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Rehoboth Beach is a city on the Atlantic Ocean along the Delaware Beaches in eastern Sussex County, Delaware, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 1,327, reflecting a decline of 161 (11.2%) from the 1,488 counted in the 2000 Census. Along with the neighboring coastal city of Lewes, Rehoboth Beach is one of the principal cities of Delaware's rapidly growing Cape Region. Rehoboth Beach lies within the Salisbury, Maryland-Delaware Metropolitan Statistical Area.
A popular regional vacation destination, Rehoboth Beach's seasonal population expands to over 25,000 within the city limits and thousands more in the surrounding area in the summer.
In 2011, the NRDC awarded Rehoboth Beach with a 5-Star rating in water quality. This award was given only to 12 other locations, one being neighboring Dewey Beach. Out of the 30 states with coastline, the Delaware Beaches ranked number one in water quality in 2011.
Human beings probably inhabited the area of Rehoboth Beach as long ago as 10,000 BC; little is known about them because much of the evidence of their existence has been destroyed by development. At that time, sea levels were lower, and the Atlantic Coast lay about 30 miles (48 km) farther east than it does today. At the time, the area would have resembled inland portions of southern Delaware today. By the time the first Europeans arrived in the area in the 17th century, the coastline was at its present location and several Native American tribes lived in the area, including the Lenape (or Delaware), the Sikkonese, the Assateagues, and the Nanticoke. The site was the location of what may have been the most important Native American fishing village on the Middle-Atlantic coast (the evidence has been obliterated by development). Pressure from English and Dutch settlers radiating outward from Delaware forced the Lenape to migrate to upper New York state, Canada, and Oklahoma, while the Sikkonese and Assateagues were extirpated; the Nanticoke, however, still exist in the general area today. The land later came under the control of the Duke of York, who granted it to various landholders in the 18th century. By the mid-19th century, the descendants of these landholders were farmers attempting to make a living off the relatively poor land.
The city was founded in 1873 as the Rehoboth Beach Camp Meeting Association by the Rev. Robert W. Todd, of St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal Church of Wilmington, Delaware, as a site for Methodist camp meetings in the spirit of similar resorts on the New Jersey shore, such as Ocean Grove. The Camp Meeting Association disbanded in 1881, and in 1891, the location was incorporated by the Delaware General Assembly as "Cape Henlopen City". In 1893, it was renamed to Rehoboth Beach.
Rehoboth (Hebrew: רְחוֹבוֹת) means "broad spaces." It appears three times in the Old Testament as a place name: a well dug by Isaac (at modern Wadi er-Ruheibeh) (Gen. 26:22), a city on the Euphrates River (Gen. 36:37; 1 Chr. 1:48), and one of the cities of Asshur (Gen. 10:11). Hence the name may have had a special appeal for the religious founders of the city, although the adjacent bay had already borne the name Rehoboth for at least a century before the town was founded.
The first boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach was constructed in 1873 and has seen changes in configuration from storms over the years. The Junction and Breakwater Railroad constructed a line from Lewes to Rehoboth Beach in 1878, running down the center of Rehoboth Avenue. The arrival of the railroad allowed visitors to come in from northern Delaware and Pennsylvania, leading to the beginning of Rehoboth Beach as a tourist destination. After the railroad came to Rehoboth Beach, the center of camp meetings and city life moved to Baltimore Avenue. The original Henlopen Hotel opened in 1879, with another hotel of the same name on the current site. A paved highway was built between Georgetown and Rehoboth Beach in 1925, which helped bring in travelers from the Washington, D.C. area.
The Avery's Rest Site, Dodd Homestead, Peter Marsh House, Thompson's Loss and Gain Site, Thompsons Island Site, Warrington Site, and Woman's Christian Temperance Union Fountain are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The town often bills itself as "The Nation's Summer Capital" due to the fact that it is a frequent summer vacation destination for Washington, D.C. residents as well as visitors from Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Vacationers are drawn for many reasons, including the town's charm and the lack of sales tax in Delaware. The Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk is a 1-mile (1.6 km) long wooden boardwalk adjacent to the beach with restaurants, shops, amusements, and attractions. Several restaurants and shops are located along the town's main street, Rehoboth Avenue. Outside of Rehoboth Beach along Delaware Route 1 are the Tanger Outlets, which operate three different locations along the highway with over 130 outlet stores.
