Illumination Night in Rehoboth set Sept. 9

50 properties built before 1950 to celebrate city’s past
September 7, 2017

More than 50 Rehoboth Beach homes will light up the night Saturday, Sept. 9, to celebrate the city's heritage as a Methodist camp meeting site.

Sponsored by the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society, Illumination Night was inspired by similar events held in Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, and on Martha's Vineyard. The Rehoboth event will see the simultaneous activation of lights at homes and commercial buildings built before 1950.

The historical society started Illumination Night last year by lighting up the Anna Hazzard Museum, one of the only unaltered "tent houses" in Rehoboth, cottage-style homes built for people who attended Methodist camp meetings in Rehoboth.

Jerry Dettore, the chief volunteer for Illumination Night, said, "People are taken with history, and this is a festive way to feature Rehoboth's past. We have over 50 properties participating this year, and we expect that as neighbors see neighbors lighting up their homes, the idea will spread and the event will grow annually. The goal is to have most if not all pre-1950 buildings within walking distance of the Bandstand lighted for an annual event."

Dettore said people can meet at 7 p.m. at the Bandstand before starting the tour. Those who wish to drive to see the buildings can do that as well. There will be no tours inside houses.

Dettore said by his estimation, about 30 percent to 40 percent of Rehoboth's buildings were built before 1950, most of them in residential neighborhoods. Among those that will be featured are the Anna Hazzard Museum; Ohio-native Daneen Corbin's tent house at 57 1/2 Baltimore Ave., believed by local historians to be least altered original tent house still in use as a residence; Purple Parrot Grill at 134 Rehoboth Ave., a tent house that was refurbished for use as a restaurant; and 44 Maryland Ave., owned by Bill and Mary Moore.

Bill Moore said his house is part of a family property that extended in a complex from Baltimore to Maryland Avenue. His mother's family, the Bucksons, had come to Rehoboth since its founding. Moore said his grandfather, Joseph Buckson, was a large man, 6-foot-6, who had been recruited as a football player at Ohio State. As the family history goes, Moore said, when a train line was put in on Rehoboth Avenue, Buckson and his brothers would challenge people on the trains to bare knuckles boxing matches on the beach. Later, when he started attending camp meetings in Rehoboth, Buckson changed his act, Moore said, and he became a Methodist minister, assigned to various churches in Sussex and New Castle counties as well as Dorcester County in Maryland. Joseph Buckson and his wife, Anna, purchased a tract of land that currently makes up 43 and 43 1/2 Baltimore Ave. and 44 Maryland Ave. Moore's mother, Rose, was their only child, he said.

Moore said the original camp meeting cottage is at 43 Baltimore; 43 1/2 Baltimore was originally a small house built about 1910 that was later raised, with two garages underneath; and the main house, at 44 Maryland, was built by Joseph and Anna Buckson in 1926 as their retirement home. Moore inherited the properties in the early 1970s after the deaths of his parents, Rose Buckson Moore and Joseph Moore.

Those taking part in Illumination Night were encouraged by the historical society to light up and decorate their homes anyway they like, using candles, lanterns or parasols. Moore said he would put up candles, but he also may put up the flags of all 50 states, something he does on certain holidays to maintain the history of the late John Brown of Sussex Street, once a town employee, who served in Gen. George S. Patton's Third Army during World War II.

"He placed those flags on the bandstand in order of admission to the Union - Delaware first - at the end of Rehoboth Avenue before the Bandstand was changed by Main Street, constituting his attempt then, and my attempt now, at maintaining that history of Rehoboth," Moore said.

Alexander said of the night, "This will be an exciting evening, and can be the beginning of a new, annual tradition for our historic beach city, just as it is done in Colonial Williamsburg. Let's celebrate the history of our town together."

To view a PDF of the properties taking part in Illumination Night, click here.