The Burton-Blackstone-Carey Store on State Street in Millsboro became the newest addition to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Burton-Blackstone-Carey Store is believed to be the oldest commercial building in Millsboro.

Yet it was only last month that the State Street institution became the newest addition to the National Register of Historic Places.

A long history

The Burton-Blackstone-Carey Store is estimated to be more than 170 years old, although its exact age has been lost to history.

Ed Carey, son of store owner Beatrice Carey, said the structure’s characteristics, such as the original cypress shingles and 19th century board-and-batten door with iron strap hinges, indicate it most likely was built around the 1840s.

In the mid-1800s, the building was owned by Benjamin Burton, the town’s wealthiest resident and the largest-known slave owner in Delaware. Burton is known for visiting Washington D.C. alongside Delaware Congressman George Fisher in 1861, where they discusssed plans with President Abraham Lincoln for the compensated emancipation of the state’s slaves.

In 1918, the building was moved 50 feet from its original location on the corner State and Main streets to accommodate the construction of a bank for the Delaware Trust Company, which still stands next door.

The new owners, Maud and Earnest Blackstone, opened a drug store and added a one-story lean-to addition for an ice cream parlor between 1918 and 1929. Like Burton, Blackstone also was a historical Delaware figure, having served as state treasurer in the early to mid-1900s.

A family affair

The building, which the current owner calls the “store with the corner door,” also was part of Carey’s childhood. He first saw it when his aunt worked at the finance company that was once located inside.

“It was a different-looking place, with the entrance in the corner instead of on the side or front, but that’s what made me remember it, I guess,” he wrote on his blog, thecornerdoor.com. “It was different and it became a landmark for me.”

Carey’s parents, Ned and Beatrice “Bea” Carey, first owned a store on Laurel Road but purchased and moved to the State Street building in 1953.

Since then, the space has seen many changes, transforming from a hardware store to a paint store to its current role as a framing business.

Ned Carey passed away in 2004, but Ed’s mother, Bea, still operates the “Carey’s Frame Shop” there.

“I was lost after my husband passed away, it’s therapeutic for me,” Bea Carey said. “I enjoy the people and I enjoy making the frames, too.”

According to Ed Carey, the building is primarily in its original condition, with the exception of a few minor maintenance repairs.

A national program

Carey said he values the historical significance of the building and believed it was worthy of note.

He said that’s why he began the research and application process required to have the property recognized as an historical site through the National Park Service.

Private property owners can apply to have their property recognized as a historical site if significant historical and archival evidence is presented, according to Jim Yurasek, a spokesman for the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.

“It’s a very good program. It helps save places in history that matter in the community,” Yurasek said. “Some people may not even know they have these places in their town.”

There are currently more than150 sites in Sussex County listed in the National Register of Historic Places, including Carey’s Camp in Millsboro and The Brick Hotel in Georgetown.

Carey said he mostly used the state archives in Dover and local court documents to gather as much history as possible about his family’s building before submitting an application to the National Park Service.

“It takes diligence,” he said. “It requires you learn a different language, because the long handwriting of the days of the past can be difficult to understand. You just have to study.”

Almost a year and a half after he began the application process, Carey learned the Burton-Blackstone-Carey Store on State Street had been added to the national register of historic places.

“All that hard work paid off,” he said.