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The name Middlesex was given to the original grant of land, probably made in the eighteenth century, and named for a county in southern England. The recent history of this 122-acre community began just after the turn of the century.
On February 20, 1901, Jacob K. Johler et al deeded to the Bethany Beach Improvement Company a tract of land which included Middlesex Beach. This company originally founded Bethany Beach. However, they were financially unsuccessful and went bankrupt within a short time.
Less than two years later, on February 11, 1903, J.J. Johler and his partner R.R. Bulgin deeded the Bethany Beach Improvement Company (BBIC) to a group of Pittsburghese men: W.R. Errett, John M. Addy, W.S. Kidd, W.A. Dinker, and R.S. Latimer. Later Errett and Addy bought out the other three men, and in September 1946, a member of the Addy family deeded his share to William P. Short. Thus the ownership was divided among the three families, with the Erretts having two-fifths, the Addys two-fifths, and the Shorts one fifth.
The land was described in the deed as “…one large farm situated, lying, and being on both sides of the public road or highway leading from Bethany Beach, to Fenwick Island…”. It was known as “the farm”, and one of the Erretts, Jane, remembered her father, William, receiving letters from the farmer who tilled the soil.
It was not until 1957 that a survey of the land was done and the next year a plan for development was drawn up. On April 4, 1959, there was a settlement agreement among the members of the Errett, Addy, and Short families in which they agreed to develop the 122-acre tract into Middlesex Beach as a “restricted, residential and commercial, recreational, sea-side resort”. On December 10, 1959, Middlesex Beach became incorporated (as a corporation) and its development began shortly thereafter. The original covenants were written by Ed Addy, William Errett, and Phil Short. The Addys owned the land from Evergreen Road to Bridge Road, the Erretts owned from Bridge Road to Bayberry Road, and the Shorts owned from Bayberry to Short Road. The cost of development was $51,398.23.
Middlesex Beach was described in a 1960 brochure as “…truly an area of many natural attractions, from the pungent pine groves to the soft sandy beaches, into the briny surf”.
The first people to build in Middlesex, all on the oceanfront, were George Peoples, Mimi Wherry, Guy and Connie Stringer, and the Errett Sisters: Marjorie Errett and Helen Hourdequin.
In Spring of 1962, one of the worst storms ever to hit the area (The Ash Wednesday Storm) damaged the oceanfront of Middlesex, along with neighboring communities. The Peoples and Errett homes survived the storm. The other homes were destroyed. Mimi Wherry, who had just built her home, rebuilt it immediately after the storm, placing it further inland. After the storm, several other homes were built, and residents joined forces to repair the damage, putting up a sand fence and planting both dune grass and 5,000 Japanese black pine seedlings.
Middlesex continued to grow after the storm. In 1964, the cost of an oceanfront lot was $9,000 and a pineside lot was $2,750. It was about this time that the Middlesex Beach Association started holding yearly membership meetings in May.
In 1965 the D.F.D. Construction Company arranged to lease a number of lots in Middlesex and build prefabricated homes on them. When the MBA learned that the company had insisted on more variety, it finally settled for five original designs, on lots spread throughout Middlesex. Many of the oldest homes in Middlesex are D.F.D. designs.
In the mid-sixties, Middlesex hired its first lifeguards. The first walkways were built in 1968. By 1969, Middlesex was a thriving resort community, and M.B.A. business had grown to the point of requiring a second annual membership meeting. In that year, meetings began occurring in September as well as May.
In 1970, a minor crisis hit Middlesex: minibikes! The noise became a source of frequent complaints and, after a couple of summers, the bikes were restricted and then banned altogether.
In 1971, a major crisis hit when Carl Freeman announced plans to build Sea Colony. Middlesex residents attended meetings in Dover, examined traffic and density studies, and set up a picket line at Sea Colony’s open house. The association also filed suit, protesting the construction of the sewer. The suit was settled out of court, with Sea Colony agreeing to restrict the number of high-rise buildings to those now in existence.
The mid-seventies saw other changes. Middlesex hired its first security guard in 1975. In the next year, during Harry Fegley’s presidency, the annual Labor Day beach party was launched, as well as the coffee hour before membership meeting.
Since its incorporation, Middlesex people have shown two distinct characteristics. One is the desire for privacy and quiet. Vacationers in Middlesex value the private beach and dead-end streets – protection from the encroachment of a rapidly growing resort.
The other characteristic of Middlesex is its spirit of volunteerism. “It’s a very unusual association,” says Amy Peoples. “I don’t know of another association with this kind of volunteerism. It started with the building of the dunes (after the 1962 storm). Everybody came out and helped.
Many people have discovered, and continue to enjoy, the pleasures of the “…pungent pine groves, soft sandy beaches, and briny surf”.
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MBA history was originally compiled by Judy Myers in 1986 with special thanks to Jane Errett, then published in a July 1993 MBA newsletter. Next, this history was published in the early 2000’s by Dave Wiecking, later modified in 2018.