Rehoboth Beach is also known as one of the mid-Atlantic coast's popular LGBT-friendly getaways because of the large number of LGBT-owned and operated businesses and because of the LGBT-frequented stretch of beach near Queen Street at the south end of the boardwalk, known as Poodle Beach. Poodle Beach attracts gay men while North Shore Beach within Cape Henlopen State Park attracts lesbian women.
Rehoboth Beach has a seasonal beach patrol who are in charge of lifeguarding the one and a half miles that make up the town's beach front. They operate from Memorial Day weekend into the following fall season.
The Rehoboth Beach Bandstand is located on Rehoboth Avenue near the boardwalk and serves as a free open-air music and entertainment venue in the summer months, with performances from over 50 bands during the course of the season. Performances have been held at the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand since 1963.
Reader's Digest named the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk as "Best of America" and featured it in the May 2006 issue. Additionally, AARP has named Rehoboth Beach as one of five dream towns as "Best Places to Retire".
The town has several festivals including the Sea Witch Festival, the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival, and the Rehoboth Beach Autumn Jazz Festival every year.
The Clear Space Theatre Company, a professional theater company, offers a year-round schedule of musical and dramatic productions in the Rehoboth Theatre of the Arts.
Dogfish Head Brewery's original brewpub is located on the town's main strip Rehoboth Avenue. The location has grown in years as a popular destination for American craft beer enthusiasts. Grotto Pizza was founded in Rehoboth Beach in 1960 and has grown to 23 locations throughout the state of Delaware along with parts of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Grotto Pizza has three locations in Rehoboth Beach, of which two are along the boardwalk while the other is along Rehoboth Avenue.
The restaurant scene in Rehoboth Beach was traditionally centered in the downtown area, which remains competitive. In the 21st century, a restaurant scene has begun to develop along the Delaware Route 1 corridor, where parking is more available and accessible.
In 2011, the city passed a smoking ban covering parks and playgrounds, but sparing the beach and boardwalk. The smoking ban was extended to the beach, boardwalk, and adjacent public areas in 2014. In 2017, the city implemented a ban on tents, canopies, and large umbrellas on the beach, the first such ban in Delaware.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.6 square miles (4.1 km2), of which, 1.2 square miles (3.1 km2) of it is land and 0.5 square miles (1.3 km2) of it (28.48%) is water. Rehoboth Beach is bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, on the north by the town of Henlopen Acres, and on the west and south by unincorporated portions of Sussex County. Cape Henlopen State Park lies just to the north of Rehoboth Beach, and Dewey Beach is just to its south.
Situated on the Atlantic Coastal Plain, Rehoboth Beach's weather is moderated by the Atlantic Ocean and the Rehoboth Bay. Rehoboth Beach has a mild humid subtropical climate consisting of hot, humid summers and cool winters. The average daytime high in July is 87 °F (31 °C) and a low of 70 °F (21 °C); in January, the average high is 45 °F (7 °C) with an average low of 30 °F (−1 °C). The month of highest average rainfall is July with 4.78 inches (121 mm) of rain, while February is historically the driest month, receiving an average of only 3.23 inches (82 mm) of rain. Large amounts of snowfall are infrequent; recent significant snowstorms include 10 inches (25 cm) of snowfall on February 24, 1989 and 18 inches (46 cm) of snowfall on February 3, 1996.
The highest official temperature ever recorded in Rehoboth Beach was 102 °F (39 °C) on June 21, 1997. The lowest official temperature ever recorded in Rehoboth Beach was −11 °F (−24 °C) on January 17, 1982.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,495 people, 847 households, and 343 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,266.5 people per square mile (489.2/km²). There were 3,167 housing units at an average density of 2,682.9 per square mile (1,036.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 98.13% White, 0.27% African American, 0.13% Native American, 0.67% Asian, 0.54% from other races, and 0.27% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.94% of the population.
There were 847 households out of which 6.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.8% were married couples living together, 3.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 59.4% were non-families. 47.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 23.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.71 and the average family size was 2.35.
In the city, the population was spread out with 7.0% under the age of 18, 3.7% from 18 to 24, 18.5% from 25 to 44, 33.3% from 45 to 64, and 37.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 57 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $51,429, and the median income for a family was $66,844. Males had a median income of $56,250 versus $28,295 for females. The per capita income for the city was $67,715. About 3.1% of families and 5.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.9% of those under age 18 and 4.5% of those age 65 or over.
