Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs
Blogging Delaware History

DHCA Buena Vista

Twitter  Flickr  YouTube

  Archived Posts From: 2012


Energy Audits for Historic Homeowners

Written on: December 19th, 2012 in EducationHistoric SitesPreservation

By: Jesse Zanavich, Architectural Historian
Delaware State Historic Preservation Office

With the cold weather here and utility bills on the rise, many historic homeowners may be wondering what they can do to cost-effectively weatherize their homes. But before spending big money to replace your older windows (see Figure 1), first consider a home energy audit.

An energy audit will help you to identify your home’s specific problem areas, recommend improvements and, overall, help you to make an informed decision on which projects offer the best investment. To learn more about the audit process, begin by reviewing guidance from the Department of Energy (DOE), and, for those in Delaware, the Delaware Energy Office and Energize Delaware; they’re the authorities on this subject.

To learn what incentives might be available, you should also check with DSIRE (Database for State Incentives for Renewables & Energy Efficiency). Your utility companies might have their own incentive programs as well.

You can either do the energy audit yourself, or, for a more comprehensive report, a professional can be hired. While a do-it-yourself audit can be a great first step, it’s difficult to match the training and specialized equipment that a qualified energy auditor can provide. If you do choose to hire someone, however, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Figures 2 & 3. Energy auditors use tools such as infrared scanning (above)
and calibrated blower doors (below) to spot problem areas.
(Images courtesy of the Department of Energy)

Look for
Building Performance Institute (BPI) or RESNET’s Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Certification

These certifications provide a good minimum threshold to assess auditors’ qualifications. Please note that certain incentive programs may require utilizing a contractor with one specific certification, so check appropriate guidelines.

Check the Auditor’s Performance History
It’s always best to contact customer references and check with the Better Business Bureau.

Be Wary of Auditors Who Are Also Vendors of  Specific Products
An audit should be a standalone service, and auditors should disclose of any financial interests they may have in the energy audit report.

Ensure the Auditor Uses Up-To-Date Equipment
At a minimum, the DOE recommends that auditors use modern equipment such as thermal imaging and a calibrated blower door (calibration allows for more accurate measurement) to identify sources of air infiltration (see Figures 2& 3). Although not yet widely available, PFT Air Infiltration Measurement is another widely recommended technique.

Consider an Audit  in the Late Fall, Winter, or Early Spring
Audits tend to work best with greater interior/exterior temperature differences.

Energy Audit Resources

City of Seattle. Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audit (PDF Download)

Department of Energy. Home Energy Audits

Energize Delaware. Home Energy Audits

National Trust for Historic Preservation. Get an Audit…the Good Kind

Considerations for Historic Homeowners

As a historic homeowner, it’s important to avoid the unnecessary replacement, alteration or destruction of significant character defining features – the qualities that essentially define your home (for guidance on identifying these features, see Preservation Brief 17: Architectural Character: Identifying the Visual Aspects of Historic Buildings as an Aid to Preserving their Character).

When it comes to weatherization projects, this inappropriate work usually means replacing your historic windows. Keep in mind that a single-pane window fitted with a storm window can provide thermal efficiency comparable to a low-e vinyl replacement ­– often at a much lower cost. Air infiltration can be further reduced by caulking and weatherstripping, low-cost measures that provide a great return on investment.

Fortunately for historic homeowners, the National Park Service and National Trust for Historic Preservation both offer great preservation-minded weatherization resources to help you stay warm this winter:

Weatherization Resources for Historic Homeowners

National Park Service. Weatherization and Improving the Energy Efficiency of Historic Buildings

National Trust for Historic Preservation. Weatherization Guide for Older and Historic Buildings

Have you had an energy audit on your historic home? What has been the impact? Please share your experiences with us!

Tags: , , , , ,


Remembering Charles Parks

Written on: November 8th, 2012 in News

On October 25th, Delaware said goodbye to a beloved artist and friend in Charles Parks. Mr. Parks passed on at the age of 90 in Wilmington, Delaware. Just over a year ago, the State of Delaware was honored to accept the generous donation of more than 300 sculptures and personal objects from the famed sculptor’s private studio collection. We thank and celebrate Charles Parks for sharing his art with us and ensuring that Delawareans find beauty and inspiration in his work for generations to come.

