Written on: March 29th, 2012 in Preservation
By Alice Guerrant, Historic Archaeologist
Our efforts to update the historic preservation plan are moving steadily forward. The Division has held public meetings across the state to hear from our citizens about the problems and issues that most concern them. Over 70 people attended these meetings and we heard a wide range of issues and ideas for strategies. Having gathered input from nearly 300 respondents so far, the online survey has also proven to be a successful component in the planning process.
So what are we hearing?
We hear a lot of concern about important (and irreplaceable) places being lost – an issue at the very heart of historic preservation.
Many people mention the problem of demolition by neglect, and the lack or weakness of laws and regulations that deal with this on the local level.
We hear the need for old and new to coexist harmoniously, with attention paid to creating incentives to adaptively reuse old buildings.
We hear about money and the lack of funding for people to maintain their historic buildings and run historic preservation programs.
Throughout all these meetings, we hear about the need for education:
to teach our young people about their history and how it is reflected in the world around them;
to provide workshops for people looking for the best ways to maintain the historic structures that house their homes and businesses;
to educate government officials about the financial and quality-of-life returns that are yielded from investment in historic preservation;
to train more people in the preservation trades that are needed to properly rehabilitate a historic building,
and to provide more opportunities for new arrivals in Delaware to find out about their new communities’ historic places and heritage.
We also hear many strategies to deal with these issues, roughly grouped as education, legislation, government incentives, collaboration, and communication.
Now we will hold a meeting with a small group of planners and preservationists to sift through all these suggestions and ideas, develop our new goals based on them, and list ways to reach those goals in the next five years.
We want to thank all those who took the time to come to our meetings and to take the online survey. Your input is absolutely key to this process. We really enjoyed meeting you and have heard suggestions that had not occurred to us before.
Do you have ideas and suggestions for the plan? Is there some place or activity you are particularly concerned about?
E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org before April 20.
By Kellie Mullarkey
HCA Historic Sites Interpreter
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published on this week in 1852 (March 20th, to be exact). The best-selling novel opened readers’ eyes to the truths of slavery and fueled the abolitionist movement. Most of us are taught that much along the road in grade school, but what many don’t realize is that it was followed by a second book the following year: A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Presenting the Original Facts and Documents upon Which the Story Is Founded, Together with Corroborative Statements Verifying the Truth of the Work. As the subtitle suggests, the “Key” substantiates the author’s depiction of slavery in her first work. In doing so, it also identifies a little-known connection between the historic manuscript and Delaware.
In 1848, Thomas Garrett and fellow abolitionist John Hunn were put on trial at the New Castle Court House for aiding a family of slaves in escape. They were ultimately found guilty and fined heavily, but the outcome of the trial did not impinge on Garrett’s fight to end slavery. He continued to help slaves escape to freedom for the remainder of his life and is credited with helping nearly 3,000 find freedom.
In the “Key” Thomas Garrett is revealed as the inspiration for the Uncle Tom’s Cabin character of Simeon Halliday. Like Garrett, Simeon was unafraid of risking fines or imprisonment for helping his fellow man. As Beecher Stowe was writing the follow-up volume in 1853, Garrett was encouraged by Charles Whipple, a Boston abolitionist, to send the author an account of his experiences on the front-lines of abolitionism. You can read this letter as it was published in A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Google’s free eBook version.
Thomas Garrett’s influence did not end with Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the 19th century. In more recent history, his part on the Underground Railroad was portrayed in the documentary film, Whispers of Angels, and his story is movingly told on a regular basis by interpretive staff at the New Castle Court House.
What other Delaware Underground Railroad stories would you like to see made into a book or movie?
We wanted to mark the first day of spring by sharing some images of our historic sites in bloom across the state:
What’s your favorite sign that spring is here?
Written on: March 7th, 2012 in Events
Fifty years ago today, the Delaware coast found itself caught in the peak of what would be ranked among the 10 worst storms of the 20th century. It was the second day of a lingering northeaster that displaced dunes and dwellings across the Mid-Atlantic Coast. Rehoboth Beach saw off-shore waves more than 40 feet high (the length of a school bus).
Less than a week ago, communities in southern states and the Ohio Valley were struck by storms of a different kind but of comparable historical magnitudes. Buildings, roads, families, and communities were recklessly torn apart, but it serves as a sobering reminder of how far we’ve come in 50 years.
I moved to Delaware by way of Georgia. My father lives 4 miles away from what’s left of the Paulding County Regional Airport, which received significant airtime among the disaster footage in the aftermath of the tornado outbreak. If not for text messages, Facebook, and arms-length access to both by Smartphone, I would have been a nervous wreck.
This brought me (and brings us) back to considering the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 and a remark that Dawn Mitchell (of Delaware Public Archives Blog, Facebook, and Twitter fame) made while showing me the historical aftermath footage they had recently digitized and uploaded: “…just imagine what that was like without cell phones…”
Some readers may have personally witnessed and lived through that crisis. I hope you feel compelled to share your thoughts and experiences by commenting below.
Many may not have been here (geographically or existentially) for the Storm of ‘62. I encourage you to watch these videos and embrace their silence as an opportunity for some Zen-like reflection.
What would it have been like to be caught in that disaster? In its aftermath? How and when would you have been able to let people know that you were safe or that you needed help?
What if you were hundreds of miles away, but had friends or family in the disaster? How and when would you be able to confirm their safety?
Interested in learning more about the Storm of ’62?
If you have time today, the Delaware Sea Grant College Program is sponsoring activities and special programming at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center. They also provide a nice informational brochure about the storm.
Local news outlets have also made a point of marking this anniversary. Here are a few articles that you can find online: