In a ceremony held at the New Castle Court House on Dec. 18, 2014, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper and U.S. Rep. John Carney celebrated the imminent creation of Delaware’s first national park which will shine a spotlight on the state’s early Dutch, Swedish and English settlements and its role in the events leading up to the founding of the United States as a nation.
Earlier in the month, the U.S. House of Representatives, followed by the U.S. Senate, passed legislation that authorizes the First State National Monument to be renamed the First State National Historical Park and expands the current national monument to include park sites in all three counties of Delaware. The language that was passed mirrors bills introduced by Sens. Carper and Chris Coons and Rep. Carney—the First State National Historical Park Act of 2013. The approved legislation now goes to President Obama for his signature.
Created in 2013, the First State National Monument is comprised of three historic areas including the state-owned New Castle Court House and Green which are administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs; the Woodlawn property in the Brandywine Valley; and the Dover Green. Monument headquarters (currently closed to the public) are located in the Sheriff’s House, a former division property that was transferred to the federal government in 2013 as part of the process of creating the national monument.
The newly created national historical park will include all of those sites plus the following: Old Swedes Church National Historic Landmark in Wilmington, the Ryves-Holt House in Lewes and two more sites administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs—Fort Christina National Historic Landmark in Wilmington and the John Dickinson Plantation in Dover. The National Park Service will continue to make its headquarters in the Sheriff’s House in New Castle.
In a written statement, Sen. Carper noted, “For over a decade, I have been working with federal officials, state officials, community leaders and everyday citizens to establish a national park in Delaware. I thank my colleagues in the House and Senate for approving this legislation. Now, Delaware has a national park that preserves and teaches the lessons of our state’s heritage and our country’s history. I cannot wait for the day when families from all across this country and the world will plan their vacations around the First State National Historical Park to learn how Delaware helped launch the most enduring experiment in democracy that the world has ever known—the United States of America.”
For press accounts on the creation of the First State National Historical Park, go to the following:
Delaware celebrates national park…finally
News Journal, Wilmington, Del.—Dec. 18, 2014
Delaware celebrates state’s first national park
WDEL Radio, Wilmington, Del.—Dec. 18, 2014
Delaware Officials Celebrate National Park
ABC News, New York, N.Y.—Dec. 18, 2014
Delaware’s long road to a National Park
Newsworks, WHYY TV 12, Wilmington, Del.—Dec. 18, 2014
Unknowns In Terms Of Funding And Personnel Await New Units Of National Park System
National Parks Traveler, Park City, Utah—Dec. 15, 2014
Delaware national park expansion clears Congress
News Journal, Wilmington, Del.—Dec. 12, 2014
First State now to be home of a National Park
WDDE Radio, Dover, Del.—Dec. 12, 2014
Sen. Carper Addresses Defense Policy Bill
WBOC TV, Salisbury, Del.—Dec. 12, 2014
For Delaware, a national park upgrade
News Journal, Wilmington, Del.—Dec. 8, 2014
During an end-of-the-year success event on Dec. 15, 2014, Delaware Secretary of State Jeffrey W. Bullock and Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs Director Tim Slavin paid tribute to the staff, volunteers, partners and friends who helped make 2014 an award-winning year for the division.
As part of his presentation, Slavin noted the progress that had been made in implementing the division’s strategic plan for fiscal years 2015 to 2019 which was released on Jan. 27, 2014. Accomplishments include completion of the “common look and feel” for the division’s website, compilation of an agency-wide staff directory that identifies employees’ special skills and talents, development of a staff-recognition program, completion of a five-year exhibit schedule and the development of team budgets. In addition, development of a marketing/communication plan and implementation of the division’s disaster-preparedness plan are currently underway.
Slavin also spotlighted the numerous awards that the division had received in 2014 including four honors from the American Association for State and Local History—the Award of Merit and History in Progress Award that the agency shared with the Delaware Historical Society for their collaborative exhibit “Forging Faith, Building Freedom: African American Faith Experiences in Delaware, 1800-1980”; the Award of Merit that the agency received for “The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World”; and the division’s successful graduation from the association’s StEPs program (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations). The division also successfully completed the Core Documents Verification Program, a key component of its efforts to receive accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums.
