(Reprinted from: Town of Bethany Beach, DE – Official Website)
Bethany was founded by members of the Christian Church (also known as the Disciples of Christ) of Washington DC area and Pennsylvania.The original idea was not to found a town, but to find a suitable tract of land for a permanent yearly seaside assembly for the Christian churches of the country.
Bethany was named by H.L. Atkinson who won a nationwide contest. He was given a lot on the beach as his prize. Bethany still reflects the character of the early settlers who were looking for “a haven of rest for quiet people.”
The first building in Bethany was the tabernacle, an octagonal auditorium on the assembly grounds of the Christian Missionary Society. It was dedicated July 12, 1901, though still uncompleted. It had brown shingles and was 100 feet in diameter with a cupola on top. It lasted 60 years until storms and termites destroyed the building.That same day the deed to the Tabernacle and surrounding 15 acres was presented to Dr. Powers, representing the Christian Missionary Society by the Bethany Beach Improvement Company.
Problems soon arose. A railroad had been promised but not delivered, water was poor, and rains poured into the Auditorium. As a result, the officers of the Bethany Beach Improvement Company were fired.Six businessmen from Pittsburgh were sent to bail them out. In the fall of 1902, they bought up the company, moved to the Beach and put their stamp on development for years to come. These men included W.R. Errett, lawyer; John M. Addy, plumber; W.S. Kidd, steel manufacturer; R.S. Latimer, tea merchant; Dr. T.E. Cramblet, president of Bethany College in WV; and W.A. Dinker, the first president of the new company.