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In 1870, a group of Methodist congregations decided to hold
camp meetings on a deserted stretch of beach on the Delaware coast.
There was a grove of trees back from the ocean and it made a great
place to set up tents and hold their religious retreats. In 1881
the place became an official town and eventually became known
as Rehoboth. A thriving little resort community had sprung up
and a lot more than religious meetings went on there. Around 1925
a paved road from the county seat in Georgetown was constructed
and this promoted even more traffic. People would drive their
model "A's" and "T's" into the new easily
accessible beach town from all over. When they arrived there was
a usually shortage of rooms, so they brought tents in their cars.
The now abandon camp meeting area was as good a place as it ever
was to spent the night and that is where the town sent anyone
who was interested in a campsite. It wasn't long before someone
at the town office figured out that they could rent these campsites
and the town discovered an additional source of income. The tents
got bigger and some even had "semi-structures" attached
to them to make them a little more durable in the wind.
When travel trailers came along this location was a natural place
to put one of the new types of "Mobile Homes". The town
of Rehoboth liked the idea because these vehicles stayed longer
and there was less bookkeeping to do. Some people would show up
in May and never leave 'till October. Eventually nearly all the
homes in Grove Park were early travel trailers and mobile homes.
People would come down with their families and enjoy the beach,
just like lots of other families had been doing in Grove Park
for over 100 years.
In 1987 this little collection of early mobile homes, some over
70 years old, were evicted by the town. Some in the Historical
Society and a few of the town fathers decided that this "trailer
park" was an "eye sore" and it and the people in
these "huts" had to go! There were 44 rent paying sites
in Grove Park with most of the lots occupied. There was a vote
by the people of the town and by a very narrow margin, Grove Park
lost out. It is no more.
Fortunately, an internationally known local artist, Howard
Schroeder, painted the park just before it was bulldozed. He thought
the shapes and colors were pleasing, especially in the fall when
the leaves on the grove of trees started to change. It wasn't
all that unsightly to his trained eye.
Interestingly, the homes in the painting actually are historic
homes, but not in the eyes of some of the Historical Society.
They were some of the first to be classified by the US Census
Bureau as "homes" not "travel trailers". These
homes were of an age when mobile homes were distinctive, like
cars. You could tell what kind of home it was by looking at the
shape and exterior metal treatment.
Grove Park started a town and then the town destroyed it. There
are many other "Grove Parks" around this nation and
they are disappearing rapidly at the hands of probably well meaning
people who unfortunately have no sense of history for what is
now the Manufactured Housing Industry. Rehoboth has preserved
some old tent meeting houses, barns, lifesaving stations, lighthouses,
fire engines and even some trees, but some folks just could not
abide a trailer in the town, historic or not. The homes are gone,
but sadly so are all the families in those homes. They used to
have their own affordable place at the beach but no more, and
they are gone too. "Vanishing Americana" also include