After the review of agency accomplishments, Slavin welcomed staff members who have joined the division during 2014 including Morgan Booker, Marian Carpenter, Carlton Hall, Charity Luksha, James Scott, Desiree Williams and Rachel Wootten; and presented staff service-awards to Dianna Harris for 30+ years of service, Manny Carrar and Jim Yurasek for 25+ years, Ed Gillespie for 15+ years and Michael Cinque for 5+ years.
Volunteer-service certificates were awarded to Arnold Leftwich for 697.5 volunteer hours, Charolenne Shehorn (609 hours), Kent Slavin (606 hours) Howard Fulcher (602 hours), Jim Schilling (407.5 hours), David Perlmutter (294 hours), Laura Herbin (218.5 hours), Gene Modzelewski (157 hours), Caroline Dworkin (115 hours), Carolyn Apple (114.5 hours), Valarie Shorter (87 hours) and Larry Watkins (83.5 hours). Ed Gillespie, the division’s physical-plant maintenance supervisor, was also honored as the Delaware Department of State’s Employee of the Third Quarter, and former staff members Ken Darsney and Jenna Reynolds were thanked for their service.
Division partners and friends who were recognized were Yancey and Dave Hillegas and Kevin Phillips of the Bethel Historical Society; Florence Davis, Nancy Jodlbauer and Jim Whisman of the New Castle Historical Society; Michele Restucci, Deanna Rishell and Sarah Zimmerman of the First State Heritage Park; Kendel Jones and Dr. Akwasi Osei, former members of the State Review Board for Historic Preservation; Pat Lawson a trustee of the Hebron Methodist Protestant Church that has been nominated for placement on the National Register of Historic Places; and Danielle Patton, Bill Rieker and Kevin Wright of the Delaware Department of Technology and Information.
In recent months, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has received assistance from a variety of sources for repairs and improvements at two state-owned properties that are administered by the division—the Darley House located at 3701 Philadelphia Pike in Claymont and the Hale-Byrnes House located at 606 Stanton-Christiana Road in Newark.
At the Darley House, Delmarva Power installed a line, at no charge to the state, which can be used for delivering natural gas to the site. As part of the installation process, the utility company worked closely with division staff and the property’s tenant, the Claymont Renaissance Development Corporation, to accommodate archaeological monitoring at this National Register of Historic Places-listed site that once served as the home of noted 19th century illustrator Felix O. C. Darley.
Thanks to efforts by state Rep. Dennis E. Williams, Delaware’s Sustainable Energy Utility conducted an energy audit at Darley House. Williams then led efforts in the Delaware General Assembly that resulted in funding for a variety of improvements at the site including air sealing, weather stripping, chimney pointing, insulating select areas of the building and replacement of several incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. Willams also helped secure funding for the construction of a fence along the property’s northern boundary and a connecting path from the adjacent property’s parking lot to Darley House.
This assistance was particularly helpful as it took place during a time when the division was already involved in repairing the property after a spring hail-storm damaged the house’s siding, wood trim, flashings, gutters, and main and porch roofs.
The Delaware Society for the Preservation of Antiquities, a nonprofit historic-preservation organization and tenant at the Hale-Byrnes House, sponsored repairs to the brick pathway and stairs leading from the parking lot to the house’s front entrance. These improvements will help to ensure safe access to this National Register of Historic Places-listed home built in 1750 and used in 1777 as a meeting place for Gen. George Washington and his staff between the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge in Delaware and the Battle of Brandywine in Pennsylvania.
Written on: December 17th, 2014 in News
The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs is bidding farewell to exhibit-arts specialist Jenna Reynolds who will depart the agency on Dec. 31, 2014 to take the position of administrative/creative assistant at the Freedom Worship Center in Milford, Del.
Reynolds began working for the division in 2002 as an administrative specialist at the agency’s former office site at Rose Cottage in Dover. She subsequently served in the division’s Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team where she was involved in exhibit planning and design; and in the graphic design of division reports, posters and advertising. Reynolds also held primary responsibility for the design and maintenance of the division’s website, and was a member of the Community Engagement Committee that has been working in recent months on the development of a comprehensive marketing plan for the agency.
