Delaware Agricultural Museum renovating 1850s Millsboro church

St. Thomas Methodist Episcopal Church (circa 1857), originally situated approximately seven miles west of Millsboro, was moved to the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village grounds in Dover in 1994. (Submitted photos)

DOVER — The Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village in Dover recently announced that a massive historic preservation project is underway at the museum.

The focus of the project is the restoration of St. Thomas Methodist Episcopal Church (circa 1857). The church, originally situated approximately seven miles west of Millsboro, was moved to the museum grounds in 1994. Sadly, the church has fallen into disrepair over the years, mostly due to a lack of funding dedicated to support its longterm preservation.

The Delaware Agricultural Museum has contracted with a recognized expert in the field of historic preservation, Dave Reisinger of Roberts Construction, to perform the restoration work on the church.

The Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village is the steward of 10 historic structures dating back to 1850 and an equal number of outbuildings, some dating to the early 1800s. The buildings were moved to the museum from roughly 1980 to 1994, forming the museum’s “1890’s Village.”

Museum officials say many of these historic buildings would have fallen under the bucket of a bulldozer had they not been saved on account of forward-thinking by former trustees, staff, volunteers and members of the community.

The pews, chairs, pulpit, altar and cast-iron stoves are original to the church. The Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village is seeking donations from the public to defray costs associated with the restoration of St. Thomas Methodist Episcopal Church, which currently exceed $48,000.

St. Thomas Methodist Episcopal Church is an important symbol of Delaware’s rural history and heritage. St. Thomas is a leading example of 19th century rural church architecture, embodied by the steeply pitched roof, arched windows and Victorian-era stained glass.

The pews, chairs, pulpit, altar and cast-iron stoves are original to the church. Beyond its beauty and historic character, the church is also an important symbol of the role that churches played in rural communities on Delmarva in 18th and 19th centuries and continue to play to this day as houses of worship and community gathering places.

Museum director Carolyn Claypoole has announced that a project is underway in tandem with the restoration work to compile photos and documentation for a time capsule that will be placed in one of the exterior walls of the church.

The time capsule will include:

• The history of St. Thomas Methodist Episcopal Church and the only known photograph of the building in its original Millsboro location.

• Photos and written documentation surrounding the relocation of the church to the Delaware Agricultural Museum

• Photos and written documentation of the educational programs, weddings and community events that have taken place in St. Thomas Methodist Episcopal Church since its relocation to the museum grounds in 1994.

• A list of donors who provided funding support for the 2019 church restoration as well as all previous donors who specifically request gifts be allocated to support preservation efforts.

Ms. Claypoole said the time capsule will enhance the future generations’ understanding and appreciation of the history of St. Thomas Methodist Episcopal Church, the people who worshiped there, the role the church played as the center of a long-gone rural community and the efforts undertaken over the years to preserve it.

The Delaware Agricultural Museum has contracted with a recognized expert in the field of historic preservation, Dave Reisinger of Roberts Construction, to perform the restoration work on the church.

The Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village is seeking donations from the public to defray costs associated with the restoration of St. Thomas Methodist Episcopal Church, which currently exceed $48,000.

Persons who wish to donate are asked to mail checks, payable to the DAMV to the following address: Delaware Agricultural Museum, 866 N. DuPont Highway, Dover, DE 19901

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