Bowers Beach Maritime Museum set to reopen for Buccaneer Bash

BOWERS — Volunteers were bustling around the Bowers Beach Maritime Museum on Wednesday, carefully cleaning and reorganizing, hanging frames and labeling exhibits.

The museum will open for the season on Saturday — just in time for the town’s weekend-long Buccaneer Bash  — with a makeover.

Judy Martin, who runs the museum with her husband, Jim, said that for the past few months, friends, family and community members, even people who long since moved away, have been volunteering to get the building in tip-top shape.

“The place was a complete mess,” Ms. Martin said.

Among other projects, workers scraped and painted and power-washed the outside.

They did electrical work to add outlets and better light the museum. They redid the upstairs for storage and offices.

They took out windows and framed a wall around the chimney. On Wednesday, the group was preparing to put screens on the wall to play videos and slideshows.

A grant from Kent County Levy Court helped pay for the materials, but all the work came from volunteers, Ms. Martin said.

The museum, only a short walk from the beach on Main Street in Bowers, pays homage to the town’s past.

Bowers was once as a thriving village for fishing and oyster dredging and a popular summer resort.

“At one time Bowers was a real resort town. We had lots of hotels,” Ms. Martin said, standing in the museum where bar from an old hotel, the Fairview Inn, was on display.

“In the other room you’ll see the steamship Frederica, which used to take people down from Philly.”

The museum houses countless artifacts, pictures and displays about Bowers, the Delaware Bay area and the watermen who lived there.

In the museum, there is a replica of the boat children took to school across the Murderkill River. An original document on the wall, dated from 1893, confirms the appointment of Samuel Wyatt as oyster policeman.

Paintings and sketches and photographs surround hang on the walls throughout the museum.

“We have lots of painting and art that we have found, some that was here, some that has been reframed,” Ms. Martin said.

“Since we have been doing this, people have been coming and saying, ‘Oh, I have (this) in my house from aunt so-and-so, would you like it?” she said.

“So we’ve been getting donations of things, which is really very nice.”

The museum’s hallway shows black and white photos from the storm of 1962, depicting flooded streets and rescue efforts. A doll found floating down Main Street during the storm is in the corner.

Another room is packed with artifacts from old boats — floats, a ballast, a ship wheel, lanterns. There are horseshoe crab shells, oyster shells, starfish and mermaid hair.

Although it’s celebrating its 39th anniversary, Ms. Martin said, some people still don’t know the Bowers Beach Maritime Museum exists, or know about the history of Bowers Beach, now a quiet area.

“The Murderkill River borders us on the south, and the story was at one time you could walk from North Bowers to South Bowers on boats,” Ms. Martin said.

“Now we have one head boat. That’s it. We’re down to one boat.”

As folks have realized the museum is there, though, Ms. Martin said it’s drawn visitors every weekend. Festivals like the Buccaneer Bash and Big Thursday bring people to the museum as well.

“It’s quite something because we’re off the beaten track,” she said.

The museum still needs work, though. The next step, with a matching grant from Levy Court for up to $20,000, is to renovate an addition in the back.

“What we’ve been able to do here is stabilize the original house. The house is about 110 years old,” Ms. Martin said.

The addition, though, which was put in sometime in the 40s, is in bad shape, she said.

Ms. Martin said she doesn’t have plans for the addition yet.

“We would like it to be more display area,” she said, “a place where we can have children come in and we can talk about horse shoe crabs and show some videos of things and do some teaching.”

The Bowers Beach Maritime Museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday for it’s grand re-opening. Expect pirates, music and militias, Ms. Martin said.

A number of other special events are planned at the museum throughout the summer, including presentations about horseshoe crabs, the historic Jehu Reed House and from the Zwaanendael Museum. The maritime museum will celebrate its 39th birthday on July 4. Visitors can also take an historic walking tour of the town.

The museum, on 3357 Main Street in Bowers, is open weekends through Labor Day from 2 to 4 p.m., although special events hours vary.

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