FENWICK ISLAND – The long-time caretaker and current president of the Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse was forever memorialized last weekend with the official naming of a point of land jutting out into the Little Assawoman Bay in his honor.
Oliver H. Cropper, who, along with his family, has restored and maintained the famous Fenwick Island Lighthouse for the last three decades, was honored last week with the naming of a point of land at the western terminus of Summers End Road in Fenwick. The tranquil site will forever be known as “Oliver’s Point” after the Delaware General Assembly approved a joint resolution to officially name the site last Saturday while residents of the area simultaneously held a ceremony as part of their annual Fourth of July celebration.
Summers End Road provides one of the entrances into the Summertime Park mobile home community established by Oliver Cropper and his family in the early 1960s. Long-time residents of the summer community this year petitioned the Delaware General Assembly to honor Cropper’s legacy with the naming of the point in his name. The joint resolution passed last Saturday, the last day of the session, and Oliver’s Point was officially dedicated during the community’s Fourth of July picnic at roughly the same time the Delaware assembly was reading the resolution into law.
The Fenwick Island Lighthouse, one of the best known historic sites along the Delaware-Maryland coastline, was built in 1858 and for 120 years was owned and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard as a federal aid to navigation. In the late 1970s, when its use as an official aid to navigation began to ebb, the lighthouse property suffered from neglect as the Coast Guard contemplated shutting it down.
It was at that time that Cropper and his late wife began taking an active interest in the lighthouse and had historical signs and markers prepared and erected at their own expense. In 1978, the Coast Guard officially shut down the lighthouse, ending its 120-year run as an active federal aid to navigation. Cropper, along with other long-time Fenwick Island and Selbyville residents Paul and Dorothy Pepper, worked diligently to bring together a group of citizens concerned about the fate of the historic lighthouse and established the private, non-profit organization known as the Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse.
When ownership of the historic property was transferred from the federal government to the state of Delaware, the Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse entered into an agreement with the state to continue to operate the lighthouse as a private aid to navigation and a historical site open to the public at regular intervals during the summer months.
Paul Pepper served as president of the organization from its founding in 1978 until 1992 when Oliver Cropper took over. He has remained president of the “Friends” for the last 15 years and his dedication to the lighthouse and his service to the community has now been recognized with the formal adoption of Joint Resolution 6 and the informal, but well attended ceremony at Summertime Park last Saturday.
“For many years thereafter and up to the present, Mr. Cropper has worked diligently to care for and maintain the lighthouse property, assuming the office of president of the Friends group in 1992 and helping to raise more than $100,000 for the upkeep of the lighthouse,” the resolution approved by the Delaware assembly reads. “Mr. Cropper has faithfully, year after year, worked quietly and without public acclaim to ensure that the lighthouse would remain open as one of Delaware’s most beloved historic sites for both local citizens and the many visitors to the area to enjoy.”
The residents of the 62-lot Summertime Park unanimously supported a petition to name the small spit of land at the western terminus of Summers End Road after Oliver Cropper and Senator George Bunting and Representative Gerald Hocker co-sponsored the joint resolution in their respective houses. On the last day of the assembly session last Saturday, the joint resolution was approved and voted into law while the residents of Summertime Park prepared for the unveiling of the historic marker during their annual Fourth of July picnic.
Many of the residents of the mobile home park have been returning each summer for years and were well represented by several generations during last Saturday’s ceremony. Also in attendance were several generations of the Cropper family, who, along with their patriarch Oliver Cropper, have been instrumental in restoring and maintaining the lighthouse and its surrounding grounds for decades including Oliver Cropper’s son Ross and his family. In addition, Senator Bunting’s former administrative assistant Chris Bradley represented the senator and spoke at the ceremony as did Fenwick Island Mayor Audrey Serio.
While the Delaware Assembly’s passage of the joint resolution officially names the point of land, which offers a view of the lighthouse and the bay, in honor of Cropper, an official naming by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names will have to wait. The federal agency has an established policy of not considering proposed names for geographic features in honor of living persons and will not consider such proposals until a person has been deceased for at least five years.
Naturally, friends and family of Oliver Cropper can wait as long as it takes for that to occur as can the Delaware assembly.
“While the assembly and the Governor of Delaware sincerely hope that the time when a request for the official naming of the said point in honor of Mr. Cropper can be considered by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names will be far in the future and that Mr. Cropper will enjoy many more years in happiness and health, the state of Delaware strongly urges the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, as soon as it may do so under its regulations, to officially designate the said point at Oliver’s Point,” the resolution reads.