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  Archived Posts From: 2014

exhibits

“Simple Machines” exhibit at the John Dickinson Plantation

Written on: September 11th, 2014 in ExhibitsMuseumsNews

The John Dickinson Plantation, located at 340 Kitts Hummock Road in Dover, Del., is currently featuring the exhibit “Simple Machines” which focuses on the six simple machines (inclined plane, screw, wedge, pulley, lever, and wheel and axle) that constitute the elementary building blocks of which many more-complicated machines are composed. Each of these machines was in common usage at the plantation during the lifetime of John Dickinson (1732–1808), one of the founding fathers of the United States, signer of the Constitution, and “Penman of the Revolution.”

Operating hours at the John Dickinson Plantation from April 1 through Sept. 30 are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. From Oct. 1 through March 31, operating hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-739-3277.

Section of the exhibit “Simple Machines.”

Section of the exhibit “Simple Machines.”

“Simple Machines” is displayed in the rustic setting of the John Dickinson Plantation’s granary.

“Simple Machines” is displayed in the rustic setting of the John Dickinson Plantation’s granary.

 


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events

Exhibit “Delaware and the War of 1812” closed on March 19, 2016

Written on: September 10th, 2014 in EventsExhibitsMuseumsNews

EXHIBIT CLOSED March 19, 2016

The service and sacrifice of Delawareans during the British-American conflict that took place between 1812 and 1815 were explored in the exhibit “Delaware and the War of 1812” that was on display from Dec. 1, 2012 through March 19, 2016 at the Zwaanendael Museum, located at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, Del.

Illustration of a Congreve rocket barge from the exhibit “Delaware and the War of 1812.” Congreve rockets were used by the British in the bombardment of Lewes in 1813. This weapon was the inspiration for the term “rockets’ red glare” in “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Illustration of a Congreve rocket barge from the exhibit “Delaware and the War of 1812.” Congreve rockets were used by the British in the bombardment of Lewes in 1813. This weapon was the inspiration for the term “rockets’ red glare” in “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Designed to raise awareness of the important role that the state played as the front line in the defense of the economically vital Delaware Valley, the exhibit utilized maps, illustrations and artifacts from the state’s collections to examine the history of the war within Delaware and its surrounding waters including the battle at Crow’s Shoal near the entrance of Delaware Bay and the bombardment of Lewes which both took place in 1813. Artifacts on display included muskets, swords and other weapons; ordnance; and a military drum utilized by the state militia.


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archaeology

“A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World” exhibit at the Zwaanendael Museum

Written on: September 10th, 2014 in ArchaeologyEventsExhibitsMuseumsNewsPreservation

The Zwaanendael Museum, located at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, Del., is currently featuring the exhibit “A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World” which explores His Majesty’s Sloop of War DeBraak, a British warship that was escorting and protecting a convoy of British and American merchant ships en route to the United States when it was capsized and lost off the Delaware coast on May 25, 1798. The remaining section of the ship’s hull and associated artifact collection have been curated by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs since they were acquired by state of Delaware in 1992.

Section of the exhibit “A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World.”

Section of the exhibit “A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World.”

Because it is the only ship of its type that has been recovered anywhere in the world, the DeBraak represents a significant source of historical information on Royal Navy sloops of war, the fast and agile, yet well-armed, vessels that were seeing expanded service during the French Revolutionary Wars (1793-1801). The exhibit tells the story of the vessel, its place within the Royal Navy and the broader historical context within which it operated in the Atlantic World of the late 18th century. Exhibited items shed light on shipboard life and the material culture of the DeBraak’s officers and crew, while hull materials illustrate the many technological advances that were taking place in shipbuilding in the late 18th century. Between June and September, the division also offers lecture/tours of the remaining section of the ship’s hull which is curated in a facility located in Cape Henlopen State Park.

Artistic rendition of the capsizing of the DeBraak by Peggy Kane, 1990.

Artistic rendition of the capsizing of the DeBraak by Peggy Kane, 1990.

Operating hours at the Zwaanendael Museum from April 1 through Oct. 31 are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. From Nov. 1 through March 31, operating hours are Wednesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-645-1148.

