In 1958, the motel was built and owned by Sallie “Miss Sallie” Littleton & her husband. Formerly known as Westward Pines Motel.
The concept of Westward Pines Motel was created by Miss Sallie and her husband, Horace Littleton. It all started when the Littletons decided to build their new home in Bethany Beach that would allow their family and friends to come together. Family and friends was all that Miss Sallie needed to inspire the idea of Westward Pines Motel. It would create a large space for them to visit and enjoy time together by the beach.
From the summer of 1958 until September of that year, Miss Sallie and Horace worked every single night together on the project. They drew up a rough draft blue print and changed the design nearly every night until they were satisfied with it. They put a lot of love for their friends and family into these designs and wanted to make sure it would be suitable for all. They decided on the name “Westward Pines” due to the lot they purchased was surrounded by Bethany woods and the location of the business was westward from South Bethany.
Once satisfied with their drawing, they took their rough draft over to their good friend and engineer, C. Townsend. Mr. Townsend worked on creating a true blueprint to reflect their inspiration to submit for approval. The blueprint was finally approved in the beginning of September, 1958 and the building process began at the end of the month.
Westward Pines Motel was a strip of motel rooms surrounded by various flowers and the natural beauty of Bethany Beach. The office building was the home of the Littletons. The office was equipped with a living room, kitchen, bedroom, and the motel lobby and office. Mrs. Sallie’s husband was also a Fire Chief for the Bethany Beach Fire Department at the time. He salvaged some wooden beams from a house fire on Jefferson Bridge Rd, and you can find those beams still today on the ceiling of their former bedroom; the Garden Room.
The motel started receiving business when Blue Surf Motel in Bethany Beach would direct their guests to stay at Westward Pines when they were overbooked. That is when they started to receive a very wide following. Their business even attracted those associated with The Smithsonian Institute and John Hopkins hospital. Staff members of these prestige institutions would return every year, booking every room at the motel and they would spend their time gathering for meals and playing games together. However, what really enticed their guests to return was how Miss Sallie would bring all of her guests into the rooms and treat them as if they were family.
On March 5, 1962, an unexpected (36-hour stationary) northeaster storm known as “Ash Wednesday Storm” or the “Great March Storm” came through causing $90 million in damages, and claiming the lives of 7 people between Dewey Beach and Fenwick Island. Westward Pines was also affected by this storm, but Miss Sallie and her husband worked hard to bring it back together for their family and friends.
More information on the Ash Wednesday Storm:
In 1985, Miss Sallie had to make a very difficult decision as her husband had fallen ill and was unable to care for both him and the motel. Later that year, she sold Westward Pines Motel to Mary K. Kelly.
Mrs. Kelly tried to keep the same care and hospitality that Miss Sallie had put into the motel for all of those years. She operated it continuously for 21 years. Miss Sallie even returned several years later after selling the property for a nostalgic reunion. After some discussion and overview of the motel, Miss Sallie presented Mary with a very heartfelt hug of appreciation and fulfillment; validating her satisfaction with Mary’s upkeep of the motel.
In 2006, Mary Kelly was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. Mary Kelly obtained the best doctors from Johns Hopkins Hospital to take her case. She also maintained her own medical degree there. Shortly after her diagnosis, Tom Kelly, her husband had passed unexpectedly. The motel was subsequently closed for four years after that.
In 2010, Mary Kelly sent a request to the Sussex County Council to redevelop the motel into a 16-unit town home development, but was denied due to the small capacity of water & sewage.
In 2010, the motel was completely renovated and reopened – much to the delight of many loyal former guests. Mrs. Kelly insisted on doing all the housekeeping herself, in which she ensured the rooms would be “hospital clean”. She accomplished this while she continued going to John Hopkins every three weeks for chemotherapy, and later to Rehoboth Beach for platelets.
In August of 2012, Mrs. Kelly lost her fight with cancer and the motel was closed by the end of September of that year.
June 27, 2013, the motel was sold to Michael Daniels. It was reopened that summer under the new name, Meris Gardens. During the winter months, the rooms were remodeled with new flooring, paint, etc. The office building was no longer used as a home, instead it was remodeled creating the Bed & Breakfast that it is today.
Meris Gardens temporarily closes in the winter to update or remodel the rooms for the following season. It is currently owned and operated by Mr. Daniels along with his year-round staff members, Sue and Jenn. Together, they work hard to maintain that Miss Sallie and Mary Kelly care and hospitality for the building and their guests.
Special Thank you to Miss Sallie and Dexter (Mary’s Friend) for sharing their stories and the history of Westward Pines Motel!