Lewes Delaware

By | Jun 11, 2008

Lewes is located on the Atlantic Ocean and is pronounced ‘Lewis’. The Dutch settlement of Hoerekil was founded in 1631, near Lewes and was one of the first settlements of Delaware. In fact it’s because of this settlement that Delaware is not part of Maryland. When Cæcilius Calvert was given the grant for Maryland in 1632, the charter stated his control was eastward to the Delaware River and Bay on lands not already settled by Europeans.

While this first settlement was destroyed by the natives the Dutch resettled the area in 1659 remaining there until the British seized control in 1673 renaming the town. The town served as the county seat until Delaware moved the seat of Sussex County government to Georgetown in 1791.

Near the town of Lewes lies Cape Henlopen. It’s the southern Cape of the Delaware River. Originally spelled Cape Hinlopen, Cape Henlopen is named after Thijmen Jacobsz Hinlopen.

This spelling caused confusion with another Cape Hinlopen located about 24 miles south at Fenwick Island. Cape Hinlopen was decided to be the beginning of the Transpeninsular Line, as surveyed by Mason and Dixon and established the southern border of Delaware to Maryland. The Calvert’s intended for the Lewes’ Cape to be the start of the line. Had it began at Cape Henlopen at Lewes, Delaware would have been about 1000 square miles smaller.

Lewes has played a focal role for the region in commerce as well as national defense. During the Pirate era of the late 17th early 18th centuries, it was visited by pirates including a visit from Captain Kidd as late as 1698. During the War of 1812 the town played a role in preventing the British from establishing a blockade of the Delaware Bay.

As the shipping industry diminished Lewes became a center for recreation and tourism. The popularity of Lewes as a place for summer vacations has allowed the city to thrive. Since 1963, the Cape May-Lewes Ferry has run across the Delaware Bay between Lewes and Cape May, New Jersey.


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