March 5–8 marked the 60th anniversary of the storm that changed the face of Rehoboth Beach. The devastation caused by this 3-day nor’easter shocked Rehoboth Beach residents and visitors, and it changed this city profoundly for years to come. We now have two opportunities to learn the details of this 3-day storm told largely through the words of people who lived through it: a Rehoboth Beach Museum exhibit and an online version of photographs and a film curated by the Delaware Public Archives.
The Rehoboth Beach Museum exhibit, in the museum’s second-floor showroom, includes the more well-known damage photos from the storm, as well as quotes taken from oral histories regarding the storm. As part of the exhibit, the Museum is presenting a 2007 documentary, “The ’62 Storm: Delaware’s Shared Response.” In the documentary “lifelong locals, retired state officials, and meteorologists” * provide information on what Rehoboth Beach was like during the storm and its aftermath. The locals in the film note that, prior to the storm, the town had three movie theaters, several banks, a grocery store, and 11 gas stations. The storm claimed seven lives in Delaware and 40 lives along the East Coast; the cost of the storm’s damage is estimated at $50 million ($465 million in today’s dollars).
The exhibit opened to the public on March 4. Museum visitors can view the exhibit through the month of April. The museum, located at 511 Rehoboth Avenue near Grove Park and the RBMS office, will show the documentary several more times while the exhibit is up (see Save the Date below). For details on movie showings and the exhibit, go to rehobothbeachmuseum.org, call 302-227-7310, or email email@example.com.
The Delaware Public Archives virtual exhibit includes a “treasure trove of previously unreleased photographs from one of the most destructive storms in the First State’s recorded history.” * Many of the images were digitized from photographs and scanned from acetate negatives. The collection comprises more than 500 photographs.
The virtual exhibit also includes a Delaware State Police 17-minute silent film of aerial footage of the damage to Delaware beaches, businesses, and homes. In addition to Rehoboth Beach, areas shown in the film are Bowers Beach, Slaughter Beach, Dewey Beach, the Indian River Inlet, Bethany Beach, Fenwick Island, Oak Orchard, and Massey’s Landing in Millsboro. The virtual exhibit also features selected papers from the Governor Carvel collection, which includes a telegram from then-President John F. Kennedy.
* This article is based on two recent Cape Gazette stories that provide additional information on the Museum exhibit and the Delaware Public Archives virtual exhibit. The accompanying photograph in this issue of the RBMS Newsletter is from the Cape Gazette Museum exhibit article.