included in the Lewes Scenic and Historic Byway Program, overseen by an all-volunteer committee that works with Sussex County and Delaware State officials to develop and implement long-range plans for road beautification. Two picturesque bicycle/hiking trails connect Lewes with Rehoboth Beach to the south, one through Cape Henlopen State Park and the other past Gordon’s Pond, a wildlife preserve. A major bike path is planned to connect Lewes with the county seat, Georgetown, also along decommissioned rail beds.
    • The Junction & Breakwater Trail, the longest rail-trail in the state, loops between Lewes and Rehoboth beach along the western edge of Cape Henlopen State Park. Bicycle riders now have new amenities in Lewes including a fix-it station for riders to work on their bicycles, and a parking for more than 50 bicycles, which is within walking distance of all the shops and restaurants in Lewes and located along the Gills Neck bicycle trail. Cyclists can also take advantage of the new trailhead building located next to the Lewes library along the Lewes to Georgetown trail. The trailhead features heated bathrooms, information kiosk, fix it station, bicycle parking, and outdoor seating. http://www.ci.lewes.de.us/pdfs/Park_Rules_2017.pdf

New Road provides a connection to The University of Delaware’s Sharp Campus, home to a native plant demonstration garden and engineered rain garden. The native plant garden is currently under rehabilitation spearheaded by the Delaware Native Plant Society. A quick drive or bicycle ride on Pilottown Road leads you back to historic downtown Lewes.

  • Sustainable Designs—Soft Landscape. Soft landscape with perennial shrubs and trees are prevalent in all public parks, around museums and municipal buildings, and in front of businesses. More than 10,000 daffodils flourish in the spring at George H. P. Smith Park and around Blockhouse Pond. Canalfront Park is fundamentally a large rain garden, planted with marsh grasses and native shrubs and trees. Pollinator gardens are maintained in two city parks and numerous residential properties have certified natural habitats. The Cape Shores neighborhood allows no grass turf in front yards/gardens, and plants are predominantly native.

Lamp posts in downtown Lewes are hosts to beautiful hanging baskets that feature colorful displays throughout the summer season and are adorned with greens in December.

Canalfront Park was designed by a renowned landscape architectural firm, Andropogon Associates, Inc., that focuses on ecological design and native plantings. It could be defined as a resilient landscape that helps to mitigate impacts from coastal storms.

The Lewes Historical Society campus on Shipcarpenter Street recently improved their grounds by implementing a design that mitigated compaction and poor drainage due to the numerous events held there. Existing plantings were preserved to the extent possible and a new landscape design was provided. These new plantings will be installed as donations are made.

The central cutting garden was replicated and installed by members of Lewes in Bloom and the landscape architect that redesigned the campus. New pathways that reflect the historical aspect of the area provide circulation for both pedestrians and vehicles, which allow the soft areas to remain free of compaction.

The Historic Fisher-Martin Herb Garden at the Chamber of Commerce features plants historically used by the original settlers of the area.

  • Sustainable Designs—Hard Landscape. Most public parks in Lewes are centered in and around the historic downtown area, where architectural review maintains the historical aspect of the city. The Art in Bloom Committee of Lewes in Bloom is a relatively new initiative, which works closely with city officials to place art in public places. Art in Bloom will also work with businesses to encourage public art on their properties. Zwaanendael Park, site of the Zwaanendael Museum, has a fountain in its center with shaded seating areas nearby. Park benches, picnic tables, and signs are subject to city rules to maintain consistency throughout.
  • Permeable walking and road surfaces are found in certain city parks and at the Historical Society complex and will replace older pavements or graveled paths that need to be renovated. Permeable road paving recently replaced the 1.5-mile length of Bay Avenue, formerly a rutted dirt road, which runs along Lewes Beach and is vulnerable to local flooding during storms. The city streets department annually installs Christmas-themed lighting on lamp-posts and across streets along Savannah Road, Second Street, and Front Street. A decorated and lit Christmas tree is found in Zwaanendael Park.

Pathways in Canalfront Park are permeable, adding to an already resilient landscape. Pathways at the Cannonball House reflect the historical aspect of the town and bring about a more cohesive design to this space. The existing labyrinth on the grounds of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church attracts young and old alike. A new addition to this space is a Helping Hand box that faces Second Street where the community donates non-perishable items for anyone who needs assistance.

Landscape Plan. Landscape planning and planting in city parks and at municipal buildings (including the U.S. Post Office and the Lewes Volunteer Fire Department) are largely performed by horticulturists of Lewes in Bloom and by individual park commissioners. The Parks and Recreation Commission includes an experienced tree commissioner, who oversees the city’s urban forest and maintains a comprehensive tree inventory. For larger projects like Lewes Unleashed, the dog park in Great Marsh Park, the city consults private contractors, providing multiple opportunities for public input. Most recently, Lewes in Bloom has proposed a large, multi-use “Garden for All Ages” in concert with the new Lewes Library.

