The Anna Hazzard Tent House & the Beginnings of Rehoboth Beach

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Rehoboth Beach, the town known for its family-friendly boardwalk, white sand beaches, historic homes, summer retreats, fabulous shopping, and pride was formed on very traditional ideals and goals. Many do not know that the entire purpose and formation of this seaside community stemmed from religion and religious practices. In 1872, a local Reverend claimed that he would inspire Christians by building a resort by the sea.

Reverend Robert W. Todd, fellowship director at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Wilmington, DE, had returned from a several-week trip to Ocean Grove Meeting Camp. Ocean Grove was a Methodist religious camp located on the Jersey Shore. Todd was known to have said that the sea had spoken to him and rejuvenated his body with its words of religion.
 
On January 27, 1873, Reverend Todd created the Rehoboth Beach Camp Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church; a 414 acre plot of farm land next to the sea. The purpose of the meeting space was to present week-long camps for Christians to attend during the summer. The meeting place and the town were named Rehoboth, taken directly from the Bible (Genesis, XXVI: 22), and means ‘broad places’. The piney land stretching from the briny bay to the salty ocean definitely is ‘broad’.
 
One-room, small, wooden structures were constructed on camp grounds. They were known as ‘tents’. These tents, imagined in this age to resemble more modern yurts, were placed along Rehoboth Avenue. Dozens of these tents occupied the space running from the Rehoboth Railroad eastward toward Baltimore Avenue.
 
Today, Rehoboth has tall condos, vacation homes, cozy beach bungalows, shops, and restaurants lining the main Avenue. There are no tents in site. Unless, of course, you venture down Christian Street. One of the town’s original tent houses, The Anna Hazzard House, was moved from its original location and transplanted to a lot at 17 Christian Street.
 
The Anna Hazzard Tent House has undergone many renovations over the past century. The Tent House has since become the Anna Hazzard Museum. 
 
Though modified, the Tent House dates back to the 1890’s. The home was originally located at 59 Baltimore Avenue. William H. White purchased the one-roomed tent in 1895 and gifted it to his niece, Anna Hazzard in 1927. White was a well-known real estate business owner in the Lewes and Rehoboth areas.
 
Anna Hazzard was a woman’s pioneer during her lifetime (1878 – 1968). Anna Burton S. Hazzard was the first woman to receive a real estate broker’s license in the state of DE (1902). She was also Secretary of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and President of the Rehoboth Art league (1944 – 1946). Hazzard’s career as a real estate broker flourished while working with her uncle, Mr. White. She often rented out her tent house to generate a profit during the summer months.
 
The one-room Anna Hazzard Tent House is open for tours every Friday of the month and led by volunteers from the Rehoboth Beach Museum and Rehoboth Historical Society. Tours through the Hazzard home are held on Fridays through September 28th. All tours start at 17 Christian Street and end at the Rehoboth Beach Museum.
 
Natalie Alexander, a Director from the Historical Society, works to come up with programs that promote the Museums in Rehoboth and expand the cultural, historic and educational activities within the community.
 
“The kitchen was added on in the mid-1970s. Until then, all of the cooking was done outside on a fire,” said Alexander as she looked at the ‘70s style stove tucked into the corner of the Tent House kitchen.
 
Available at the house was a recipe for a traditional, fire-cooked soup known as Victory Garden Soup. The soup requires many garden-grown vegetables and can be heated over a hot fire. If you’d like to see the recipe (that calls for potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, garlic, and more), it can be found in the ShoreBread Bread Box: Victory Garden Soup.
 
The house is filled with furniture, accessories, and other historic artifacts collected over the years.
 
“The furniture isn’t all original to the home. Some of it was given to the Museum by local hotels, residents, and others. The rocking chairs in the main living room were from the front porch of historic hotel that was destroyed during a large storm in the mid-1900s,” said Alexander.
 
“The house has been modified slightly. I mean, they had to when they moved it, and the people who stayed here updated it, too,” said Harvey Waltersdorf, a Historical Society Board Member who also led the tour of the home.
 
“We added a concrete stoop to the doors so people can sit next to the house and relax,” he said. When looking out the back door of the home, two workers from neighboring restaurants were sitting on the stoop – most likely resting before a busy afternoon shift.
 
From the Anna Hazzard Tent House, Friday tour-goers are directed to follow their guide in a caravan to the Rehoboth Beach Museum located on Rehoboth Avenue, less than ½ mile from the tent house.
 
The Rehoboth Beach Museum is a project of the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society. Founded in 1975, the Society's mission is to preserve and showcase artifacts that illustrate the development of the community. Society members receive free museum admission, newsletters, free admission to lectures and other activities and notice of ticketed events.
 
Inside of the Rehoboth Beach Museum there is a glass case that features a collection of Anna Hazzard’s: her hymn books. Hazzard’s collection includes titles like New Songs of the Gospel, The Epworth Hymnal, Garlands of Praise, and Songs of love and Praise for use in Christian Worship or Work. Many other Methodist hymn books are on display at the Museum, too. 
 
Currently, the museum’s latest exhibit is that of World War II history. World War II: Rehoboth Beach tells the stories of many Rehoboth locals who fought in, participated in, and helped out during WWII. Artifacts and items are on display until mid-September. Then, another new exhibit will be set up.
 
Another wing of the museum is filled with permanent displays. Displays include that of antique swimming attire and photos, a Funland ride and information, a collection of vintage postcards from the beach town, and old boat memorabilia.
 
The tour of the Anna Hazzard Tent House and the Rehoboth Beach Museum is conducted by reservations only. Cost for the tour is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, students, or active military, and $2 for children ages 13 – 17. There is a Facebook Event Page created for the Anna Hazzard House Tours.
 

If you plan on going:

Anna Hazzard Tent House and Rehoboth Beach Museum Tours
Every Friday through September 28th, 2012
Tours start at 9 am and are estimated to take 1 hour (plan for more time if you plan to peruse the museum more thoroughly)
RSVP by calling 302-227-7310
Entrance fees cost $2 – $5 per person
 
Photos by Ami Reist.
 
Read more about the Old Rehoboth Ice House and the Rehoboth Beach Museum by reading this article: The Old Rehoboth Ice House