Here is just a sampling of Mr. Parks’ large body of work that is now under the care of the State of Delaware:

Also be sure to watch selections from “Charles Parks: Working Artist” on Content Delaware:


Please share any thoughts or memories that you may have about Mr. Parks or his work, some of which can be found in public spaces in the City of Wilmington and across the state and country.

Tags: , , , , ,


Archaeology on The Dover Green

Written on: November 2nd, 2012 in ArchaeologyHistoric SitesPreservation

By Alice Guerrant, Historic Archaeologist

Have you been on The Green in Dover lately? The east side has mounds of dirt, equipment running around, and a lot of construction going on. It looks like a mess now, but the Division’s project will soon improve the sidewalks and landscaping in front of the Old State House and the Supreme Court Building. There will also be a new sidewalk linking the historic Green with the Legislative Green. Because this is in the oldest part of Dover, archaeologists from John Milner Associates (JMA), under contract for this project, tested some areas and designated other areas for monitoring to see what turns up during construction.

Recently, the contractors hit an old brick wall in front of the Supreme Court Building, immediately stopped, and called HCA. We went over to take a look and a JMA archaeologist came down from their headquarters in West Chester, PA, to excavate and record the find. This was a small section of the north basement wall and another piece of a wing built on the north side of the old Chew House, which was demolished about 1910 to make way for the new Supreme Court Building (completed 1912). ”Well, that settles that,” we thought.

Looking along the 18th c. brick foundation of the front (west) wall of the Chew House (looking south towards the Sykes Building)

Looking along the 18th c. brick foundation of the front (west) wall of the Chew House (looking south)

However, as the contractors dug out the area for a footing for the Court Building’s new handicapped access ramp, an original sewer line was discovered. This terra cotta (ceramic) pipe cracked in several places and created a small crisis – it was still in use! The architect and the contractors decided to replace the sewer line completely, tying it into a modern sewer line just off the street near the John Bell House. Tracing the line, the contractors hit the front wall of the Chew House, and called the Division again.

Terra cotta sewer line from the early 20th c., exposed, in front of the Sykes Building and the Chew House, SE corner of The Green

We realized that the Supreme Court builders just filled in part of the basement of the Chew House and left large parts of the wall in place. Because there were no archaeological layers remaining with the wall, we decided to monitor and record the discovery ourselves. Eventually, most of the front wall of the building was found.

We also monitored the trench along the sewer line. This area was already disturbed by the 1912 sewer line. The construction workers found some modern metal artifacts, but also a number of 18th-century artifacts. These included part of a porcelain tea bowl foot, a lead-glass baluster stem from a wine glass, and a small fragment from a wine bottle. These artifacts may very well relate to the Chew House.

18th c. artifacts (unwashed) recovered from digging along the sewer line in front of the Sykes Building and the Chew House, SE corner of The Green

The side wall of the new sewer trench showed us that an 18th– to early 19th-century layer of soil is still in place in the southeast corner of The Green, under about 12-15” of modern fill. Archaeologists from JMA are coming back soon to test this area more extensively, once the contractors remove the top foot of soil mechanically. This will save a lot of time, and allow the archaeologists to concentrate on the early layers. We hope this work will give us a better glimpse into the 18th-century Green.


The Chew House was built by Samuel Chew, colonial Delaware’s first Chief Justice. Does anyone know what other notable Delawarean lived there?

Tags: , , , , ,


The Historical Hobbyist 1.2

Written on: October 31st, 2012 in Historical HobbyistHorticulture

Winter Gardening and the Forced Bloom:

Bulb Trays and Flower Pots

By Edward McWilliams, HCA Curator of Exhibits & C.A.R.E. Team Manager

In our previous article from the Historical Hobbyist, we discussed the seasonal pastime of forcing bulbs to bloom in the winter. Of the four containers that this technique involves, we covered Bulb Jars and Flower Bricks. In today’s article, we finish up with Bulb Trays and Flower Pots.

