Wednesday, June 16, 2021 / by Jay Lesko
The Historic District of Lewes, Delaware sports many fine Victorian Homes and commercial buildings dating back to the early 1700s. Downtown commercial areas of Pilottown Road (Front Street) and Second Street are situated inside the historic district. The Lewes-Rehoboth Canal borders the Historic District to the east, but other borders are better illustrated on a map than placed into words.
Areas of Special Interest
The Lewes Historical Society Complex sits adjacent to Shipcarpenter Square. The many historic structures from the early 18th and 19th centuries can be found here including an old schoolhouse, country store, blacksmith and a doctor’s office. As the guardian of several museums inside the Historic District, which includes the Lewes Canalfront Park and the Cannonball House, the Historical Society also hosts the Farmer’s Market on their grounds most Saturday mornings.
Perhaps one of Lewes’ better known museums, owned and operated by the State of Delaware, is the Zwaanendael Museum. The museum is open to the public and admission is free. The first floor of the museum is wheelchair accessible and street parking is available within walking distance for those who wish to learn more about the fascinating maritime history this coastal community has. Reservations are necessary, but absolutely free.
Lewes Canalfront Park forms part of the Historic District and features a friendly seaside themed playground, ballpark, tennis courts, gazebo, pier and gardens that are easily accessible to residents and visitors alike.
The Cape May-Lewes Ferry has a carry capacity of up to 1000 passengers and 100 cars. It offers much more than a mere shortcut from the Delaware coast to Jersey shore. The 70 minute trip crossing the Delaware Bay offers a spectacular view of the Mid-Atlantic’s most picturesque seaside towns.
Homeowners in Lewes
Of the available homes in Lewes, roughly 637 of them date from the 1970’s to 1999. A little over 200 of the available homes date back to before 1939. Single family homes with a minimum of three bedrooms make up the majority of dwelling choices. Popular neighborhoods include Broadkill Beach, Oyster Rocks, Goslee Mill and Jimtown. Although a popular retirement location which leans a bit to the consevative side, Lewes offers competitive home prices. Some homes get multiple offers, while the average home sells for about 2% above the list price.
On average a home will stay about 29 days on market. Hot property in Lewes has a tendency to sell for up to 4% above the list price and remains an average of 3 days on market. A large number of homes in Lewes are required to have flood insurance. Flood insurance premiums can range from $225 to $2,500 per month
Schooling in Lewes
There are some top-notch schools in the Cape Henlopen School District. The Love Creek Elementary School and the Shields (Richard A.) Elementary Schools are both public K-5 schools. The Cape Henlopen High School has around 1,400 students in grades 9 - 12. The student teacher ratio averages at 15 to 1 and state test scores indicate that around a third of students attending this school are proficient in math and more than half in reading. Cape Henlopen High School is ranked among the best for athletes and as a college prep school in Delaware.
How Delaware Taxes Work
This tight-knit community benefits from the low tax rate in Sussex County. Real Estate taxes typically hover around $850 - $1100 annually, which comes in at roughly one third of the US average.
Unlike most other states, Delaware does not reassess property values regularly. All counties and cities base their property taxes on values calculated the last time all property was reassessed. This is referred to as the reassessment year. Kent County had a reassessment year in 1987, while New Castle County had one in 1983. In Sussex County the reassessment year was in 1974. Municipalities have their own assessments, although some opt to use the county assessment. Assessed values are based on the market value of that reassessment year.
Homeowners who make additions to a property or build a new structure on the lot will trigger a reassessment, although even in those cases the assessor will try to determine what the value would have been in the reassessment year. Home prices in the reassessment years were significantly lower for each county than what they are now, which means that assessed values are a fraction of market values.
What about the property tax rate?
Property tax rates in Delaware are affected by the state’s reassessment system. Areas like Sussex County, which has not had a reassessment in the last 45 years, may have higher rates because the assessed values are low. Effective tax rates are a helpful tool to look at. Effective tax rates are the annual taxes paid as a percentage of the current market value. In Sussex County the median home value hovers around $248,900, the median annual property tax payment would come in at $858, which makes the average effective property tax rate 0.34%. This is considerably lower when compared to New Castle County (0.74%) and Kent County (0.51%).
To top off the safe and access-anytime beach and special architecture, Lewes offers a unique shopping experience, golf, restaurants, fishing and a host of other activities to keep active and busy all year long. Residents are friendly and the strong community spirit can be seen in the many festivals and fun times Lewes presents travellers and residents.
Whether you are spending an afternoon unwinding at the Crooked Hammock Brewery in a relaxed backyard style environment, or prefer to enjoy the finer dining experience at Heirloom - helmed by James Beard Award-nominated Executive Chef Matthew Kern, the wholesome environment this coastal community has to offer will make anyone feel welcome.
Quiet and dignified, charming Lewes is perhaps the most bellowed place in Delaware. It is certainly a fan favorite for travelers who love quiet strolls on boutique-filled streets or a relaxing meal by the water. Filled to the brim with history and unanticipated discoveries, the old homes and nautical heritage turns Lewes into a bit of a time capsule, inviting visitors and residents alike to explore it’s fascinating past.