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  Archived Posts From: 2012


Participate in the 2012 National Historic Landmarks Photo Contest

Written on: May 16th, 2012 in Historic SitesMultimediaMuseumsPreservation

Last month on Flickr, the National Park Service launched its 2012 National Historic Landmarks Photo Contest. Some impressive images have trickled into the album from historic sites and talented artists from across the country, but Delaware has yet to make so much as a ripple in the pool of contenders!

Naturally… we feel compelled to change this… so here are a few things that you should probably know if you plan to enter the contest and possibly see your work (and Delaware’s history) published on a National Park Service wall calendar:

1. You should probably know about the contest:

The National Park Service has launched its annual National Historic Landmarks Photo Contest! Photographers may enter up to 10 images of different National Historic Landmarks (only 1 image per landmark per photographer) until the contest closes on June 13th, 2012. Winning photos will be featured in a National Park Service 2013 wall calendar. For all of the details and rules about the contest, scroll down to the bottom of the contest’s Flickr page. You can also check out past winners to get those creative juices flowing.

2. You should know what a National Historic Landmark is:

The National Historic Landmarks Program is administered through the U.S. Department of the Interior. Here is what they have to say about it:

3. You should know which National Historic Landmark listings can be found in the First State:

There are 13 National Historic Landmarks scattered across the State of Delaware. However, because some are private homes and some are undergoing repairs, 9 of these beautiful parcels of national history are open to the public and striking a pose just for you.


Those properties include the Corbit-Sharp House, the John Dickinson House, Eleutherian Mills, Holy Trinity (Old Swedes) Church, Howard High School, Lightship LV-118 (Overfalls), Lombardy Hall, New Castle Court House, and the New Castle Historic District. We are proud to say that two of these properties – New Castle Court House and John Dickinson House – are HCA museum sites.

4. It would probably help to know where to find these historic properties:

This is our favorite part (aside from your winning photo featuring a historic Delaware property). We wanted to make it as easy as possible to participate in the contest. You’re an artist. You can’t be bothered with having to look up all of these sites, research their history, and find them on a map. You need to save that energy to create! That’s why we’ve gone ahead and mapped out out all of the public National Historic Landmarks in Delaware:

View Delaware’s National Historic Landmarks in a larger map

5. Finally, you should know how to share it with us:

How do you share the fun with us? Well, when you join the contest group on Flickr, join our Delaware History group and be sure to post your images there too. When you’re tagging your photos for the contest, go ahead and tag them with DelawareHistory as well.


Now that you have been sufficiently informed… you have four weekends to visit, photograph, and share nine pieces of American history…. Where will you start??

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Dover Days 2012

Written on: May 7th, 2012 in Events

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Dover Days 2012, a set on Flickr.

We hope everyone enjoyed the 79th Annual Dover Days celebration! Check out some of these photos from around The Green taken on Saturday, May 5th.


Delaware’s 2012 Week of Service

Written on: April 19th, 2012 in EventsVolunteerism

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Delaware’s 2012 Week of Service, a set on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
On April 15th, Governor and Mrs. Markell joined volunteers from across the First State at Belmont Hall in Smyrna, DE to kick-off the third annual Delaware Week of Service. We’ve posted some photos in a new set on our Flickr Photostream (DelawareHistory) to show what a difference some volunteers and a beautiful Sunday afternoon can make on a piece of Delaware history.

How have you participated in this year’s Week of Service?


Delaware Week of Service Kicks Off at Belmont Hall

Written on: April 15th, 2012 in EventsNewsVolunteerism


Special thanks to all of the volunteers for joining Governor, First Lady, and Rue Markell this afternoon at historic Belmont Hall in Smyrna to kick off Delaware’s 2012 Week of Service!

More pictures to come!


How are you participating in this year’s Week of Service?

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Preservation Planning 2012: Update from Public Meetings

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 preservationplan@delaware.gov before April 20.

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Delaware History Connections: Thomas Garrett and Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Written on: March 22nd, 2012 in Historic SitesMuseums

By Kellie Mullarkey
HCA Historic Sites Interpreter

Uncle Tom's Cabin Cover (1853)

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.

Thomas Garrett


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?



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HCA Blooms on the First Day of Spring

Written on: March 20th, 2012 in Historic SitesHorticulture

We wanted to mark the first day of spring by sharing some images of our historic sites in bloom across the state:


Hellebore at Buena Vista Conference Center
Daffodils at Legislative Mall


What’s your favorite sign that spring is here?

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The Storm of 1962: 50 years later

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.

Delaware Public Archives has put together a great online exhibit and started a Facebook photo album 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:

Delmarva’s Perfect Storm

Storm of 62 Felt for Years After Devastation

Storm of 62 Still Making Waves

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“Raising the DeBraak,” Part 1: Murky Waters

Written on: February 21st, 2012 in ArchaeologyNewsPreservation

Last November, HCA announced an initiative to begin conservation work on the hull of the HMB DeBraak. One of the conservation team’s most urgent objectives was to improve the hull’s support-system and to add a water-filtration system that cleans the water that is used to keep the hull wet.