 


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news

Old State House holds public program for Summers family reunion

Written on: August 28th, 2014 in News

On Aug. 17, 2014, The Old State House in Dover, Del. held a public program in conjunction with a reunion of the Summers family. Thirty-eight family members, from across the United States, attended the program which featured tours of the museum and a special presentation that recounted the story of three Summers family ancestors.

Members of the Summers family at The Old State House on Aug. 17, 2014.

Members of the Summers family at The Old State House on Aug. 17, 2014.

Confirmed by historical documents, the presentation explored the manumission (granting of freedom) of two slave children—Ruth and Thomas Summers—which took place in 1797 in the Kent County Recorder of Deeds office, located in what is now called The Old State House. The children were manumitted by their own father, James Summers, a free African American, who had obtained them from their former owner. Following the presentation, historic-site interpreter Tom Pulmano, dressed in period clothing, gave a living-history performance in which he portrayed Vincent Summers, youngest son of James Summers, who discussed the ordeals faced by his family.

Historic-site interpreter Tom Pulmano portraying Vincent Summers.

Historic-site interpreter Tom Pulmano portraying Vincent Summers.

Every August, Summers family descendants gather in Delaware to renew ties and celebrate their family’s rich and continually unfolding history. Since the 1990s, The Old State House has presented public programs on the Summers’ manumission story which have been attended by family members as well as members of the general public. During the Aug. 17 program, Virginia Harris, a Summers descendant from Kent County, Del. noted that her relatives “look forward to this [The Old State House] event every year.”

A small Old State House display, presented in the very room where the event occurred, features the following text from the manumission document:

To all to whom these presents Shall come I James Summers of Murderkill Hundred in the County of Kent and State of Delaware free negro, send Greeting Know Ye that I the said James Summers for divers Considerations me especially moving do manumit Liberate and set at full Liberty: and by these presents doth manumit liberate and set at full Liberty my affectionate Children namely Thomas Summers who is now aged about five years, and Ruth Summers aged Seven years on or about the twenty fifth day of December next ensuing the date hereof: And I the said James Summers doth covenant promise grant and agree to and with the said Thomas Summers, and Ruth Summers that they the said Thomas Summers and Ruth Summers liberated as aforsd. Shall from and immediately after the date of these presents enjoy their Freedom as Other Free Citizens Can or ought to do, and that they or either of them shall not at any time hereafter be molested or bared by the said James Summers his Executors administrators or any other person. And I the said James Summers the said Thomas & Ruth hereby manumitted liberated and set at Liberty against himself the said James Summers, and his Heirs Executors and administrators, and against all other persons whatsoever claiming the said Thomas & Ruth or either of them shall and will warrant and defend by these presents. In Witness whereof I the said James Summers have set my Hand & Seal this fourteenth day of October Anno domini 1797.

                                                                                                 his
sealed & delivd in presence of                                   James + Summers
us   S. W. Wilson   John Lowber                                             mark

Photo of Thomas and Ruth Summers’ manumission document from the Delaware Public Archives.

Photo of Thomas and Ruth Summers’ manumission document from the Delaware Public Archives.


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events

Allen McLane symposium to take place in Dover on Oct. 25, 2014

Written on: August 27th, 2014 in EventsNews

On Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Wesley College in Dover, Del. will host a symposium on the life and military career of Allen McLane, the noted American patriot from Duck Creek (Smyrna), Del.

Allen McLane

Allen McLane

Speakers will include John A. Nagy, author of “Spies in the Continental Capital: Espionage Across Pennsylvania During the American Revolution”; Glenn F. Williams, a historian at the US Army Center of Military History and author of “Year of the Hangman: George Washington’s Campaign Against the Iroquois”; retired Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs curator of archaeology Chuck Fithian; Michael Lloyd, long-term McLane researcher; Edith McLane Edson, McLane descendant and writer; and historian Robert Selig. Living-history performances will be provided by the First Delaware Regiment and by Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs historical interpreter Tom Welch who will portray McLane. Delaware State University professor Samuel Hoff will serve as master of ceremonies.

The symposium will take place in Wesley College’s Peninsula Room, located in the du Pont College Center at 120 N. State St. in Dover, Del. Admission is free and open to the public but pre-registration is strongly encouraged by calling 302-632-1803 or by email at tompj8129@gmail.com. Lunch is available for $10. All participants will receive a free copy of the booklet, “Allen McLane—Patriot, Soldier, Spy, Port Collector,” which has been written by a team of scholars, researchers and historians, each of whom has a unique perspective on the McLane story.

