FENWICK ISLAND – The Fenwick Island Lighthouse complex will undergo projects to improve its buildings and bring one of the houses to its former glory.
In a Fenwick Island Town Council meeting in recent weeks, Councilman Richard Mais shared news that the state has acquired the lighthouse keeper’s house to the west of the complex and has hired an architecture firm from Wilmington that specializes in historic preservation to bring the house to its former state.
“The good news is the structure itself is very sound,” he said. “There is some cosmetic work, rotten wood and stuff that needs to be replaced.”
The news follows a May 23 meeting, where officials from the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs and Bernardon Architects presented proposed plans for both the house and adjacent lighthouse.
An official with the New Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse group confirmed the plans, but added that a timeline has not yet been established.
According to both Mais and New Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse, officials plan to remove portions of the lighthouse keeper’s house, including an existing greenhouse that was added at a later date.
“It will go back very much to the way it was when it was built,” Mais said.
The New Friends official also explained that a handicap accessible walkway will be added to the entrance closest to the lighthouse and that a new entrance will be constructed where the greenhouse currently stands. Though the adjacent garden will remain intact, landscaping around the house will be cleaned up.
Next door, the exterior of the lighthouse will receive a fresh coat of paint, something that hasn’t happened since 1998, according to New Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse. The group official said funding has been set aside in the FY2018 budget to start the project.
Mais also shared that state officials are looking into opening the top of the lighthouse to visitors.
“Strangely enough I always assumed it was a safety or insurance issue,” he said, “but when the federal government gave the lighthouse property to the state there were some restrictions on the deed that said nobody could climb the lighthouse.”
Mais applauded the state for taking on the project.
“We are looking forward to it,” he said. “Even though it is not part of the Town of Fenwick Island it is certainly our icon and a big draw for tourism. It’s a nice thing to have around, so we are looking forward to the state finally … taking it over and I think they are going to do a great job.”
New Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse said that work has already begun on the lighthouse keeper’s house to make the structure look authentic. In addition to interior inspections, the building has already received a new roof.
An official with the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs could not be reached for comment.