Bulb Trays







Bulb trays are heavy pottery or ceramic trays with shallow interiors designed to hold bulbs. Flower trays work well for larger arrangements of bulbs or make for spectacular displays of multi-bloom flowers.












I also use other flower vases and pots (with no holes) to fill with small pebbles (pea gravel works well – rinse sand from the stones) and even multi-colored marbles. The process is easy and takes very few steps to complete.

As above, I fill the containers with the stone, add water, and gently push the bulbs into the stones with the points facing up. Make certain that the tray always has water up to the bottom of the bulbs. That is all!

Again, place the containers in a cool place for four to six weeks, move to a sunny window and, depending on the temperature and plant variety, you should have blooms in a week or two depending on the room temperature.

It may be necessary to push the bulb into the stone as the plants mature to help the plant stay secured. Additional supports, such as skewers, can be used to tether the plant and keep it upright. Just push the skewers into the stones and tie the plants with twine.

I recommend paper whites narcissus, jonquils, and mixed color hyacinths for this presentation.

Flower Pots












When I am ambitious and have more time on my hands, I pot lily of the valley, crocus, miniature iris, grape hyacinths, and ranunculus into small clay flowerpots. I fill the pots with potting soil and place the bulbs and rhizomes just three quarters of the way below the surface of the soil. The tips of the bulbs should be seen on the surface of the soil.

Water the bulbs and always keep the soil moist. Again – a sunny, warm bright window is the catalyst to trick the plants into thinking it is spring and you will be pleased with the effort you invested back in October.

In the past I have combined several of the plants into one pot and, when they bloom, place the pot into a small plastic container that fits into an antique jardinière or vase and line the top with sphagnum moss to cover the top of the liner.







It is important to pre- chill the bulbs in all of the described forcing methods.  In order to simulate springtime condition, bulbs should be previously placed in a cold place for several weeks, preferably six.

Sometimes I place the bulbs in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator or in a potting shed. An unheated garage can also provide the necessary conditions of 35F to 45F temperatures.

I must confess that on occasion I have skipped the pre-chilling part and gone directly to forcing in the containers with the same success.

In addition to the bulbs, some flowering shrubs can also be forced to bloom and can compliment your display.

I cut branches of quince and forsythia in January, place them in a large vase, add water and a warm spot, and within a week blooms appear on the branches. I have attached small artificial cardinals and sparrows to the branches for a natural appearance.

I hope you try one or two of the suggestions above.

If you do – blog us with your comments, suggestions and pictures!


Edward McWilliams is a Delaware native currently residing in Laurel, Del. He holds a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Delaware and a master’s degree in arts management from American University. McWilliams joined HCA in 1996, was named Delaware Department of State’s Employee of the Year in 2009, and currently serves the state in dual roles as Curator of Exhibits and C.A.R.E. Team Manager.

Tags: , , , ,


The Historical Hobbyist 1.1

Written on: October 24th, 2012 in Historical HobbyistHorticulture

Winter Gardening and the Forced Bloom:

Bulb Jars and Flower Bricks

By Edward McWilliams, HCA Curator of Exhibits & C.A.R.E. Team Manager

When you mention the month “October,” do you think pumpkins, gourds, and scarecrows? I think spring flowers blooming in winter! Yes, October is the time to start bulbs indoors for wintertime blooms.

Imagine entering your home from the frigid cold outside to the scent of spring flowers in the months of December and January.  Hyacinths, narcissus, and even crocus, tulips, and lily of the valley can be made to bloom indoors.

The hobby of forcing plants to bloom combines two of my interests – gardening and decorative arts. Its history dates back as early as the 18th century. This indoor gardening technique involves four different containers: bulb jars, flower bricks, bulb trays and clay pots.