Primary sponsorship of the Allen McLane symposium is provided by the Caesar Rodney Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, the Delaware Historical Society, the Northern Delaware American Revolution Round Table, the Society of the Cincinnati and the Wesley College History Department.

Additional sponsorship is provided by the Claymont Historical Society, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the Duck Creek Historical Society, the First Delaware Regiment, the Friends of Belmont Hall and the Friends of the Delaware Public Archives. Financial support is provided by gifts from Troy Foxwell, Claudia Onkean, Ginger Trader and Thomas Welch.

 About Allen McLane …

Allen McLane (1746-1829) of Duck Creek Hundred served in the House of Assembly from Kent County in 1785 and 1789. He participated in numerous battles during the American Revolutionary War and worked closely with Gen. George Washington at Valley Forge. He was a member of the Delaware Convention that ratified the U.S. Constitution. Later in life, he moved from Kent County to Wilmington, serving as collector of the customs for many years. He belonged to the Society of the Cincinnati, the Masonic order and was a member of the Methodist Church. His will began with the sentence, “I, Allen McLane, of the Borough of Wilmington, in the State of Delaware, Collector of the Customs of the United States for the Delaware District, and a friend and soldier of the American Revolution … .” His son, Louis McLane, became a U.S. representative, senator, secretary of state, secretary of the treasury and minister to England.



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events

An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware”–exhibit closed on Dec. 7, 2014

Written on: August 26th, 2014 in EventsExhibitsMuseumsNews

EXHIBIT CLOSED Dec. 7, 2014

From Oct. 16, 2013 to Dec. 7, 2014, the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, located at 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Dover, Del., featured the exhibit “An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware.”

Underground Railroad conductor Samuel D. Burris.

Underground Railroad conductor Samuel D. Burris.

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 explored 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 explored 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.

Thomas Garrett

Thomas Garrett

 


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news

Public comment sought regarding Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief grant awards

Written on: July 29th, 2014 in NewsPreservation

On July 29, 2014, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs announced three awards for the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Assistance Grants for Historic Properties program and is seeking public comment on its finding that the selected projects will not adversely affect historic properties.

Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the East Coast of the United States in October 2012.

Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the East Coast of the United States in October 2012.

The grant program is funded under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in response to the effects of the destructive hurricane which struck the East Coast of the United States in late October 2012. As part of the act, $50 million was appropriated to the National Park Service to cover the costs of preserving and/or rehabilitating historic properties damaged by the storm. Subsequently, the National Park Service allocated $1 million for Delaware’s component of the program which is being administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. The purpose of the program is to help return damaged historic properties to useful condition, preserving the state’s cultural heritage for future generations.

The division publicly announced the availability of the grants and posted information on the program in January 2014. To qualify, properties were required to be listed, or eligible for listing, in the National Register of Historic Places, and have documented damage that resulted from the effects of the storm. Eligible properties included those owned by private individuals or organizations, local governments, or the state.

The division received three applications. A technical-review committee found that all three of the applications qualified for funding according to the selection criteria and application requirements. Because the currently approved applications did not exhaust the full amount of funds awarded to Delaware, the division may elect to hold another round of grant applications. Additionally, in accordance with its agreement with the National Park Service, the division plans to apply some of the remaining funds toward improving data on the location and nature of historic properties in areas vulnerable to such storm events, assisting in disaster planning.

The three historic properties that will be assisted by the program are as follows:

Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse
Location:  Situated on the outer breakwater in Lewes harbor
Built:  1926
Historical significance:  Listed in the National Register in 1989 as a contributing structure within the National Harbor of Refuge and Delaware Breakwater Harbor Historic District, a nationally significant aid-to-navigation and safe harbor
Ownership:  Non-profit
Storm damage:  Results of wind-driven water and waves
Federal grant:  Up to $360,000
Scope of work:  Replacement of dock and stairs leading to lighthouse; assessment of condition of lighthouse
Historic-preservation outcome:  The grant-funded work will define the critical preservation work necessary to maintain and preserve the lighthouse, and will restore proper access to allow such work to occur and to further the organization’s public interpretation and educational programming

Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse with intact dock.

Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse with intact dock.

Storm-damaged dock at the Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse.

