From Religious Summer Camp to Vacation Destination, the Story of Rehoboth Beach

Since a Methodist pastor from Wilmington pinpointed Rehoboth Beach for a summer camp, it’s been a growing ‘summer getaway’ you could say. For your curious history moment, here’s a peek at the history of Rehoboth as a popular vacation spot.

Rev. Robert Todd needed some real refreshing, and after escaping to our seaside, was inspired and then devoted to making a Christian summer camp. This retreat was followed by the building of a boardwalk in the same year, ‘Henlopen City.’ 

The seaside beauty did not stay a secret for long. Only five years later, the railroad came to town. Seashore tourism was born! The bustling Victorian town was eventually renamed Rehoboth Beach in 1893, designed with broad avenues and built in a fan-shaped layout – much of which remains today. 

In the 1920s, when automobile travel boomed and improved road access came to town, Rehoboth Beach quickly became a summer destination for tourists from Washington, earning it the nickname, Nation’s Summer Capitol that endures today.

During WWII, all of normal life seemed to pause. As German submarines prowled the Atlantic just off the Delaware coast, Rehoboth Beach and Lewes were subjected to mandatory blackouts every night in order to avoid attack. Nearby Fort Miles (now Cape Henlopen State Park) housed hundreds of American soldiers that protected the strategic ocean and bay waters of Delaware. Several watchtowers were constructed, and two still stand on the beach just north of Rehoboth. Following the war, the beach resort resumed growth in tourism.

The 1960s and 70s, a new surge of interest pushed Rehoboth back into popularity as the boardwalk became a family destination. Funland Amusement Park, created in 1962 by the Fasnacht family, greeted these visiting families and is still a main attraction four generations later! Nicola and Grotto’s pizza parlors, along with Dolle’s candy shop are still iconic landmarks of summers in Rehoboth from these past decades. Some families return to all of the fun every year for more than 50 years!

Rehoboth is now home to many year-round residents drawn by their love for the beaches, shady waterside parks, superb dining options and small town atmosphere. The reverend who envisioned a beautiful seaside resort would undoubtedly be fascinated by its popularity!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up for our FREE Updates

Keep in the loop with life in Sussex County DE!  We'll share fun, local events on a Thursday, and great articles on local life each Monday. 

Skip to content