Program details lost history of Rosedale Beach

On Dec. 11, 2011, a historic marker was placed to mark the spot of the Rosedale Beach Hotel and Resort in Millsboro. (Submitted photo)

DOVER — When you think of Millsboro, you probably don’t think of any A-list hotels or resorts perfectly set along the beach. Neither did Tamara Jubilee-Shaw, who presented the history of the Rosedale Beach Hotel and Resort on Feb. 2 during a program at the Delaware Public Archives, which drew close to 200 people.

Growing up, Ms. Jubilee-Shaw’s father, Leroy Jubilee, told stories about the good times he had at Rosedale Beach.

Remembering her father talk about the Rosedale, Tamara Jubilee-Shaw’s curious nature brought her to the Delaware Public Archives in the early 2000s. There was not a shred of information on the infamous hotel and resort.

The Rosedale was known for its lack of segregated service. Ms. Jubilee-Shaw believes there aren’t records of the site because people are not as willing to preserve African-American history.

Tamara Jubilee-Shaw

One of the audience members, Jean Solomon of Dover, who was 4 or 5 years old at the time, recalled a swing set on the hill at the entrance of the Rosedale and frequent jellyfish stings. Stories like this were what made discovering more on the Rosedale possible.

The Rosedale Beach Hotel was incorporated April 14, 1937 by entrepreneurs and cousins Jesse and Floyd Vause, who bought the deed from Theophilus and Ernest Hopkins. By 1946, the 32-room hotel was built along the Indian River Bay in Millsboro. Its greatness was yet to come.

The Rosedale was not just a hotel. The entirety of the resort also included a boardwalk, baseball fields, a bar, a dance hall, and a merry-go-round. The hotel and resort was known for its lack of racial discrimination and its high-profile nature. As Ms. Jubilee-Shaw described it, Rosedale was a 1940s version of college students’ Fort Lauderdale.

As word spread of the Rosedale and their welcoming of all people, African-American artists frequently performed in the dance hall during the 1940s and 50s.

Artists such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, The Ink Spots, Aretha Franklin, Jackie Wilson, Chick Webb and Ray Charles made sure to perform at the unconventional hotel. In the late 1940s, Ella Fitzgerald performed for World War II soldiers when they returned home.

Even a young Stevie Wonder, then known as “Little Stevie,” made an appearance.

William Holden of Dover, 83, remembered going to the Rosedale to watch bands play in the mid-50s.

By the late 1950s, the attraction of the Rosedale Hotel diminished. Many hotels, resorts, and entertainment areas began to open for all people. In 1961, Jesse and Floyd Vause sold the 9-acre site to Harris and Donelda Burton. In the 70s, local bands still played at the Rosedale and the Burtons kept the bar up and running until 1981.

In 1981, the land was bought by the Delaware Division of Corporations but is now owned by Bull Point Inc.

“I’m trying to get that through people’s heads. We do have to preserve it …Oral history doesn’t stay forever,” said Ms. Jubilee-Shaw, currently a corporations specialist at the Delaware Division of Corporations.

One of the audience members included Carlton Hall, who has been researching Delaware listings in the Green Book for the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. Rosedale Beach was included in the Green Book, which listed the places where African Americans were welcome prior to desegregation. Using Ms. Jubilee-Shaw’s research, Mr. Hall was able to access pictures of the Rosedale Hotel for his presentation.

After researching a lost significant piece of Delaware’s history, Ms. Jubilee-Shaw believed a historic marker was due. Thus, on Dec. 11, 2011, she helped establish a marker for the Rosedale Beach Hotel and Resort.

Ms. Jubilee-Shaw has extensively researched topics including diseases and epidemics in early America, African-American history and early African-American recording artists in New York City. After graduating from the final class of Delaware State College, presently Delaware State University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, she moved to New York City to pursue a master’s degree in media studies/video film production at the New School for Social Research. She later served as a director of youth-organized television at the Educational Video Center in New York City.

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