Proposed Lewes Landscape

The Garden for All Ages is being considered with the assistance of a local landscape architect who is also a member of Lewes In Bloom. This garden would be a hub of activity featuring book readings, garden exploration, teaching events, a children’s garden, and spaces for community gathering. If brought to fruition, the space will be a destination for residents and visitors, showcasing Lewes’ history and its future.

Proposed Garden For All Ages

The State of Delaware has also sought out Lewes in Bloom expertise and help in designing and placing new landscaping around the historic DeVries Monument. The State has sought the city’s plans for the use of Great Marsh Park. All these landscaping plans are in the early stages.

  • Turf Management Programs. The city employs an experienced contract landscaper to maintain public turf areas. The landscape contract was developed by the City Parks and Recreation Commission and approved by the Mayor and City Council. It is exacting in its standards and timing for cutting and fertilizing, as well as pest and disease control. The contractor coordinates with park commissioners and Lewes in Bloom, as needed.
  • Landscape Maintenance Policies, Standards, Best Practices and Programs. As already noted, the city has a contract landscaper whose functions go beyond turf management, to include tree and shrub trimming, planting, and removal, pest control, and fertilization. The contractor employs experienced and trained personnel, and coordinates with the Parks Commission and Lewes in Bloom, as needed. The Lewes Scenic and Historic Byway Program encourages developers of new commercial residential properties to landscape along adjacent roadways according to national, state, and county suggested standards.
  • Landscape Quality. The quality of the contract landscaper’s work is monitored and evaluated regularly. Lewes in Bloom’s Horticulture Committee evaluates the success of its own plantings at the end of each growing season and makes appropriate adjustments when planning for the next.
  • Qualified Resources. The qualifications of contract landscapers are naturally vetted before a contract is awarded. Lewes is fortunate that the Parks Commission and Lewes in Bloom have many volunteers with professional landscaping and/or master-gardener credentials. In addition, numerous other residents have landscaping and horticultural experience working with the Winterthur, Longwood Gardens, the National Arboretum in Washington, DC, just to name a few. Many Lewes residents have elaborate gardens, a select group of which are opened to the public each June for the annual Lewes Garden Tour.
  • Year-round use. Cape Henlopen High School has a green house in connection with its horticulture-related classes. Lewes in Bloom recently implemented a program to award a scholarship to a student, selected by the school, who will study horticulture, agriculture, or related subject beyond the high-school level. Two city parks have children’s playground equipment, which can be used year-round. Public outdoor tennis, pickleball, and basketball courts, as well as a kayak/canoe ramp, are available at Canalfront Park. Bocce courts and a horseshoe pit are located in George H. P. Smith Park for public use. Walking and bicycle paths are found throughout the city, which is generally bicycle and pedestrian friendly. A local effort to establish a community truck garden is hampered only by a lack of available open space within the city limits with available water. The Historic Lewes Farmers’ Market is open Saturday mornings from May to November in George H.P. Smith Park. A dog park was opened in Great Marsh Park and is available to members year-round. Stango Park is the site for weekly outdoor music concerts throughout the summer.

Business & Institutions

  • Sustainable Designs. Commercial businesses in the city are concentrated along Savannah Road (both sides of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal), Front Street, and Second Street. Most such businesses downtown have entrances directly from the sidewalk, though some of them keep decorative plant containers near their entrances. Sidewalk bump-outs separating groups of parking spaces are landscaped with perennials. Several popular restaurants operate in former residences and have either soft landscaping or hardscapes that accord with the historic character of the downtown area. Citizen’s bank has a small open courtyard with its own planting beds, which are maintained by Lewes in Bloom. The Lewes Historical Society, the Overfalls Foundation, the Lewes Museum (Rollins Center), the Lewes Library, and the Post Office all receive assistance from Lewes in Bloom in maintaining their landscaping. Local churches rely on volunteers and some contract workers for maintenance of their churchyards and cemeteries.
  • Integrated Plan. Public art is relatively new to the city and depends mostly on private contributions–three kinetic sculptures (“Silent Sentinels of Lewes”) were dedicated in April 2018, thanks to the efforts of Art in Bloom and City Council. Other art projects are now in the planning stages. Lewes is a “treed” city, with compatible trees growing in each neighborhood. Lewes in Bloom currently maintains two gardens on non-city-owned property, with the help of sponsorships paid by local businesses. At least three more businesses are interested in sponsoring other gardens, but city approval is needed for gardens on city property.
  • Maintenance Quality. Commercial property in downtown Lewes has a limited footprint beyond the building itself and does not always lend itself to landscaping beyond a store-front plant container or a few plants in a small bed. On Savannah Road, commercial business tend to have more room, which they landscape individually. The Beacon Motel and its adjacent buildings are set back from the street and have landscaping between the street and the parking lot, while towards the beach from there, small strip malls tend to concentrate on having as much parking space as possible, at the expense of landscaping. Landscaping of common grounds within given neighborhoods, including entrance gateways, are generally in the hands of contractors hired by the respective Home Owners’ Association or volunteers within that neighborhood. In certain neighborhoods, the Home Owners’ Association is responsible for all lawn care and landscaping.


