Rehoboth Then and Now

Rehoboth Beach, DE, US
Language: English
15 Stops 1.4 miles · Walking · Adult, Teen
7 Reviews


  • Lorenzo Dow Martin House, Oldest building in Rehoboth
  • Back Porch Restaurant, former Marvel Boarding House
  • Learn the fate of the iconic Horn's Pavilion


Hello, and welcome to Rehoboth Beach Main Street’s Past and Present Tour of downtown Rehoboth Beach. The tour includes 14 stops where we will tell you about the past and present, using those sites to show how and why the town evolved from Methodist Summer Camp to the Nation’s Summer Capital. Along the way you’ll hear about events and some interesting people with different visions that shaped this community. The Lenape Tribe of Native Americans were the first in the region, and the area sustained them with good fishing and hunting. European settlement in and around Rehoboth Beach can be documented to the late 17th century, although, because of the lack of transportation to move goods to market, farming was not a particularly successful enterprise. There is also evidence that this settlement included enslaved people from Africa. The oldest surviving wooden dwelling in the City of Rehoboth Beach was built prior to 1848. This sparsely settled area changed in 1873 when Rev. Robert Todd arrived from Wilmington and found Rehoboth (from the Hebrew word meaning “broad place,” or sometimes “room for all”) to be inviting and rejuvenating. Rev. Todd began the planning and development of a religious summer camp where people could come for prayer, lectures, fellowship, and above all the fresh, sea air. In his letter to the Wilmington newspaper, Reverend Todd outlined his vision for the resort: “And now a word about our enterprise. Our Engineers are busy getting ready for grading the avenues and streets; and on Monday next, expect to break ground and go to work in earnest. We hope to have some of the leading avenues graded and all the streets laid out, lots staked and numbered by the 10th or 13th of May, so that lots may be selected by those who have purchased; after which the remaining lots will be classified and moderately priced. The more I see of this location, the more fully I am convinced that it is destined to be one of the finest watering places.” But the religious summer camp did not succeed: It was not attracting visitors. By 1878 things were changing, and cardplaying and dancing came to town creating a quarrel between the “Saints and the Sinners.” This culminated in 1891 in the removal of the “Camp Meeting Association” from its management role by the state legislature. The legislature renamed the town as Cape Henlopen City, which lasted just two years before it was renamed again as Rehoboth Beach. This tour also will highlight events such as the fires and storms that shaped the town and the people who played important roles. The tour will point out some of the historical buildings that still exist, although not necessarily as they looked in 1900, since the economy has grown and changed significantly since then. The transformative impact of the railroad on the town’s development will be a focus, as well as the history of the then-famous Horn’s Pavilion. To begin the tour, go to 30 Christian Street, site of the Lorenzo Dow Martin House.

Route Details

Audio intro and Stop #1: Lorenzo Dow Martin House - Rehoboth's Oldest House

0.2 miles

Stop #2: Train Tracks and Fire House Bell, stand in front of the library

92 ft

Stop #3: Coursey House and Lorenzo's passing

1.13 miles

12 more tour stops

Please purchase tour to gain access to every tour stop.


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