Bulb Jars









Specially designed bulb jars were made by glassblowers to support the bulb on the top portion of the container just over the waterline-level. They were designed to have a wide top to “cradle” the bulb and a narrow neck for the roots to travel to the base.  Reproductions are available; however, I have also used a variety of containers that can hold water and have an opening to support the bulb.

If the opening is too large, I sometimes tie four wooden skewers together to decrease the diameter, just enough to hold the bulb.







I keep the vases in a dark, cool room for about four to six weeks.

During this time the roots are developing and you may see the beginning of several leaves appear at the top of the bulb. This signals that the container should be moved to a bright, warm, sunny window to expedite growth. You will be surprised at how quickly the plant will develop.

Blooms should appear in approximately two to three weeks when brought into the light.

I find that white, blue, and yellow hyacinths produce beautiful blooms.  When the plants have finished blooming I wrap the bulbs in paper towels and place them in the garage to plant in the spring. I have had success with the bulbs blooming again, sometimes the same year as being planted!

Flower Bricks















These ceramic containers are designed to hold bulbs and supports. The size of the hole will determine the type of plant based on bulb size that the container can accommodate. The process is similar to the bulb jar. Fill the container with water until the water touches the base of the bulb. As the bulb grows, monitor the water lever so that the roots always stay in the water.

Check back next week (or subscribe through the sidebar link to the right), and we will continue with Bulb Trays and Flower Pots!

So what does October mean to you? Apple cider? Baseball? Yard work?


Edward McWilliams is a Delaware native currently residing in Laurel, Del. He holds a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Delaware and a master’s degree in arts management from American University. McWilliams joined HCA in 1996, was named Delaware Department of State’s Employee of the Year in 2009, and currently serves the state in dual roles as Curator of Exhibits and C.A.R.E. Team Manager.

Tags: , , , ,


Animating Delaware History: The State Seal

Written on: October 8th, 2012 in ExhibitsMuseums


It’s the HCA Blog Premier of “Animating Delaware History!”

We’ve been doing some work with our Delaware State Seal exhibit at The Old State House and our resident animator, Bradley Dotson, came up with a creative twist to the story behind the Seal:


Of course, this isn’t really how our State Seal came to be… but it’s an imaginative take on it.

If you want the real story, visit the Old State House museum in Dover.

What do you think? What moments and characters would you like to see animated from Delaware’s history?

Tags: , , ,


Buena Vista In Bloom

Written on: August 29th, 2012 in Historic SitesHorticulture

Buena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in August
Buena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in August
Buena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in August
Buena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in AugustBuena Vista in August

Buena Vista Conference Center, a set on Flickr.

The Buena Vista campus was just too beautiful to keep to ourselves last week. We thought we’d spread some of the love for those of you who won’t make it out to see it before summer’s end. Enjoy!

Are there any other historic sites in bloom right now?

Tags: ,


Remembering Jack Lewis

Written on: August 21st, 2012 in News

We were saddened to learn this morning of the passing of beloved Delaware artist, Jack Lewis. With a career spanning the course of nearly a century, Mr. Lewis created a prolific body of work that captured and brought out the beauty in Delaware and Delawareans alike. The State of Delaware is fortunate to have more than 400 of his works in our collections, many of which are prominently displayed in our public buildings and offices across the state.

Lewis also had an undeniable and unmistakable impact on generations of regional artists through his tireless work with institutions like the Rehoboth Art League. Today, Historical & Cultural Affairs celebrates and continues to promote the life and legacy of Jack Lewis, a friend and leader from the Delaware arts community.

Articles on the passing of noted Delaware artist Jack Lewis:

Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs curates more than 400 of the artist’s works.


We encourage you to share your own reflections and memories about Jack Lewis as comments below.

Tags: ,


Preservation Plan Draft Available for Comment

Written on: August 15th, 2012 in ArchaeologyHistoric SitesPreservation

By: Alice Guerrant

The staff of the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has finished the first complete draft of the statewide historic preservation plan for 2013-2018. We’ve kept it as short as possible, while making sure the necessary background is included.