    • Streetscape Appeal. Winter growth is limited mostly to perennials and trees. Deciduous trees outnumber evergreens. However, the many historic homes in the center city become more apparent when the leaves are off the trees. As a rule, winters are not severe in Lewes, so greenery is always present in the form of holly trees, arborvitae, and other evergreen shrubs and trees. Winter pansies and cabbage roses tolerate the winter. For a beach resort town, Lewes has a higher-than-expected year-round population, so yard maintenance is not neglected in the winter time.
    • Maintenance Quality. Landscape maintenance speaks for itself. Many Lewes residents are retired and have a special interest in maintaining their homes. Peer pressure from neighbors has some effect, and there is a real interest in having a nicely landscaped home.
  • Plant Selection. Many homes in Lewes have applied for and received certifications for encouraging birds, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators in their gardens. The Lewes Beekeeping Club is instrumental in encouraging plantings that attract pollinators.

Community Involvement

  • Public Participation. Lewes is a small town that encourages and gets a high level of volunteerism, in the local medical facilities, numerous 501(c)3 organizations—notably Lewes in Bloom from a landscape aspect—Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, and the list goes on. From a landscape viewpoint, Lewes in Bloom volunteers are heavily involved in ensuring the success of the following:
  • Planting 20,000 tulip bulbs each autumn throughout the city; removing in the spring
  • Planting annuals in and maintaining gardens from May until October/November when it is time once again to plant tulips.
  • Presenting weekly programs during the summer at the Children’s Learning Garden in Stango Park.
  • Planning for a Community Garden in Lewes.
    • Presenting a Lewes in Bloom sponsored “Beauty Spot” award monthly during the growing season to non-commercial residents who are nominated for their gardening prowess.
    • Acting as docents for the Lewes Garden Tour.
    • Selling and distributing Christmas wreaths for home and business decoration at holiday time.
  • Volunteer Recognition. The City of Lewes has an annual luncheon for all Lewes volunteers contributing to city efforts, including the Parks and Recreation Commission. The city recognizes outstanding volunteers by planting a tree and placing a plaque in their honor in a public park. The Lewes Historical Society recognizes other non-profits by awarding community service awards; this year the award went to Lewes in Bloom. Lewes in Bloom itself recognizes its volunteer(s) of the year at its annual luncheon in November. These and other recognitions are published in the Cape Gazette.
Floral Displays - written by Warren Golde and Ellen McCathren

The City of Lewes, whether entered by way of Kings Highway, Savannah Road, New Road, or Cape Henlopen Drive, provides the casual day visitor and its lucky residents with an eye-pleasing display of color and texture. Depending on the season, these entryways can be bedecked with tulips and daffodils, or barrels and planters overflowing with begonias, dahlias, and other annuals.

Planters on Drawbridge over canal

The first European settlers inspired the annual celebration of tulips, which fill the city’s gardens every year. Each fall, Lewes in Bloom plants 20,000 tulip bulbs throughout the city, and the Chamber of Commerce hosts a Tulip Celebration every spring. Lewes in Bloom’s patrons and stewards who maintain the many gardens and parks within the city limits—have become the “Ambassadors of Goodwill” to the town.

Planters along Savannah Road at the Firehouse and at the corner with Pilottown Road provide a feast for the eyes; and flower-filled barrels as well as hanging baskets line Second Street, a key part of the city’s historic district. Just off Kings Highway, the city’s new library, historic museum, and the Children’s Learning Garden reside, where children and their families learn through a hands-on garden experience about the important role that butterflies and other pollinating insects play in our environment. They also learn about food crops, and harvest and enjoy their successes with a “farm to table” celebration. These small gardeners are key to a bright and colorful future!

Next to Zwaanendael Park is the Fisher-Martin Herb Garden, filled with historically accurate herbs; tended by Lewes in Bloom patrons—with a lead patron knowledgeable about all the historic plants and their uses.


Floral Display Plan of Action—

  • Lewes in Bloom (LIB) volunteers plant and maintain gardens and planters in more than 20 locations in downtown historic Lewes.

Diversity of Displays:

  • In-ground plantings are maintained at seven city parks, Citizen’s Bank, the U. S. Post Office Branch, the Lewes Public Library, the Lewes Historical Society’s Museum and Cannonball House, the Fire House, and the Gateway Garden on the property of the Delaware River & Bay Authority.
  • Planters are maintained at City Hall, the Board of Public Works, the Police Department, St. Peters Church, the Canalfront Bridge, several businesses, the Second Sreet/Savannah Road corner and in city parks.
  • 23 Lamppost planters adorn Second Street and adjacent side streets.

