On Sept. 19, 2014, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs received notification from the National Park Service that the Burton-Blackstone-Carey Store in Millsboro has been officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the United States government’s official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects deemed worthy of preservation.
Located at 103 S. State St., the two-story, rectangular frame-structure, built circa 1840 in the vernacular Greek-Revival style, is Millsboro’s oldest–known commercial building with intact historic fabric. Over its 170-year history, it has housed a wide variety of businesses including a dry-goods store, a drug store, a finance company and a paint store. It currently serves as a custom frame-shop operated by Beatrice Carey.
The structure features an unusual hooded corner-entrance, original rectangular-bay display windows with decorative lambs-tongue and chamfered wooden trim on the cross pieces of the shop windows and original two-light double-door entrance with paneled bases and a molded header surmounted by a two-light transom. Other noteworthy architectural features include its original clapboards located beneath the recently added metal sheathing, a 19th century board-and-batten door with iron strap hinges, wide pine floor-boards located on the second floor and original mortise-and-tenon roof rafters.
During the mid-1800s, the building was owned by Benjamin Burton, the town’s wealthiest resident and the largest-known slave owner in Delaware. Burton is noted for accompanying Delaware Congressman George Fisher to Washington, D.C. in 1861 for a meeting with President Abraham Lincoln in which they discussed plans for the compensated emancipation of the state’s slaves.
Originally situated at the corner of State and Main streets, the Burton-Blackstone-Carey Store was moved approximately 50 feet down State Street in 1918 to accommodate the construction of a masonry bank for the Delaware Trust Company. The repositioned building, owned by Maud and Earnest Blackstone, served as Millsboro’s local drug store for decades. Between 1918 and 1929, the Blackstones added a one-story lean-to addition and established an ice cream parlor in the back room. Ernest Blackstone later entered public service and was sworn in as Delaware’s state treasurer on Dec. 26, 1936.
Visitors will have a unique opportunity to learn about the volatile, behind-the-scenes events that culminated in the creation of the recorded-music industry during the program “Pioneers in the Music Industry: Emile Berliner” that will take place at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014 at the Johnson Victrola Museum, located at 375 S. New St. in Dover, Del. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-744-5055.
Oliver Berliner, Emile Berliner’s only descendent who has worked in the music business, will make a rare appearance as guest speaker for the program which honors his grandfather, inventor of the microphone and the disc-record player, which he named the gramophone, but which Americans call the phonograph. Emile Berliner is the recipient of two Grammy Awards: a Trustees Award in 1987 and a Technical Award in 2014.
Like his grandfather, Oliver’s interests are in both engineering and artistic endeavors. He holds two patents; has created broadcast products that were mass-produced by Panasonic, Electrohome, Leader Instruments and Hitachi; has authored two books; and has published over 200 articles on music, audio and video.
He is also a leading publisher of Cuban music, controlling among other hits, the world’s two most famous “chachachas” which have appeared in countless television shows, movies, radio and television commercials. During his Johnson Victrola Museum talk, Berliner will reveal music business secrets for which even historians and scholars are unaware.
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.
Built in the 1830s by William Cooch, the facility operated as a commercial grist mill until the early 1990s. It was acquired by the state of Delaware in 1996 and is administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs which, in turn, leases it to the Delaware Nature Society for the provision of educational programs. For additional information on the mill, go to the following blog by the Delaware Nature Society: Cooch-Dayett Mills: Discovering Delaware History Through Partnerships.
In addition to its partnership with the Delaware Nature Society, the division leases a barn on the Cooch-Dayett Mills property to the Pencader Heritage Area Association for use as a museum that spotlights the history of the Pencader Hundred area of northern New Castle County, Del. Museum exhibits include pictures and memorabilia of the Cooch family, artifacts and information regarding the history of Cooch-Dayett Mills, Native American artifacts and information on Revolutionary War activities in the area including the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge. In recent years, the association has added several flagpoles and educational signs on the Cooch-Dayett Mills grounds which help to tell the story of this important location in Delaware history.
