Renaissance Association Presents Annual Awards

SMYRNA, DEL., Nov. 29, 2018 – The Smyrna Downtown Renaissance Association, a non profit organization which encourages the beautification and preservation of Smyrna’s Historic District, presented its 2018 Community Service Awards at its Annual Reception and Meeting at the Painted Stave earlier this month.

Association President Maria Newill (l) presents the 2018 Star of Smyrna Award to Mike Rasmussen (c) and Ron Gomes(r) of the Painted Stave.

This year’s Star of Smyrna Award, the Association’s most prestigious, was presented to Mike Rasmussen and Ron Gomes for their vision and dedication in establishing The Painted Stave, the first stand-alone craft distillery in the State of Delaware, which has been a dynamic force in the revitalization of the Town of Smyrna, Del.

Each year the Association recognizes an outstanding public official for their work in promoting and improving the Town of Smyrna, and especially its Historic District.  This year, the Association honored Senator Bruce Ennis in recognition of his many years of service in the Citizens Hose Company, in the Delaware General Assembly and Senate, which has improved the quality of life and enhanced public safety for many generations of Smyrna residents and for his support for cultural and historical institutions including the Smyrna Opera House, the Duck Creek Historical Society, the Duck Creek Regional Library and the July 4th Foundation, which has cultivated a sense of place for Smyrna’s residents and made our community a better place to live.

Smyrna Downtown Renaissance Association President Maria Newill (l)
presents Senator Bruce Ennis (r) with the Association’s
2018 Outstanding Public Official Award.

This year, the Association’s Ellen Sayers Civic Beautification Award was presented to Valerie White for her promotion of 1000 Trees For Smyrna, for improving the quality of life in Smyrna’s Historic District and for making the Town a better place to live work and play.

Smyrna Downtown Renaissance Association President Maria Newill (l)
presents Councilwoman Valerie White (r) with the Association’s
2018 Ellen Sayers Civic Beautification Award.

Jason Kokotaylo received the Ken and Regina Brown Historic Education Award for his outstanding drawings of historic buildings for the 250th Anniversary coloring book.  Kokotaylo also provided drawings and maps for numerous brochures, including the Tree Tour for Historic Belmont Hall and the 250th Anniversary Tour of Smyrna’s Historic Homes.

The Smyrna Downtown Renaissance Association works to encourage the preservation  and improvement of both residential, commercial and institutional historic structures in Smyrna’s Historic District.  This year a residential award and grant was presented to Jeremy Reed for his restoration of the Tighlman Building located at 13 East Commerce Street and a Commercial/Institutional award and grant was presented to The Painted Stave in recognition of their expansion of The Painted Stave, located at 106 West Commerce Street, while maintaining the historic character of the property.

Jeremy Reed (r) accepts his façade grant award for his restoration of
the Tighlman Building from Association President Maria Newill (l).

The members of the Association elected Attorney Maria Paris Newill of West Commerce Street to another term as President.  Newill also is a member of Smyrna’s Redevelopment Authority.  Other officers elected at the meeting included Ruth M. Bower of North Main Street as Vice President; Allan Ryder, who is an Editor at the Delaware State News, who resides on West South Street, as Treasurer; Attorney William Wagner of East Commerce Street as Assistant Treasurer; and Joanne Masten of South Street as Secretary.

The Smyrna Downtown Renaissance Association has provided grants to organizations like the Duck Creek Historical Society for its archival initiative and a $5,000.00 grant to assist with the publication of the anniversary’s commemorative book.  It provided an initial $5,000.00 interest free seed loan to Smyrna’s 250th Organizing Committee to allow for the purchase of commemorative items for resale in order to raise funds for this wonderful yearlong celebration.  This year the Association continued to offer grants for historical markers, and street trees (including its Grant-a-Tree/Plant-a-Tree program) and also funded anniversary and holiday decorations for  public streets.

The Association maintains the planters on South Main Street and at the Four Corners at the Library and Smyrna Opera House.  It also maintains plantings to screen the South Main Street Public Parking Area and the planting at the old Post Office.

The Smyrna Downtown Renaissance Association celebrated Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge as a hometown special place with its 2018 Placemaking Project, a birdhouse decorating contest. The public was invited to decorate a bluebird house provided by Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge and to compete for valuable cash prizes provided by the Association.  The Project was a great success under the guidance of Karen Gill, who has actively kept the association connected with Delaware Downtown and the National Main Street Center.

More than 600 people voted for their favorite entries at I ♥ Smyrna School District Day.  In March, all of the entries were displayed in the windows of Ward Hall, courtesy of Bill and Mary Whitaker.  Winners were displayed at Smyrna’s Arbor Day and were auctioned off generating $600.00 which was donated to Councilwoman White’s “1000 Trees for Smyrna.”  Overall, the project was a great success and brought the Refuge and the Town closer together.

The Association successfully partnered with the Town on an $80,500.00 Delaware State Community Building Block Grant to design and plant a pocket park near the Maverick Texas Barbeque and new light posts with cameras, so that the Smyrna Police Department can monitor downtown.  Thank you to all of the members who helped to plant the park on Earth Day.

The Association advocates for historic preservation each year in May during National Historic Preservation Month through varied programs and events including the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “This Place Matters Campaign.” The celebration included guided tours of the Historic District led by Jim Wolfe and other activities designed to highlight the Town’s rich architectural heritage. The Association staged a “This Place Matters” photo op at 132 South Main Street and empanelled a blue ribbon Demolition by Neglect Committee, which launched an in-depth study of this problem and identified private and public sector assistance programs which can assist owners of historic homes to maintain them.  A comprehensive presentation to Town Council is planned for early in the New Year.

The Association also is advocating expansion of the Historic District to protect cultural resources and historic structures, including the old Wayside Inn.  Finally, the Association presented a book titled Restoring Old Houses to Smyrna Public Library.  This encyclopedic volume offers valuable guidance on how to address issues with older structures whether for the DIY type or evaluating work by a contractor.

The Smyrna Downtown Renaissance Association is looking forward to a busy and productive new year.  Membership is open to the public and anyone interested in historic preservation or community beautification is invited to join.  For more information, phone (302) 653-6449 or visit the Association’s website at

Photographs by Dylan McDowell