Rehoboth Beach is governed by a mayor and a city manager. As of 2017, the mayor is Paul Kuhns and the city manager is Sharon Lynn. There are several departments, city boards, commissions, and committees that oversee the daily functions of the city government. Some of these officials are elected while others are appointed.
Police services in Rehoboth Beach is provided by the Rehoboth Beach Police Department, which consists of 17 full-time officers and 9 full-time dispatchers along with additional seasonal police officers in the peak summer months. Fire protection to Rehoboth Beach and nearby areas is provided by the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company, which maintains three stations.
In addition to beaches along the Atlantic Ocean, there are several parks located in Rehoboth Beach. Grove Park is home to a playground, pavilion, restrooms, and benches. Stockley Street Park is located along Silver Lake and has benches and a playground. Teardrop Park offers a dock along Silver Lake. Lake Gerar Park is located along Lake Gerar and has benches and a playground. There are tennis courts that are located at Deauville Beach. Deer Park and Central Park offer wooded areas that allow for wildlife viewing. Lee Street Park offers trees for shade. Martin's Lawn, located near the Anna Hazzard Museum and the Senior Center, offers a grassy area and trees.
Delaware Route 1 (Coastal Highway) does not enter Rehoboth Beach, instead skirting the town to the south and west. Delaware Route 1A crosses through Rehoboth Beach in an L shape, running east from DE 1 and heading across a drawbridge over the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal into the city, where it heads east along Rehoboth Avenue to 2nd Street, then south along 2nd Street, Bayard Avenue, and Silver Lake Drive to another junction with DE 1 in Dewey Beach. Delaware Route 1B provides another route into Rehoboth Beach via State Road, connecting to DE 1 south of a high-level crossing of the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal. On-street parking in the downtown area is regulated by parking meters from the Friday before Memorial Day to the second Sunday after Labor Day. Between the Friday before Memorial Day and Labor Day, parking permits are required for all non-metered on-street parking spaces in Rehoboth Beach. A parking lot is also available at Deauville Beach in the northern part of the city, with parking permits required between the Friday before Memorial Day and the second Sunday after Labor Day.
The Delaware Department of Transportation operates a park and ride lot called the Rehoboth Beach Park and Ride just outside the city limits, located along Shuttle Road off of DE 1. During the peak summer months, DART First State operates Beach Bus service that provides frequent service in and out of the city and to the rest of the Delaware Beaches area and to Ocean City, Maryland, where it connects to Ocean City Transportation's Coastal Highway Beach Bus, from the Park and Ride lot. On summer weekends and holidays, DART First State operates the Route 305 "Beach Connection" service, which runs from Wilmington to the Park and Ride outside Rehoboth Beach, with intermediate stops at the Christiana Mall, Middletown, Dover, and the Lewes Transit Center. DART First State also operates the year-round Route 201 service running between Rehoboth Beach and the Lewes Transit Center and the year-round Route 215 service which connects Rehoboth Beach with Millsboro; both of these routes offer expanded summer Beach Bus service.
The Delaware River and Bay Authority operates a shuttle bus during the summer months to the Tanger Outlets and the park and ride lot in Rehoboth Beach from the Cape May–Lewes Ferry, which provides ferry service across the Delaware Bay to Cape May, New Jersey.
The Jolly Trolley is a private shuttle service that provides frequent transport in Rehoboth Beach and to neighboring Dewey Beach. The service operates daily through the summer tourist season between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day and on weekends in the shoulder season before Memorial Day and after Labor Day.
BestBus offers intercity bus service to Rehoboth Beach from Union Station and Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. and 34th Street in the Midtown Manhattan section of New York City on weekends in the summer months.
The Junction and Breakwater Trail is a rail trail for bicyclists and hikers that connects Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, running 6 miles (9.7 km) mostly along a former Penn Central Railroad right-of-way.
Delmarva Power, a subsidiary of Exelon, provides electricity to Rehoboth Beach. Chesapeake Utilities provides natural gas to the city. The city's Water Department provides water service and the city's Waste Water Department provides sewer service in Rehoboth Beach and nearby outlying areas including North Shores and Breezewood. The city's Streets Department provides trash and recycling collection to homes and businesses in Rehoboth Beach.
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