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Cape Gazette
Lewes, Delaware
Jim's Towing Service
April 5, 1996     Cape Gazette
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April 5, 1996
 

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Building Number 6 or the Marine Hospital for men was the first building erected at the Quarantine Station in 1884. The two-story frame structure was 30-feet by 60-feet and con- tained a ward with 12 beds and one bathroom. The pharmacist resided here. The station will be the topic of a Lewes Historical Society meeting on Friday, April 19. Ippolito will present talk on Quarantine Station to Lewes Historical Society April It would be a tough case for Columbo. It would be a real test for Jessica. And Sherlock Holmes would need all of the "brilliant de- ductions" his able sidekick Wat- son could muster to unravel this "mystery." Although it doesn't deal with international espionage, it isn't a murder case, and the Crown Jewels have not suddenly vanished, it's a mystery whose many disconnected details are still being unraveled. " The "mystery" is the fragment- ed story of the Delaware Break- water Quarantine Station located at what is today Cape Henlopen State Park. And on Friday, April 19, members of the Lewes Histor- ical Society will have an opportu- nity to hear about one of the Cape's most intriguing sagas: "The Delaware Breakwater Quar- antine Station-A Forgotten Her- itage." Presented by Lewes histo- rian Jim Ippolito, the meeting will be held in the Lewes Presbyterian Chuch Hall at 8 p.m. According to Ippolito, from 1884 to 1914 more than 200,000 immigrants passed through the station to be checked for conta- gious diseases. "When so many people began to emigrate to the United States, there was consider- able concern that.they might be carrying epidemic diseases such as smallpox, cholera, typhus and the like," explained Ippolito. "So the federal government estab- lished a National Quarantine Sys- tem in 1880 to examine everyone coming into the country. Cape Henlopen was chosen because it was convenient for ships going up the Delaware Bay to immigration headquarters in Philadelphia. It was selected also because it was in an isolated area. Heavily popu- lated urban areas would have ex- posed more Americans to possible contamination," he added. The Breakwater Quarantine Station's location probably con- tributed to much of the mystery surrounding its operation, said Ip- polito. He became aware of the station in 1981 during a Delaware exhibit at the Zwaanendael Muse- um commemorating Lewes' 350th Anniversary. "Two photographs in the display were labeled simply 'Surgeon's Office' and 'Quaran- tine Station.' But no one seemed to know anything about them oth- er than that they were from the State Archives," he said. "As an assistant at the museum, I was in- trigued by this historical mys- tery." Thus began a quest that spans more than 15 years. He will discuss what he has un- covered about the people who built and ran the station, the facili- ties which accommodated the thousands of immigrants who passed through it and the Station's eventual demise. One Lewes resi- dent who would remember it, Ip- polito said, is Robert Orr, son of the station's first Surgeon, William T. Orr. Also, a house on Savannah Road is constructed of bricks from one of the buildings. The station was abandoned in 1926 and dismantled years later. Ippolito speculated that because of what the Quarantine Station meant to the immigrants treated there and the fear of the spread of contagious diseases, the memory of the site was quickly erased from everyone's mind: "Few peo- ple want to remember a facility whose staff fumigated an entire ship's quarters with sulfur disin- fectant or steamed immigrants' luggage and belongings. Typical- ly the names of immigrants treat- ed were not recorded. Many "sus- pects"-people exposed to a dis- ease on board a vessel-were fumi- gated and then observed on shore for up to 90 days depending on the incubation period for the disease. He speculated that some area residents could even be descen- dants of the more than 200,000 immigrants detained arid treated. They were probably frightened, Continued on page 46 NO COUPONS NO DISCOUNT CARDS NO RESTRICTIONS Enter Our Weekly Drawing This week's winner: Do nna GaZlagher (Dinner for Two) m Plus All New Savings HAPPY HOUR 5-6 NIGHTLY 112 Price Drinks Dining Room and Bar Dinner 5-10 ii!iiii ?iiiii Live Jazz Weekends !ii! 316 Rehoboth Ave. , Funch . 00ilii IiQiii-.-IiiIIiiIiIiiIi1,1iliiiiiililIiIiiiiiI@ii-iliiliiii!Iiiii ii!ii]i!iii !iii!iiiliiiiiiliiii!i!iliii iiiii!iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii'iiiiiii