Rehoboth Beach is a city in Sussex County, Delaware, United States. The population was 1,495 at the 2000 census. A popular regional vacation destination, Rehoboth Beach's population expands to over 75,000 in the summer.
The city was founded in 1873 as the Rehoboth Beach Camp Meeting Association by the Rev. Robert W. Todd, of St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal Church of Wilmington, Delaware, as a site for Methodist camp meetings in the spirit of similar resorts on the New Jersey shore, such as Ocean City. The Camp Meeting Association disbanded in 1881, and in 1891, the location was incorporated by the Delaware General Assembly as "Henlopen City", shortly after which it was renamed to Rehoboth Beach.
Rehoboth is a name of Biblical appellation, meaning "place [or space] for all". (In modern Hebrew, the same means 'streets'). The name is strikingly fitting, due to Rehoboth Beach's ability to blend its distinct communities. Rehoboth appears four times in the Old Testament as, variously, a well dug by Isaac (Wadi er-Ruheibeh) (Gen. 26:22), a city on the Euphrates River (Gen. 36:37; 1 Chr. 1:48), and one of the cities of Asshur (Gen. 10:11). Consequently, the name had obvious appeal to the religious founders of the city.
The town often bills itself as "The Nation's Summer Capital" due to the fact that it is a frequent summer vacation destination for Washington, D.C., residents, insiders, and powerbrokers. Vacationers are drawn for many reasons, including the town's charm, artistic appeal, and relative safety. Rehoboth's white powder sand beaches are consistently ranked highly in national publications. Rehoboth's beaches are protected by a beach patrol with a distinguished record of lifesaving and competitive success.
The earliest settlers to this area were Native Americans who traveled to the beach in the summer months to enjoy the cool breezes and abundant seafood. Between 1650 and 1675, English and Dutch settlers put down roots here as the area became home to farmers and members of William Penn's earliest legislatures. Later owners participated in the American War of Independence.
According to information from the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society, in 1872, Reverend Robert W. Todd, of St. Paul's M.E. Church in Wilmington visited a Camp Meeting area on the Jersey Shore. He soon pursued the idea if starting a camp area here, on the Delaware coast. In 1873, on 414 acres purchased from local farmers, The Rehoboth Camp Meeting Association was formed.
The grounds were laid out in a fan-shaped design, with wide streets, parks and specific building lots. That design remains largely intact today.
While the Association discontinued its formal meetings by 1881, other groups utilized the site for services until about the turn on the 20th century. in 1891, Delaware's General Assembly established a municipality for the territory, naming it Henlopen City. In 1891 it was renamed Rehoboth Beach.
The Boardwalk, now a mile long, was originally built in 1873 on high ground between the beach and Surf Avenue, which ran the full length of the ocean front. Many storms have changed the configuration over the years, but in 1879, the original Henlopen Hotel was built on the site now occupied by a hotel of the same name.
With the coming of the railroad- which ran right down Rehoboth Avenue- the second block if Baltimore Avenue became the new center of camp meetings and city life. Many of the original tent houses (small, one-room buildings surrounding a center structure) were moved there, with new ones constructed as well.
In 1925, a paved highway was completed from Georgetown to Rehoboth, It helped link the resort with the paved roads towards Washington, D.C., and many legislators, diplomats and government employees began to visit and vacation here. It wasn't long before Rehoboth Beach came to be known as the "Nation's Summer Capital."
From it's beginnings as a spiritual center, to the public's embracing of the seacoast as a mecca for leisure activity, Rehoboth has developed as a close knit seaside town. It's a nod to the past that the city's present day charter includes words that are nearly identical to several words from the 1872 charter of the Camp Meeting Association: 'the maintenance of a permanent seaside resort and the furnishing of proper conveniences and attractions requisite to the same."
Downtown Rehoboth came of age in the era of Victorian influences and evolved throughout the twentieth century to change with the times. Both the residential and commercial area, despite their growth and maturation, have retained the warm and friendly charm and ambiance that reflect Rehoboth Beach's historic past.
July & August 2006 edition of the AARP Magazine. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware was featured in the Dream Towns in America article written by Sarah Mahoney.
From the article:
Two years before they planned to retire, Sonja and Hoyte Decker settled on the Delaware coast as their retirement destination. Living in Chevy Chase, Maryland, near where Hoyte worked for the U.S. Department of Transportation, the two had been spending weekends and vacations on the sandy beaches of the Maryland and Delaware shores for years. But they liked friendly little Rehoboth Beach best of all. Just three hours from friends and their daughter in Washington, D.C., it was also reasonably close to Hoyte's two children from a previous marriage.
But finding their retirement house was challenging: Rehoboth Beach itself is only about one square mile, with fewer than 1,500 full-time residents. Housing costs - as in many beach communities - were sky-high. "Houses were just too expensive, even in the late 1990s," says Hoyte, 65, "or else they were just small cottages, or they weren't winterized. We decided against buying an existing home. We had retired without a mortgage - that had always been our goal. And we wanted to keep it that way," he says.
Instead, when Hoyte retired in August 1998, the couple decided to build their own retirement home. They didn't waste any time, either. By September they had purchased a lot. By December they had contracted with a builder. And by Memorial Day 1999 they moved in. It's been one long beach season ever since.
The Deckers aren't the only retirees flocking to the area. With a median age of 57, and 38 percent of the population over 65, Rehoboth and the surrounding communities are a retiree's haven. That trend shows no sign of slowing: Delaware expects its 65-plus population to increase 75 percent in the next 25 years.
What makes Rehoboth Beach magical, of course, is the beach. "Walking along in the early morning, it's like having the ocean to yourself," says Sonja, 61. "There are dolphins all summer long, different kinds of birds - it's beautiful. And it means that in the summer we have constant house-guests, which is great."
Why the locals love it:
Rehoboth Beach is a bargain.
Housing in Rehoboth Beach proper is, admittedly, expensive, but the nearby communities of Long Neck and Milton are quite reasonable (and they're still only a few miles from the beach). All Delaware residents can take advantage of the state's super-low property taxes; plus, Delaware has no sales tax on goods, food, or entertainment. Social Security and railroad-retirement benefits are exempt from income tax, and taxpayers 60 and older can exclude up to $12,500 of investment and qualified pension income. Out-of-state government pensions also qualify for the pension and retirement exemptions.
The Deckers love that they can walk everywhereâ€”whether it's on the beach, along Rehoboth's mile-long boardwalk (circa 1873), or to the area's little boutiques and more than 70 restaurants.
Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia are within a three-hour drive.
The small-town atmosphere and the constant eventsâ€”from Christmas parades to the Annual Chocolate Festival. "Where else would I be able to know the mayor, the chief of police, and be able to be on the beach so much?" says Hoyte. "In Washington there were a lot of things to do, and I did a few. In Rehoboth there are not so many things to doâ€”and we do them all."
Average temperature in summer: 68° F
Average temperature in winter: 41° F
Number of sunny days per year: 96
Casual supper for two at Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats: $30
Hot tickets: The Rehoboth Film Festival in November screens about 100 of the year's best independent films, with a special $6 rate for seniors.