Storm-damaged dock at the Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse.

Milford New Century Club
Location:  18 N. Church St., Milford
Built:  1885
Historical significance:  Individually listed in the National Register in 1982 as part of a multiple-property nomination for the city of Milford, the building is significant for its architecture and as a long-standing community center, a purpose it still serves
Ownership:  Non-profit
Storm damage:  Results of high wind, wind-driven rain and rising water
Federal grant:  Up to $60,000
Scope of work:  Replacement of roof and associated interior and exterior repairs; exterior painting and associated repairs; replacement of HVAC system
Historic-preservation outcome:  The grant-funded work will secure the building’s exterior to prevent further damage and deterioration, and will allow the building to again be used year-round for the organization’s civic projects and rental for local events

Milford New Century Club after Hurricane Sandy.

Milford New Century Club after Hurricane Sandy.

Phillips Potato House
Location:  7472 Portsville Road, Laurel
Built:  Circa 1900
Historical significance:  Individually listed in the National Register in 1990 as part of a multiple-property nomination for sweet potato houses, a specialized agricultural outbuilding in Sussex County. The potato houses reflect the modernization of agricultural practices in southern Delaware during the first half of the 20th century including the emergence of truck farming
Ownership:  Private
Storm damage:  Results of high wind, wind-driven rain and water run-off
Federal grant:  Up to $42,000
Scope of work:  Removal of damaged asphalt siding and repair of wood siding and trim; window repair; removal of metal roofing and restoration of wood shingles; foundation repairs
Historic-preservation outcome:  The grant-funded work will secure the building’s exterior to prevent further damage and deterioration, and provide an opportunity for returning the building to agricultural use and/or for an adaptive reuse to include public interpretation of agricultural practices

Phillips Potato House after Hurricane Sandy

Phillips Potato House after Hurricane Sandy.

In order to receive funding, the grantees must ensure that the repair work is consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, and must maintain and preserve the properties for a period of time thereafter. Grantees must also document that consulting and contractual services have been open to competitive bidding and selected in accordance with state and federal law. Grantees must also comply with a number of other reporting requirements to demonstrate that the project is properly carried out. These commitments are documented in a grant agreement that is signed by the division and the grantee.

The division has received the National Park Service’s approval to award these three grants on the condition that all program requirements are being met including compliance with federal historic preservation and environmental laws. Because the program is federally-funded, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires that the projects’ effects on historic properties are taken into account. Section 106 also affords local governments, interested parties and the public the opportunity to comment on the projects. For more information on this law and the public’s role in the review process, go to the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation’s publication, “Protecting Historic Properties: A Citizen’s Guide to Section 106 Review.”

To fulfill its Section 106 responsibilities, the National Park Service has negotiated a programmatic agreement with the 12 states affected by Hurricane Sandy. This agreement will govern the project-review process for the states’ grant programs, including provisions for public notification and involvement in the program. The agreement also prohibits use of the funds for work that would adversely affect historic properties.

The division finds that the projects will not adversely affect historic properties because:

To comment on this finding, or to request additional information about the grant program, the Section 106 review process, or the programmatic agreement, contact Gwen Davis, deputy state historic preservation officer, at 302-736-7410 or gwen.davis@state.de.us. Comments must be received by Aug. 29, 2014.

Press inquiries should be directed to Jim Yurasek at 302-736-7413 or jim.yurasek@state.de.us.

 

 

 


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events

History was made here: Fenwick Island Lighthouse

Written on: July 23rd, 2014 in EventsHistoric SitesNews

A spotlight on one of the more than 40 historic properties owned by the state of Delaware and administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.

Fenwick Island Lighthouse

Fenwick Island Lighthouse

One of southern Delaware’s most iconic structures, the Fenwick Island Lighthouse, will commemorate two anniversaries during August 2014—Friday, Aug. 1, will mark the 155th anniversary of the official lighting of the historic beacon; while National Lighthouse Day will be celebrated on Thursday, Aug. 7. The lighthouse, located at the intersection of 146th St. and Lighthouse Lane in Fenwick Island, Del., is open from 9 a.m. to Noon, Fridays to Mondays, during July and August; and 9 a.m. to Noon on Saturdays and Sundays from Sept. 1 to 22. The property is cared for and operated for public visitation by the New Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse. For additional information, call 443-235-8521.

