For 160 years, the Fenwick Island Lighthouse, a white, 87-foot tower topped with a black lantern, has stood along the Delaware coast. For residents of Fenwick Island, Del., the lighthouse represents the area’s rich maritime history. For Chris Brasure, a longtime Delaware resident and vice president of Brasure’s Pest Control, it also holds a piece of his family’s legacy — an element he was able to help preserve through his company’s work on the lighthouse keeper’s house.
Built in response to the significant number of shipwrecks occurring about six miles off the shore, the Fenwick Island Lighthouse was completed and lit in 1859, making it the oldest lighthouse in Delaware. For many years, the tower’s light beam, which could be seen 15 miles out in the ocean, guided ships through the treacherous waters of the Fenwick Shoals. The lighthouse remained in use until 1978, when it was decommissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard. This decision sparked outrage across Delaware and many members of the Fenwick Island community petitioned for the lighthouse to be returned to its original status. Three years later, the Coast Guard transferred ownership of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse to the state of Delaware, signifying the beginning of the restoration process.
“The Fenwick Island Lighthouse is a key part of the history behind the small town’s rising and success,” Brasure said. “It is important to keep that memory alive.”
The lighthouse also has historical value for the Brasure family. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Fenwick Island became known for salt mining, a process that involves boiling saltwater and gathering the leftover residue. Brasure’s ancestors, Jacob and James Brasure, carried out this practice using large iron salt pots. Today, one of those pots is on display at the Fenwick Island Lighthouse. So, when a construction crew working on the lighthouse keeper’s house reached out to Brasure’s about a pest problem, the job took on a special significance.
In the spring of 2019, Kent Construction contacted Brasure’s Pest Control after discovering active termites in the walls. The firm soon realized moisture issues resulting from the house’s unique structure had encouraged the infestation. The house features a balloon frame, meaning all the vertical interior joists are joined as one solid piece, from the first floor to the attic. During the 20th century, renovators of the keeper’s house hung plastic on the exterior walls from the inside and placed drywall over it in an effort to retain heat, an action that instead retained moisture.
“When we evaluated the keeper’s house, we measured the wood moisture to be as high as 22 percent,” Brasure said. “Having this high of a wood moisture content, termites were able to colonize and run rampant within the walls of the house, evading any chemical treatments.”
Before the Brasure’s team could treat the termite colony, the moisture needed to be forced out of the structure. The firm encapsulated the crawlspace and installed a dehumidifier. The contractors working on the house replaced the rotted wood. Once the area dried out, Brasure’s applied a non-repellent termiticide to prevent future termite infestations. Going forward, Brasure’s will inspect the house for termites annually and perform a bi-annual inspection of the crawlspace and service the dehumidifier.
“Brasure’s Pest Control was honored to play a part in preserving the history of the Fenwick Island keeper’s house because, in turn, we were able to preserve a bit of our own family history for the years to come,” Brasure said.
Founded in 1971 by Brasure’s father, Carroll Brasure, Brasure’s Pest Control has operated in Delaware and Maryland for nearly 50 years. Brasure began helping his father with jobs at age 14 and decided shortly after high school that he wanted to remain in the family business. His father’s dedication and success inspired him to work in pest control.
“It was inspiring to watch my father create that kind of success, and it is rewarding to be able to be a part of it and continue his legacy,” Brasure said.
The author is a Cleveland-based writer.