Written on: December 17th, 2014 in News
On Oct. 27, 2014, the Delaware Department of State announced that Ed Gillespie, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ physical-plant maintenance supervisor, had been selected as Employee of the Third Quarter. Delaware Secretary of State Jeffrey W. Bullock presented the award certificate to Gillespie during the division’s end-of-year success event on Dec. 15, 2014.
According to the nomination letter, submitted by one of his co-workers, Gillespie’s “work ethic and positive attitude, even during emergency situations, has been an example to his team.” In May 2014, the division’s physical-plant maintenance superintendent went out on extended medical leave and Gillespie stepped into the breach by accepting leadership of the Preservation-Maintenance Team. During that time, Gillespie not only made sure that daily work assignments were completed and emergencies situations addressed, he also found time to mentor two new employees in electrical and heating-venting-air-conditioning procedures.
On multiple occasions, Gillespie has worked into the night and on weekends when emergencies have arisen at division-administered sites. During a single period in August 2014, he was confronted with concurrent electrical emergencies at the Johnson Victrola Museum and at Woodburn: The Governor’s House. In a deliberate and clear-headed manner, Gillespie took control of the situation, supervising contractors and making sure that repair work was completed properly. His quick reaction and calm leadership helped protect the buildings and the people who use them.
Gillespie has served as the division’s physical-plant maintenance supervisor since April 2014. Prior to that time, he served for 10 years as a physical-plant maintenance mechanic.
The Delaware Department of State’s employee recognition program provides department employees with opportunities to be recognized for significant contributions, individual achievements and exceptional overall performance attained through their daily work and/or community service.
In a recognition ceremony held at the Delaware Public Archives building in Dover on Dec. 6, 2014, Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock presented awards celebrating the work of 1,171 students from 26 schools across the state who took part in the 2014 Delaware Day Fourth Grade Competition. Over the past 13 years, more than 10,000 students have participated in the program.
Delaware Day commemorates the anniversary of Delaware becoming the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on Dec. 7, 1787. Six months later, on June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document thereby providing the two-thirds majority of the states needed to establish the Constitution as the law of the land.
Sponsored annually by Delaware’s secretary of state, the Fourth Grade Competition encourages students to study the Constitution and to discover Delaware’s role in its writing and ratification. Students’ observations are presented in a four-panel display format that incorporates prose, poetry, artwork, songs and political cartoons. Each display is reviewed for factual accuracy, spelling and creativity.
Questions for this year’s competition required students to specifically study the Philadelphia Convention, Article I (the legislative branch), Article V (the amendment process) and Article VII (the ratification process). Since a congressional election was held in November 2014, students were also asked to compare and contrast today’s direct election of senators with the process originally established in the Constitution by which senators were elected by state legislatures. Understanding today’s election process required students to study the 17th Amendment which was ratified by 36 states in 1913 and by Delaware in 2010.
Each of the competition’s winning schools was recognized with a Signer’s Award named for one of Delaware’s five signatories of the U.S. Constitution. The Signer’s Awards for the 2014 competition are the George Read Award to the William C. Lewis Dual Language Elementary School in Wilmington; the Gunning Bedford, Jr. Award (tie) to Bunker Hill Elementary School in Middletown and North Star Elementary School in Hockessin; the John Dickinson Award to North Dover Elementary School; the Richard Bassett Award to Frederick Douglass Elementary School in Seaford; and the Jacob Broom Award (tie) to Christ the Teacher School in Newark and the Wilmington Friends School.
Honorable-mention awards were presented to Booker T. Washington, Brader, East Dover, Etta J. Wilson, Gallaher, Lake Forest Central, Leasure, Lord Baltimore, Richard A. Shields, Richardson Park, Star Hill and Thurgood Marshall elementary schools; Calvary Christian, the Learning Express and St. Edmond’s academies; and St. John’s Lutheran School.
Special Artistic Merit Awards, given by the Division of the Arts, were also announced during the ceremony. Schools honored with this award were Bunker Hill, Richardson Park and William C. Lewis Dual Language elementary schools; the Learning Express Academy; and Wilmington Friends School. North Dover Elementary School received an Artistic Merit Honorable Mention Award.
“Delaware Day is a great time to learn about the important history of our state,” said Secretary Bullock. “I was so impressed with the work of the fourth graders from across the state who contributed projects to the competition, and congratulate them on a job well done.”