Fenwick Island Lighthouse in 1913. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Fenwick Island Lighthouse in 1913. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard.

About the Fenwick Island Lighthouse …

Completed in 1858, the 87-foot-tall Fenwick Island Lighthouse was built to help mariners avoid the treacherous Fenwick Shoals which are located six miles off the coast of Fenwick Island. Erected during a period of rapid expansion and improvement in the nation’s system of aids to navigation, the structure is the only brick, conical-type lighthouse ever built in the state. After completion, a third-order Fresnel lens of French manufacture was installed and the light was turned on for the first time on Aug. 1, 1859. The lighthouse continued in operation without interruption for nearly 120 years until Dec. 13, 1978, when it was decommissioned by the U. S. Coast Guard. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Due to a grassroots effort, ownership of the property was transferred to the state of Delaware in 1981, and the lighthouse was re-lit in 1982 as an unofficial, private aid to navigation.

Spiral staircase inside the Fenwick Island Lighthouse.

Spiral staircase inside the Fenwick Island Lighthouse.

The lighthouse’s grounds contain the Transpeninsular Line marker, erected on April 26, 1751, which indicates the eastern end of the line surveyed by John Watson and William Parsons of Pennsylvania and John Emory and Thomas Jones of Maryland. This line established the east-west boundary between Pennsylvania’s three lower counties (now Delaware) and the colony of Maryland. It also established the middle point of the peninsula, 35 miles to the west. The stone marker bears the coat of arms of the Calvert family on the south side and the Penn family on the north. It was accepted in 1760 and finally ratified in 1769 by King George III.

Transpeninsular-line marker

Transpeninsular Line marker

 


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events

DSU students to present history activities for the public at four Delaware museums

Written on: July 22nd, 2014 in EventsMuseumsNews

On Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., the four Dover-area museums operated by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will be presenting interactive, history-related activities developed by a group of incoming freshmen from Delaware State University. Activities will take place at the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, located in the Delaware Public Archives building at 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.; at the John Dickinson Plantation, located at 340 Kitts Hummock Road; at the Johnson Victrola Museum, located at 375 S. New St.; and at The Old State House, located at 25 The Green. Admission to all programs is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-744-5055.

Delaware State University freshmen participating in a paper-marbling training session at the John Dickinson Plantation.

Jumpstart Program students participating in a paper-marbling training session at the John Dickinson Plantation.

These one-day-only public offerings are being developed as a partnership between the division’s Volunteer Program and Delaware State University’s Jumpstart Program, an academic-enrichment and leadership-development initiative that provides opportunities for first-time freshmen to get a “jumpstart” on their college careers.

As part of the partnership, the 28 participating students were divided into teams of seven members each with a separate team assigned to each of the four museums. During the activity-development process, which took place during July 2014, team members were given free rein to discuss any topic related to their respective museum’s history or exhibits and to develop enjoyable and educational activities that provide museum visitors with fresh perspectives on Delaware history. The partnership gave students a unique opportunity to experience how museums develop public programming through efficient time-management, teamwork, critical thinking and creativity—valuable skills that the students will need as they move forward in their lives.

For additional information about the partnership, contact Deanna Rishell, the division’s volunteer services coordinator, at 302-736-7411 or deanna.rishell@state.de.us.

 


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events

Historic sites enhance Delaware beach vacations

Written on: July 15th, 2014 in EventsExhibitsHistoric SitesMuseumsNews

For generations, vacationers have been drawn to Delaware’s Atlantic Ocean resorts—Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island. Located within 250 miles of several of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas including Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City, the First State’s coastal towns offer the cleanest beach-water in the nation, a plethora of dining options, arts and entertainment activities, recreational opportunities, natural areas, state parks, night life and tax-free shopping among many other amenities.

“Landing of the DeVries Colony at Swaanendael, Lewes, Delaware 1631” by Stanley M. Arthurs.

“Landing of the DeVries Colony at Swaanendael, Lewes, Delaware 1631” by Stanley M. Arthurs.

As the location of Delaware’s first colony and one of the earliest European settlements in America—Swanendael, established by the Dutch in present-day Lewes in 1631—the coastal region also features a wealth of historic sites that help tell Delaware’s story and the role that it played in the creation and development of the United States. Many of these sites are open for visitation, offering high-quality experiences for every type of vacationer from families looking for rainy-day activities to dedicated cultural tourists and history buffs.

