Cape Gazette

Rehoboth Art League recreates maiden voyage

Flotilla kicks off Diamond Anniversary
By Ryan Mavity | Jun 21, 2013
Photo by: Ryan Mavity Half the replica Paynter Studio is floated down the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal as part of a reenactment of the studio's voyage to the Rehoboth Art League in 1938. The reenactment served as the kickoff to the art league's Diamond Anniversary this year.
Flotilla arrives in Henlopen Acres
The arrival of the Rehoboth Art League flotilla in Henlopen Acres is heralded by the Lewes Fire and Rescue boat shooting its water cannons into the air. (Video by: Ryan Mavity)

Henlopen Acres — It may not have been Columbus sailing to America – although several Italians were on hand – but the journey of a replica Paynter Studio from Lewes to Henlopen Acres was a chance for the Rehoboth Art League to relive its founding.

In early 1938, the Paynter Studio was not a studio, but an old building on the estate of William Paynter, who owned property on the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal.

According to Martin Clark, Ann Hazzard, the first female Realtor in Rehoboth, purchased the building for $15. He said the building was probably appealing to the art league because it cost less than building a new structure. Clark said $15 then equates to $1,750 today.

Heavy rains in February and March of 1938 made it impossible to move the house over the roads, Clark said. So the art league enlisted George Shockley to come up with a plan to move it. Shockley was involved in marine construction and had done jobs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Clark said the original building probably weighed close to 8,000 pounds.

There is no record or photographs showing how the building was moved. Clark said his theory is that Shockley had the house put on a skiff, which horses then hauled to the canal. On the water, the skiff acted as a raft; Clark said it is not certain how it was powered, either by motor or by hand. Once the building reached its destination, Clark said he believes the building was moved to the art league on the skiff by horses, which would not have been an uncommon sight in those days.

“He was a clever guy,” Clark said of Shockley. “How he did it, I don’t know.”

Shockley's grandson, Rehoboth Beach Mayor Sam Cooper, served as commodore for the reenactment. Growing up on a farm outside Milford, Shockley decided the farm life was not for him. He developed many business interests, including selling coal during the Depression, owning a sawmill, real estate and marine construction. All this despite very little formal education, Cooper said.

“He was quite a guy,” Cooper said. “He was the go-to guy for moving a house or anything. He moved tanks for some of the oil companies.”

Cooper said Shockley was honest and forthright, but also had a temper.

“He could cuss up a storm,” he said.

Seventy-five years later, as part of the art league’s Diamond Anniversary, a flotilla including the Lewes Fire and Rescue boat, the Cape Water Taxi vessel "Discovery" and a pontoon boat carrying scaled down replica of the Paynter Studio, took the one-hour voyage from Lewes' Fisherman's Wharf to the Henlopen Acres Marina.

Because of the weight, the entire replica, built by Echelon Custom Homes with help from students at First State Community Action Agency's after-school program, was split in half: one half was placed at the art league property, the other half floated down the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal on a pontoon towed by tugboat operator Clarke Droney. The entire structure, which is big enough for a small playhouse or art studio, was put together and will be raffled off.

As the flotilla arrived in Henlopen Acres, the Lewes Fire and Rescue boat fired off its water cannons to the delight of the 60-plus people aboard the Discovery. Taking in the voyage was a nine-person contingent from Rehoboth sister city Greve in Chianti, Italy, including Mayor Alberto Bencista.

Rehoboth Beach Mayor Sam Cooper, commodore of the flotilla. Cooper's grandfather George Shockley was responsible for moving the Paynter Studio to the art league campus in 1938. (Photo by: Ryan Mavity)
Art league member Martin Clark, who proposed the idea of reenacting the Paynter Studio's voyage. (Photo by: Ryan Mavity)
The Lewes Fire and Rescue boat fires its water cannons to herald the arrival of the flotilla into Henlopen Acres. (Photo by: Ryan Mavity)
Rehoboth Art League President Diana Beebe speaks to the 60-plus passengers aboard the Cape Water Taxi "Discovery" as it makes its way to Henlopen Acres. (Photo by: Ryan Mavity)
Greve in Chianti Mayor Alberto Bencista, and a delegation of nine from Rehoboth Beach's Italian sister city took part in the flotilla. (Photo by: Ryan Mavity)
The replica Paynter Studio was constructed in part by students from First State Community Action Agency's after-school program. Among the students taking part in the flotilla are (l-r) Abdeal Soto-Perez, Isaac Soto-Perez, Jamiah Eley, Sandi Hagans and Ashante Custis. (Photo by: Ryan Mavity)
The flotilla forms in the canal on the other side of the Freeman Highway bridge on its way to Rehoboth Beach. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
The replica cottage nears its final destination at the Henlopen Acres marina. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
The Lewes fire boat signals the arrival of the flotilla led by dignitaries on the water taxi. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Half the replica of the Paynter Studio is floated to a dock in the Henlopen Acres marina before being transported to the Rehoboth Art League. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Carol Quillen Rudolphi displays a painting she did back in the 1950s of Paynter Studio. At the time, she was a student of Howard Schroeder. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
On the morning of June 21, workmen were still putting finishing touches on the other half of the replica studio on the Rehoboth Art League grounds. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
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