Help us make the plan better! Click here to download a copy of the draft, and let us know what you think.

Do you know of any preservation successes or accomplishments since January 2008 that aren’t in the list in the appendix? Tell us about them, and we’ll be happy to add them to the list. Make sure your organization’s work gets recognition in the state plan!

E-mail your comments, suggestions, and additions to preservationplan@delaware.gov by September 7, 2012. And thanks for all the help we have received through this whole process!

What’s next?

Once this comment period ends, we will make changes and corrections based on the comments. On September 14, we will send the final draft to the National Park Service for their technical review. By early November, we should have any comments back from the Park Service. We will then prepare the final plan to submit to the Park Service by the middle of November, and to the Delaware State Review Board for Historic Preservation in January 2013 for their adoption of the plan. Shortly after that, the plan will be posted to our web site and copies will be printed for distribution.

Tags: ,


Delaware and the War of 1812: Part IV

Written on: August 13th, 2012 in EducationEventsExhibitsHistoric Sites

By Chuck Fithian, HCA Curator of Archaeology

While the fighting was occurring in America, peace negotiations had been taking place in Russia, and later in Belgium. One of Delaware’s senators, James A. Bayard, would be one of the American commissioners who helped negotiate the Treaty of Ghent, which was signed on December 24, 1814 ending the war.

Congress ratified the treaty in February 1815, and after news of its ratification spread throughout the country, the citizens of Lewes would illuminate their town in recognition of the “Peace of Christmas Eve.”

The War of 1812 in Delaware is an important part of the overall history of this conflict as well as that of the Mid-Atlantic region. For nearly two-and-one-half years, Delawareans experienced and endured a grueling form of naval warfare with seaborne attack potentially coming from any corner at any time.

The effective response was constant vigilance. Delaware also became one of the most militarized landscapes along the eastern seaboard with many of its men seeing extensive military service. Actual combat included pitched engagements, raids and skirmishes, the deployment of new technologies by both sides, and required adaptations to what a Delaware militiaman termed a “maraudering species of war.” The intensity of sustained Royal Navy operations and Admiral Cockburn’s interest in attacking Delaware Valley targets indicates this region remained a critical part of British strategy in the Mid-Atlantic naval campaigns of 1813 to 1815.

Long after the fighting ceased, the war continued to resonate well into the nineteenth century and even beyond. The state’s economy would take time to recover from the loss of shipping, the disruption of commerce and manufacturing, and price inflation that resulted from the blockade. Unlike the rest of the country, the Federalists remained in power and would shape the state’s politics in the years prior to the Civil War. The war’s veterans would continue to serve the state with several going on to be elected governor.


Captain during War of 1812 and Governor of Delaware from 1833-1836. Portrait is currently on display at Legislative Hall in Dover, DE.




























Many Delawareans had a sense that they had contributed to the larger national success through their sustained defense of the lower Delaware Valley. This sense of service, of having protected vital interests of the country, was the basis of negotiations between Delaware and the federal government as the state sought reparations for the extensive financial costs it bore during the war. Negotiations over how to settle these would be debated back and forth, but they would finally be resolved and the state reimbursed in 1910.

The War of 1812 has a complex history, and the war in the Delaware Valley comprises an important part of that history. No longer seen as simply a group of isolated events, the actions and operations in the Delaware Bay and River and along its Atlantic coast made Delaware an important theater of the war. As we enter the bicentennial of the war in June 2012, present-day citizens of our state are encouraged to contemplate the service and sacrifice of Delawareans of 1812 to 1815; and to better appreciate the fact that Delaware played a significant role in a war that contributed to shaping the development of the United States.

If this is your first time checking in to Delaware and the War of 1812, look back to previous entries in PART I, PART II, and PART III.

If you weren’t already familiar with the First State’s role in the War of 1812, we hope that this helped to build that context for you. If you’re still hungry for more and like piecing together your own stories, be sure to check out the beautiful database of primary source documents that the Delaware Public Archives has made available at Warof1812.delaware.gov.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

DHCA Blog Logo