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Historic Downtown Spotlights – Lewes

As you scroll through the neighborhoods spotlighted on our Web site you’ll see that most are carefully designed to offer lots of amenities just outside your door. Whether you want to spend a day at the pool, play tennis or pickleball, host a party in the community center, or take a long walk on scenic trails, you’re buying into a lifestyle that puts a premium on convenience with all of the wonders of modern life. 

But there’s another side of Delaware that can also be wonderful: our statewide array of historic downtowns. These are places that harken back to our rural heritage, when central business districts contained the grocery, drug, clothing, hardware, toy and other types of stores alongside restaurants, offices and municipal buildings. 

Nowadays we do most of our mainstay shopping at shopping centers alongside highways, and benefit from enormous choices, prices lowered by global trade and the convenience of vast parking lots. Yet it can still be wonderful to stroll down preserved or restored downtown business districts, which today tend to feature lovely cafes, boutique shops, museums harkening back to yesteryear, and festive events. With that in mind I’m going to spotlight a few local favorites, beginning with Lewes, where Bill and I live and work.

Historic Architecture

Like many old historic towns, Lewes has been built and rebuilt over more than 100 years. Its primary commercial avenue – Second Street – features Delaware’s oldest home still standing on its original foundation, the Ryves Holt House, which dates back to 1686. But it’s only a few yards away from downtown buildings constructed in the late 1800s and some built in the 20th century on the sites of buildings that had burned.

As a result you can see Colonial, Victorian, Craftsman, mid-century and modern architecture all along the avenue and the adjacent streets, where gorgeous historic homes sit alongside vibrant commercial establishments. All of the buildings are set close to the sidewalk for a charming streetscape that invites leisurely strolls.

Boutique Shopping

That historic architecture is a perfect home for small businesses selling books, clothing, antiques, gifts, pet supplies and toys. Some, like the Lewes Mercantile, have been there for decades, and most have been operating for several years thanks to locals and visitors who love the downtown vibe. 

Some are wonderfully unique. Biblion sells used books and cards in a very charming store. It was established well over 10 years ago when major chain bookstores were closing and when social media began taking up way too much time. The store thrived thanks to carefully curated choices and its wonderful atmosphere. If you head around to the back of that same building and down into its basement and you’ll encounter the wonderfully groovy Vintage Underground, with vintage clothing from the heydays of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, vinyl record albums, Hawaiian shirts, cards, costume jewelry and other fun stuff. 

If you’ve got kids or grandkids you’ll love Kids’ Ketch, which features unique toys and educational materials for young children. 

And one of most favorite neighbors is Micha's collection of stores, starting with

Home of Delaware’s Best Restaurants

Downtown Lewes also excels with casual and fine dining, with restaurants artfully integrated into the historic buildings. Heirloom, Raas and Bramble & Brine at The Buttery are all located in grand Victorian era homes with indoor and outdoor dining, and consistently earn rave reviews from diners and food critics. 

Not too far away, Striper Bites features a wide array of land and sea offerings in a lovely nautical atmosphere. It was founded in 2001 by Matt DiSabatino, who now runs the beloved Kindle, featuring local favorites that include Steak Frites, cast iron seared sea scallops and amazing mussels, and Half Full, a pint-sized place for extraordinary pizza made from scratch. Across the street, in the historic Hotel Rodney, you’ll find the Rose & Crown, styled after an English Pub, with wonderful comfort food, and the new Lewes Oyster House, with spectacular seafood. 

If you live in the area or are just visiting for a few days, celebrate the warm weather with indoor and outdoor dining on the canal at Harbor, and, just over the drawbridge, Irish Eyes and The Wheelhouse at Fisherman’s Wharf - which is best suited for cocktails overlooking the water even if you’re dining somewhere nearby. 

If you’re around during the breakfast and lunch hours, you’ll also love the stylish comfort food found at Nectar and, a few blocks down Savannah Road, Honey’s Farm Fresh

While downtown Lewes is a popular destination for people from all over the state, and is consistently rated one of the most charming areas by travel and tourism media, it’s also just a few minutes from several wonderful communities featuring single family homes, townhouses and condominiums. If you’d like to live within an easy bike ride of this beautiful place, check out Breakwater, Governors, Hawkseye, Olde Town at White’s Pond, Senators, Showfield, and Pilottown Village

When you’re ready to make your move, please check out our Buyer Resources, download our free Buyer’s Guide and select an Active Adult agent who can ensure you get the best deal on your new home Demand for these coastal homes is high, and the inventory is low. Our agents know the market and often learn about homes before they’re listed. We also have the inside local knowledge that can help you make the best deal on your new home.