Over the last several weeks, HCA maintenance and curatorial staff have been hard at work prepping the space for the work ahead:

A view of the hull from above. This aerial image was taken in the 1990s, before it was moved to its current home.

Today, plastic sheeting forms a perimeter around the hull to keep the moisture (and mess) inside. After existing in the seabed for nearly two centuries, it needs a constant provision of moisture in order to keep the cellular structure of the water-logged timber from collapsing.

The PVC piping that you see surrounding it is the current sprinkler system that is used to provide the moisture. This will be enhanced in the unfolding conservation plan to filter the water and better conserve the hull.

For nearly 20 years, the DeBraak has been cradled over a shallow retaining pool by metal beams. Constant exposure to moisture over the years has caused these beams to deteriorate and contaminate the surrounding water.

This is what the water was beginning to look like after collecting years of residue from the hull and the system that was put in to support it:

HCA Curator, Chuck Fithian, uses a pressure washer to remove residue and murky water from a shallow pool beneath the HMB DeBraak:

Ryann Schafer, Ed Gillespi, and Mike Chillas, from our Preservation Maintenance Team, help Keith Minsinger (in blue), Curator of Collections Management, to guide the murky water towards a sump pump, which will remove it from the basin:

Fresh water is brought in to help flush out and replace the old:

Keith and Chuck check to see how much “sludge” vs. water is coming out of the building:

“Yep… Still sludge…”


Now the DeBraak is happy in her freshly-cleaned home. Next step – upgrading the irrigation system. Then, the hull will actually be raised – and not by the brute strength of Keith and Chuck alone – to replace the old beams with a new support system that is better suited for the environmental conditions. Stay tuned and we’ll try to keep you in on the progress!

The State of Delaware also cares for a significant collection of artifacts from the DeBraak shipwreck. These rare examples of textiles, weapons, and technology from the late 18th-century strengthen our understanding of the Atlantic World as well as Delaware’s historical role within it.

What interests you most about the DeBraak and its collections? What would you most like to see from it?

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The Benefits of Volunteering with HCA

Written on: February 16th, 2012 in EducationHistoric SitesHorticultureMuseumsPreservationVolunteerism

By: Lindsay McNinch

In September of 2011, HCA launched a new Volunteer Program.  As the Volunteer Program’s first appearance on the division’s blog, I wanted to take this opportunity to showcase some of the benefits you may receive from volunteering with us.

Tying in with the Division’s mission to promote Delaware’s historical legacies, HCA’s Volunteer Program offers a wide range of opportunities throughout the state for those wanting to become more involved.

So why volunteer with HCA?  What’s in it for you?

Here are just a few of the many reasons to join our corps of volunteers:

Become More Actively Involved in Saving Delaware History

HCA’s volunteer program is unique in the fact that we can offer a wide range of opportunities for you to engage with the First State’s historical and cultural legacies through hands-on, valuable volunteer work!

Have a passion for the First State’s history?

Become a Historic Site Docent at one of our six museums state wide!

Are you detailed oriented and enjoy working in an office setting?

Volunteer as an Administrative Assistant in our main office located in Dover!

Do you enjoy working outdoors and have a passion for gardening?

Assist our Horticulture Team with landscaping and invasive species removal!

Interested in archaeology and looking for valuable hands-on opportunities that may provide basic training?

Support our Preservation Team with lab and field work!

We also offer opportunities to work with our Preservation Maintenance and Collections, Affiliates, Research, and Exhibits (C.A.R.E.) teams as well as within our State Historic Preservation Office.

Whatever your interests may be, we have an opportunity for you to become more involved.

Earn Volunteer Credit for School, Employment, and Extracurricular Organizations

Is your organization looking to fulfill a service requirement?

Our Division welcomes students, clubs, and corporate groups who seek volunteer opportunities to complete for their organizations or to fulfill the Delaware Volunteer Credit Program.

Share Your Talents and Learn New Skills!

Interested in learning something new? Looking to further develop professional skills?

What better way to accomplish those goals than to volunteer!

No matter your area of interest, volunteering with HCA can provide you with valuable training and experience that can last a lifetime. As an HCA volunteer, you have the opportunity to share your passions and talents with our visitors, staff, and other volunteers while continuing your education and learning about your community’s history.

These are the “big-picture” benefits of becoming a part of the HCA family, but there are many more personalized rewards that we all gain along the way that we make sure to share through annual recognition events.

Whether it is important to you to become more involved in your community, share your passion for the First State, or to develop, share, and/or expand your talents, we appreciate our volunteers for the time and valuable work that they put into Saving Delaware History!

To learn more about what volunteer opportunities our Division has to offer, don’t hesitate to contact me – Lindsay McNinch, Volunteer Services Coordinator – at (302) 736-7411 or at Lindsay.McNinch@delaware.gov.

Keep an eye out for some exciting volunteer opportunities happening through HCA during Delaware Week of Service, April 15th-21st 2012!

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