About the Cooch’s Bridge Historic District …
Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, the Cooch’s Bridge Historic District is a complex of historic structures and sites around Cooch’s Bridge which is located on Old Baltimore Pike just west of Route 72, in Newark, Del. The district includes houses, mills, dams and sites associated with more than two and a half centuries of industrial development including the location of one of the earliest iron furnaces in America, as well as the site of the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge (1777), the only battle of the American Revolutionary War fought on Delaware soil. The division maintains a monument to the battle along Old Baltimore Pike just west of the present-day Cooch’s Bridge. In 1781, American and French armies, under generals Washington and Rochambeau, passed through what is now the district on their way to Virginia where they were engaged in the Battle of Yorktown, the decisive battle of the American Revolution. The 680-mile trip from Rhode Island to Virginia is commemorated in the Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail.
For additional information on the Cooch’s Bridge Historic District, go to its nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
For additional information on iron mining and smelting in the Cooch’s Bridge area, go to the Iron Hill Museum website.
On Monday, Oct. 27, 2014 at 6:30 p.m., the Underground Railroad Coalition of Delaware will present “Stealing Freedom Along the Mason Dixon Line: The Story of Elkton Slave Catcher and Kidnapper Thomas McCreary,” a lecture by historian and author Milt Diggins. The lecture, which will take place at the Hockessin Friends Meetinghouse located at 1501 Old Wilmington Road in Hockessin, Del., is one of four program-meetings that the coalition presents annually throughout the state. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information about the program, call Debra Martin of the coalition at 302-576-3107.
Retired educator Milt Diggins has served as a member of the board of trustees of the Historical Society of Cecil County and as editor of that organization’s publication, the Cecil Historical Journal. He is the author of the book “Images of America: Cecil County.”
About Thomas McCreary …
Thomas McCreary’s notoriety as a slave hunter surfaced in 1849 and peaked a few years after the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. His most famous kidnappings occurred in Chester County, Md. in December 1851. McCreary’s story illustrates the controversies over slave catching, kidnapping and the underlying slavery debate prior to the Civil War. Proslavery advocates viewed McCreary as a courageous upholder of property rights who refused to get bogged down in states that interfered with recovering defiant property. Maryland politicians esteemed and protected McCreary as a slave catcher, a paladin acting on behalf of respectable slaveholders, but Pennsylvania authorities and citizens denounced him as a villain. Some citizens in the slave states of Maryland and Delaware agreed. They saw him an as an opportunist void of compassion, a slave catcher and a kidnapper unconcerned with the difference between the two activities. Abolitionist Thomas Garrett and the editors of the Blue Hen’s Chicken newspaper spoke out against his activities and his involvement with kidnappings in Delaware. These Delaware connections will be highlighted in Diggins’ Oct. 27 presentation.
Established in 2002, the Underground Railroad Coalition of Delaware is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization comprised of private and government organizations and individuals dedicated to sharing the profound stories of the people who escaped from slavery and those in Delaware who assisted them in seeking freedom. To this end, the group provides a forum for gathering and encouraging research; linking local, regional and national resources; and sharing information with the public. The coalition also promotes the preservation of Underground Railroad sites in the state so that future generations may experience the power of these genuine historic places. Staff members of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs serve as members of the coalition.
Fifty years after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Delaware State University and the Delaware Historical Society are partnering to sponsor a two-day symposium examining the history of the civil rights movement in Delaware and the nation.
“The Civil Rights Movement in Delaware: Its History—Its Legacy” will take place on the campus of Delaware State University in Dover, Del. on Oct 2 and 3, 2014. Highlights of the symposium include the keynote address on Oct. 2 by Dr. Dorothy Cotton who was the education director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a member of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s executive staff. She was present in Stockholm when King received the Nobel Peace Prize and at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis when King was assassinated. On Oct. 3, Dr. Brett Gadsden, a professor of history at Emory University and a former Delawarean will speak on public-school desegregation in Delaware. The symposium will be accompanied by a special exhibition of art and photographs reflecting the civil rights movement in Delaware.
