Volunteers working toward June 1 opening of museum

By Lynn R. Parks

Much of what was once at the DuPont Co. nylon plant in Seaford is now in the new Seaford Museum on High Street. On Monday, workers nailed the large steel letters that once spelled out the company name on the plant’s main office building, now demolished, to the museum’s floor, boxing in a spinning machine from the plant. Dave Webb, who carries with him a list he compiled 10 years ago of names of people who he thought would be interested in helping with the startup of the museum, watched. “Without a knowledge of history, we are like a ship without a rudder,” said Webb, who grew up in the Seaford-Blades area and graduated from Seaford High School in 1950. A volunteer with the Seaford Historical Society, he is heading up creation of the museum. “This museum will act as a rudder, guiding us through Seaford’s history.” The museum, expected to open June 1, is located in the former Seaford Post Office building, vacated in February 2001. It will replace the current Seaford Museum, which opened in 1997 on New Street. The historical society bought the post office building in July 2001 for about $200,000. It will take another $300,000 to $400,000 to complete renovations and prepare the building to house artifacts, Webb said. About 7,000 square feet, all on the first floor of the two-story building, will be used for the museum, Webb said. In addition, the historical society has applied for a grant to include the former loading dock, about 1,250 square feet, in the museum. Plans for the second floor of the building are incomplete. The brick building was built in 1935 as Seaford’s first publicly-owned post office. It was put up for sale when the post office relocated to its new building on alternate US 13. The sale contract specifies that the historical society has to retain the original atmosphere of the post office lobby. Accordingly, the post office boxes are still there, as is the window at which business was transacted. Tucked in behind the post office boxes, as though he is putting mail in the boxes, is a mannequin wearing the uniform of Ben Chaffinch, who recently retired as a mail carrier. The walls, which used to be brown, have been painted white and colonial blue. The lobby is furnished with chairs, tables and sofas from the DuPont plant’s administrative offices. Sitting on top of the wood and glass box formed by the exterior and interior doors is a sleigh that once belonged to Charles Hurley, an early businessman in Seaford. A lap robe and footstool belonging to Dr. Manning, who had Manning’s Pharmacy on High Street, sit in the carriage. Also in the lobby is a large clock from the DuPont plant. The wall-hanging clock, with two weights and a large swinging pendulum, regulated all the time clocks throughout the plant.

Displays to include river scene
The room behind the lobby has been divided into several sections, each lined with glass-front birch cabinets. Visitors will leave the lobby and meander past the displays, which focus on the history of the Seaford area, from the days of the Nanticoke Indian to the present time. Near the start of the displays, visitors will traverse the Nanticoke River on a wooden footbridge. “This is the Blades Causeway bridge,” joked Woody Woodruff, an artist and historical society volunteer. Woodruff is painting a 6-foot by 18-foot mural that will hang next to the bridge and will depict the riverside in the early 20th century. The local Ducks Unlimited chapter is creating a display of river plants and wildlife to go under the bridge. Artifacts in the museum will include a taxidermy display of native birds, done by amateur taxidermist Manning, as well as items from Manning’s pharmacy. There are also items from the office of Dr. John C. Lynch, including his black bag and a microscope. At one stop, a serene Patty Cannon rocks on her front porch, a quiet smile belying the fact that the slave trader’s wrists are bound in handcuffs. One collection includes pictures and labels from canning factories that were along the Nanticoke. Another will focus on the Ross Mansion, and yet another will include items from the now-gone Seaford train station and old pictures from along the train route. A depot cart, donated to the historical society by Seaford resident Keith Short, will be on display. There will also be a 20-foot shad boat and an old wooden incubator. Wood and glass showcases from Cox’s Store, a dry goods store on High Street, will hold some items.

Building needed new roof
In addition to a new roof, the building needed an air conditioning system, Webb said. Its electrical system needed upgraded and new lighting installed. Nouvir, a Seaford firm that specializes in museum quality fiber optics, installed the lights. To preserve the artifacts, a dehumidifier was put in, Webb said. In addition, the windows needed reglazed and the building had to be brought up to fire and safety codes. But all of the work and expense is worth it, Webb said. “In working on this, I am expressing my love for the area,” he said. Webb, a developer, said that it is important to show respect for the business people who contributed to the prosperity of the area. “I am able to do what I do today because of the businessmen who came before me,” he said. “They are dead and gone, and a lot of people don’t know them and don’t care. But this museum will show how we have gotten where we are now.” Keeping up the museum will be an ongoing process, he added. “Telling the story about a place is never done. Everything you do every day is history. What you and I are doing right now — someday that will be history.”

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