Following is a sampling of some of the historic places that can be visited within a 20-mile radius of Delaware’s Atlantic Ocean beaches. Hours of operation and other information can be found on each site’s webpage.

De Vries Monument
Pilottown Road, Lewes, Del.
Telephone: Call the Zwaanendael Museum at 302-645-1148

Delaware’s Colonial history began near this site which commemorates Swanendael, meaning “Valley of the Swans,” established by the Dutch in 1631 as a whale-hunting and agricultural station. The monument, located along the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal (originally called Hoorn Kill), is named for David Pietersz de Vries, general administrator of the Swanendael colony.

DeVries Monument

DeVries Monument

Zwaanendael Museum
102 Kings Highway, Lewes, Del.
Telephone: 302-645-1148

Operated by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the museum was built in 1931 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the state’s first European colony, Swanendael. Modeled after the town hall in Hoorn, the Netherlands, the museum’s exhibits and presentations provide a showcase for Lewes-area maritime, military and social history. Currently on-display are the exhibits “Delaware and the War of 1812” which examines the service and sacrifice of Delawareans of 1812 to 1815; and “A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World” which explores His Majesty’s Sloop of War DeBraak, a British warship that sank off the Delaware coast on May 25, 1798. On most Mondays through Sept. 29, 2014, the museum is also offering lecture/tours of DeBraak which include a trip to nearby Cape Henlopen State Park for a curator-led tour of the surviving section of the ship’s hull.

Zwaanendael Museum

Zwaanendael Museum

As the administrator of many of the state’s most important historic sites, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs leases the following properties to community organizations that in turn, operate them for public visitation.

Delaware Breakwater East End Lighthouse
Surrounded by water, the lighthouse is located on the inner breakwater in Lewes harbor.
Telephone: 302-644-7046

The lighthouse was built in 1885 as a navigational aid for ships entering the Delaware Bay. It is currently closed to visitation. Cruises to the waters surrounding the structure are conducted by the Delaware River & Bay Lighthouse Foundation.

Delaware Breakwater East End Lighthouse

Delaware Breakwater East End Lighthouse

Fenwick Island Lighthouse
Located at the intersection of 146th St. and Lighthouse Lane, Fenwick Island, Del.
Telephone: 443-235-8521
Operated by the New Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse.

Built in 1858 to protect shipping from the Fenwick sand shoals that extend several miles out from the Delaware coast, the lighthouse sits exactly on the eastern origin of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Fenwick Island Lighthouse

Fenwick Island Lighthouse

Old Sussex County Court House
10 S. Bedford St., Georgetown, Del.
Telephone: 302-855-9660
Operated by the Georgetown Historical Society. Open 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturdays through Sept. 27, 2014. Other times by appointment.

In 1791, the Sussex County seat was moved from Lewes to Georgetown in order to provide a more centralized location for county governmental and judicial functions. In 1793, the building now known as the Old Sussex County Court House was constructed in Georgetown to meet the exact dimensions of the former county court house in Lewes. In 1837, the building was moved from its original location on Georgetown Circle to make way for the current court house which still occupies the site.

Old Sussex County Court House

Old Sussex County Court House

Prince George’s Chapel
101 Chapel Lane, Dagsboro, Del.
Telephone: 302-732-3324
Operated by the Friends of Prince George’s Chapel. Open by appointment.

Built in 1755 as an Anglican chapel-of-ease, the structure was named in honor of the English prince who would later become King George III. Its most distinctive feature is a barrel-vaulted ceiling made of natural, unadorned heart-of-pine planks.

Prince George's Chapel

Prince George’s Chapel

 

Other attractions featuring Delaware history that are located within 20 miles of Delaware’s beaches include the Bethany Beach History Museum, DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum, Fort Miles Historical Area in Cape Henlopen State Park, Indian River Life-Saving Station, Lewes Historical Society, Lightship Overfalls, Milton Historical Society, Nanticoke Indian Museum, Nutter D. Marvel Carriage Museum, Ocean View Historical Society, Rehoboth Art League, Rehoboth Beach Museum and the Treasures of the Sea exhibit. In addition, the towns of Lewes and Milton contain historic districts that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

 


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