The 2014 Delaware Day Student Competition was planned and organized by Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ historian and National Register coordinator Madeline Dunn in consultation with the state Department of Education. Participation by other division staff-members included service as judges of the student-developed projects, development of awards certificates and printed materials, set-up of the awards-program location and staffing at the event.
Written on: November 25th, 2014 in News
During the month of November 2014, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs welcomed Rachel Wootten as its new volunteer-services coordinator, and bid farewell to Horticulture Team manager Ken Darsney.
Rachel Wootten comes to the division from the Multi-Cultural Community Center in Milford, Del. where she worked as an assistant to the executive director, and where she volunteered in providing after-school help for at-risk youth. A 2012 graduate of the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a concentration in human rights, she spent a year in Cameroon, West Africa, where she volunteered for service as a community development officer with United Action for Children, a community-based, nonprofit organization that provides a nurturing environment for the effective growth and development of young people. During her service with that organization, Wootten coordinated a group of international volunteers who administered a “school-on-wheels” program that provided remote villages with educational services.
Originally from Maryland, Wootten grew up in Lewes, Del. and now lives in Houston, Del. As the division’s new volunteer-services coordinator, she will be working to recruit, and fully utilize the talents of, a dedicated cadre of volunteers who can help the agency preserve Delaware’s historical legacy.
In December 2014, Ken Darsney will open a new career-chapter as horticultural supervisor for the Nemours Mansion and Gardens, a 300-acre country estate once owned by the businessman and philanthropist Alfred I. duPont. Located north of Wilmington, Del., Nemours features a classical French-style mansion and one of the largest French formal gardens in North America.
A member of the division staff since June 2011, Darsney’s responsibilities included management of the Horticulture Team as well as hands-on horticultural and arboricultural work. Under his leadership, the Horticulture Team compiled an impressive list of accomplishments including transformation of the grounds at Buena Vista and Woodburn; the establishment of new beds at the Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes and at Delaware’s copy of the Liberty Bell in Dover; and the ongoing care of horticultural displays at a wide variety of state-owned properties including Belmont Hall, the John Dickinson Plantation, Cooch-Dayett Mills, Fort Christina and the New Castle Green. The division sends its best wishes to Darsney as he begins service at one of the most prestigious formal gardens in Delaware and the nation.
In a grand-opening ceremony on Oct. 18, 2014, the New Castle Historical Society welcomed visitors to its new headquarters in the Arsenal building located at 30 Market St. in New Castle, Del. Leased to the historical society by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the building will be used for office- and collections-space, as well as a venue for events and private parties. Division director Tim Slavin was on-hand for the ceremony which was conducted by historical society executive-director Michael Connolly.
Part of the New Castle National Historic Landmark District, the Arsenal was constructed in 1809 as a one-story windowless building used by the United States government as a storage place for weapons and ammunition. By the 1830s, the building no longer served its original function and was instead used for a variety of purposes including housing for troops from Fort Delaware, as a hospital during a cholera epidemic and as offices for several federal government agencies including the Custom Service and the departments of revenue and engineering. Transferred to the Trustees of the New Castle Common in the mid-1800s, the building was enlarged to two stories in 1855 for use as a school. It served as the New Castle High School until 1930 and was later used for offices and a restaurant.
Between 2012 and 2014, the division completed a number of capital improvements at the Arsenal including repairs and/or replacement of floors, drywall and partitions; new carpeting and painting; the installation of a new drainage crock in the basement; improvements to the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and alarm systems; the installation of new plumbing and lighting fixtures; and the repair and repainting of exterior shutters. The completion of these enhancements and the lease of the building to the New Castle Historical Society will ensure that the Arsenal functions as a much-needed public venue in the historic city that serves as a focal point in the First State National Monument.
EXHIBIT CLOSED on Dec. 7, 2014
Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014 marks the last chance for visitors to enjoy the exhibit “An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware.” The exhibit, on display at the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, located at 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Dover, Del., has been open since Oct. 16, 2013. Operating hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free. For additional information, call 302-744-5055.