Diversity of Plants:

In the fall volunteers plant 20,000 tulip bulbs and these are replaced in the spring with over 5,000 annuals and bulbs consisting of more than 100 varieties of plants.

  • The Children’s Learning Garden grows local fruits, vegetables, and flowers. It provides hands on experiences through supervised and planned activities. It teaches children about the important role that butterflies and other pollinating insects play in our environment, how plants clean the air, and where food comes from.
  • Pollinator gardens are maintained in both George H.P. Smith Park and Canalfront Park. Canalfront Park in its entirety has been designated a Rain Garden by the state.

Maintenance Quality:

  • In ground irrigation is present in most all ground beds. Where in ground irrigation is lacking, Lewes in Bloom volunteers hand water the plants.
  • Lewes in Bloom has been successful in maintaining its plantings by developing a “Patron Program.” The volunteers who work at each garden are designated as patrons of that garden, and each garden has a head patron who coordinates activity for that area.
  • All planted areas are weeded and dead-headed at least once a week.
  • Lewes in Bloom receives funding from the city to water the planters and lamppost baskets. A Lewes in Bloom member provides a truck with a 220 gallon water tank for this purpose.
  • The city provides grass cutting and mulching through their hired landscaping service.

Qualified Resources:

  • Lewes in Bloom has more than 200 volunteers who maintain the floral displays throughout the city. These include horticulturists, master gardeners, arborists, and mostly volunteers who simply want to give their time and talent to beautify the city.

Business & Institutions


  • Many businesses care for planters outside their shops and these add to the beauty of the downtown area.
  • Lewes in Bloom horticulturists and other volunteers work throughout the year to determine the types of plants for each space
  • Pollinator and butterfly gardens in city parks have inspired homeowners to plant bee and butterfly friendly plants in their gardens
  • Plantings in downtown areas are mostly designed with bold and bright colors to capture the attention of visitors and drivers passing by
  • A theme of patriotic red, white, and blue flowers is used at historical sites such as 1812 Park (celebrating Lewes’ participation in the War of 1812) and the U.S. Post Office across the street.
  • Several new varieties of annuals are planted every year to show visitors and homeowners what is currently available for their plantings. Planting lists of each garden are listed on the Lewes in Bloom website www.lewesinbloom.org
  • A Tulip Library is planted each year during the Tulip Celebration, featuring 30 or more varieties of a color theme or botanical type. This serves as a trial garden for future plantings in the city and for homeowners.

Overall Plan:

  • Lewes in Bloom volunteers, in consultation with the city, work year-round to plan and design all floral displays
  • The volunteers implement the designs (planting) and maintain them throughout the year; city workers assist in maintaining the spaces; and park commissioners support the planting and maintenance of gardens in the city’s parks.

Maintenance Quality:

  • Many businesses support Lewes in Bloom through sponsorships, donations, or fundraising particularly those on whose property the group’s volunteers maintain plantings. The businesses value the increase of tourism that can be attributed in great part to the beauty of the plantings.
  • The Lewes Board of Public Works (BPW) provides warehouse space for the storage of planters, fertilizers, soil mix, etc. At the warehouse, there is also an area for the storage, assembly, and growing of plants. BPW provides water to the area.


Concept and Design:

  • The beauty of the plantings in town has created an enormous synergy in the residential community. Homeowners have greatly enhanced their plantings in recent years and beautiful gardens abound.

Maintenance Quality:

  • During the growing season, Lewes in Bloom sponsors a monthly “Beauty Spot” award given to a homeowner whose yard is of exceptional beauty.

Community Involvement

Public Participation:

  • At the end of the tulip blooming season, the city has a “Tulip Dig.” The public is invited to come and dig the bulbs and take them to plant in their own yards. This program serves several purposes: It saves volunteers from having to dig the bulbs themselves or hiring an outside contractor to do the digging; the bulbs are reused to beautify homeowner’s yards; and the beds are cleared to prepare for the planting of annuals. This year scores of people arrived for the dig and 20,000 bulbs were dug out and taken home by the public in less than an hour.
  • The Lewes Chamber of Commerce sponsors a garden tour each June enjoyed by several hundred visitors.
  • The Chamber also sponsors the Tulip Celebration, which takes place over a 10-day period each April. Visitors come from all over to enjoy the beauty of the tulip displays.

Community Support:

  • The city reimburses Lewes in Bloom for the cost of plants in the parks.
  • More than 50 Lewes businesses support Lewes in Bloom as annual sponsors
  • Some businesses choose to sponsor individual gardens at larger dollar amounts