Admission to the symposium is free and open to the public but registration is required. For more information, or to register, go to “The Civil Rights Movement in Delaware: Its History—Its Legacy” or call 302-655-7161.
From Sept. 28, 2007 through July 23, 2017, the New Castle Court House Museum, located at 211 Delaware St. in New Castle, Del., featured “Emeline Hawkins: Her Journey from Slavery to Freedom on the Underground Railroad,” an exhibit that chronicled the compelling story of Emeline Hawkins and her family, and their 1845 odyssey on the Underground Railroad from slavery in Maryland, through Delaware, to freedom in Pennsylvania. The exhibit shined a spotlight on the roles played by noted Delawareans of the Underground Railroad including “conductor” Samuel Burris, who led the Hawkins family out of Maryland into Delaware; and “stationmasters” Thomas Garrett and John Hunn, who sheltered the family and aided their escape into Pennsylvania. The exhibit also examined the famous federal trial at the New Castle Court House in 1848 which resulted in the conviction of Hunn and Garrett on charges of violating the Federal Fugitive Slave Act.
The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has recently loaned several Victor Talking Machine Company-related items to the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts. The items—which include two table-top Victrolas, a recording horn, a metal advertising-sign made in the shape of a record, one side of a Victor shipping crate and a sound-box board—will be featured in the exhibit “Sounds of Camden” that will be on display from Oct. 6 to Dec. 18, 2014 in the Stedman Gallery, Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts, 314 Linden St., in Camden, N.J.
“Sounds of Camden” will explore the city through its music, poetry and voices from past to present. The exhibit will present examples of Victrolas and phonographs built at the Victor Talking Machine Company factory which was located in the city, as well as visual memorabilia, artifacts and recordings from the company’s vast playlist. The exhibit will also present live performances and recordings that carry historical and contemporary sounds of Camden including poetry by the 19th-century Camden resident Walt Whitman; music recorded in the city; and contemporary compositions, poetry and recorded oral-history.
Core components of the state of Delaware’s collection of Victor-related items are displayed at the Johnson Victrola Museum in Dover. The museum highlights the life and achievements of Delaware’s native son, Eldridge Reeves Johnson, founder of the Victor Talking Machine Company. Through phonographs, memorabilia, trademarks, objects and paintings, the museum showcases Johnson, his company and the development of the sound-recording industry.
Curated by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the collections of the state of Delaware help to preserve, and hold in public trust, a record of Delaware’s heritage by acquiring objects made in Delaware or used by Delawareans throughout history.
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.
“Simple Machines” was created by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team working together with the staff of the John Dickinson Plantation. The exhibit opened on June 10, 2009 and will be on display for an undetermined period of time. Museum operating-hours from Oct. 1 through March 31 are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. From April 1 through Sept. 30, operating hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-739-3277.
The John Dickinson Plantation, Delaware’s first National Historic Landmark, was the boyhood home of John Dickinson, a founding father of the United States, a framer and signer of the U.S. Constitution and “Penman of the Revolution.” The Georgian-style mansion stands as a memorial to this American patriot, legislator and farmer. The museum is a partner site in the First State National Historical Park.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World” was created by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team working together with the staff of the Zwaanendael Museum. The exhibit opened on Dec. 1, 2012 and will be on display for an undetermined period of time. Museum operating-hours 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, museum 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.
The Zwaanendael Museum was built in 1931 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the state’s first European colony, Swanendael, established by the Dutch along Hoorn Kill (present-day Lewes-Rehoboth Canal) in 1631. Designed by E. William Martin (architect of Legislative Hall and the Hall of Records in Dover), the museum is modeled after the town hall in Hoorn, the Netherlands, and features a stepped facade gable with carved stonework and decorated shutters. The museum’s exhibits and presentations provide a showcase for Lewes-area maritime, military and social history.