Planned and created by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs in partnership with the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway Management Organization and the Underground Railroad Coalition of Delaware, the exhibit explores the First State’s role in the pre-Civil War network of secret routes and safe houses used by black slaves in the United States to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause. Focusing on two Delawareans who played important roles in this illegal and clandestine enterprise—Samuel D. Burris and Thomas Garrett—the exhibit explores the actions of a number of brave people who made principled decisions to follow their consciences rather than what they viewed as the unjust laws of the state and nation.
About Samuel D. Burris …
Born on Oct. 16, 1813 in the Willow Grove area near Dover, Del., Samuel D. Burris was the educated son of George Burris, a free-black man. As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Samuel D. Burris is known to have successfully led several enslaved people from Maryland and Delaware to freedom. After an 1847 attempt to bring a young woman, Maria Matthews, out of Kent County, Del. to Pennsylvania, Burris was found guilty of aiding in the escape of a slave and was fined, sentenced to prison and thereafter sentenced to be sold into slavery. After being “purchased” for $500 by Wilmington abolitionist, Isaac S. Flint, he was taken to Philadelphia where he was reunited with his wife, children and friends. He continued to work for the abolitionist cause until his death in San Francisco in 1863.
About Thomas Garrett …
Thomas Garrett was born on Aug. 21, 1789 to a prominent Quaker family in Upper Darby, Pa. After moving to Wilmington, Del. where he was an iron merchant, Garrett operated as the stationmaster on the last stop of the Underground Railroad in Delaware, collaborating with a number of noted conductors including Harriet Tubman and Samuel D. Burris. He is credited with helping over 2,500 fugitive slaves escape to freedom. In 1848, Garrett was tried in Federal District Court meeting at the New Castle Court House under the jurisdiction of United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney. After being convicted of trespass and debt for aiding and abetting in the escape of runaway-slaves, Garrett was fined several thousand dollars resulting in his financial ruin. Nonetheless, he continued to work for the abolitionist cause. He died in Wilmington in 1871.
On Oct. 23, 2014, Gov. and Mrs. Jack Markell celebrated the opening of the redesigned public garden at Woodburn, the governor’s official residence in Dover. The redesign was accomplished through a public/private partnership between the state of Delaware and the non-profit Friends of Woodburn which raised more than $250,000 for the project including a $100,000 matching grant from the Longwood Foundation.
Located at 151 Kings Highway, Woodburn is one of Delaware’s most historic homes and an outstanding example of late-18th-century Georgian architecture. The house was built in 1798 by Charles Hillyard, III (1759–1814), a fourth-generation Delawarean from a family of affluent landowners who were frequently active in the governmental, social and economic life of Kent County. Woodburn has served as the home of Delaware’s governor since it was purchased by the state in 1965. It was listed individually in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has been responsible for the care and conservation of Woodburn since August 2009. The division’s charge includes repair and maintenance of the building; design and upkeep of the property’s garden and horticultural displays; and furnishing of the home.
Work on Woodburn’s garden complex began in December 2013 as the final segment of a comprehensive exterior-improvements project launched in May of that year. The new complex, designed by landscape architect Rodney D. Robinson of Wilmington, includes a Colonial-inspired parterre garden that will feature a rose-covered arbor that provides the principal point of entry through a six-foot-tall evergreen hedge. Once inside, visitors encounter four square-beds, separated by brick and crushed-shell paths. Each bed is edged in boxwood and planted with a single crabapple tree, mixed ground covers and spring bulbs. A small pool with fountain serves as a focal point at the center of the garden. While colonists had no water to spare for pools and fountains, their inclusion at Woodburn adds character and ambiance to the space.
The parterre garden is framed on three sides by large planting-borders of seasonally flowering shrubs and perennials. At the corner nearest the house is a small wooden pavilion set within the border. This location affords a dramatic view of the garden, while providing a convenient and more private entrance from Woodburn. Beyond the parterre garden is the kitchen garden with vegetables, herbs and fruit trees. Woodburn’s redesigned garden includes several rare plants and trees donated by the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens.
In addition to the garden redesign, improvements to Woodburn included enhanced accessibility for people with disabilities; upgrades for pedestrian- and vehicular-safety including repair and/or replacement of sidewalks and driveways; installation of lighting; and infrastructure enhancements to the property’s electrical and storm-water-management systems. These improvements have helped to unify Woodburn’s campus making it a better home for current and future residents and an even better asset for guests, public visitors and the city of Dover’s historic district.