The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has recently received notification from the National Park Service that two additional Delaware properties—St. Stephen’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Harrington and the Union Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church Complex in Clarksville—have 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 110 Fleming St. in Harrington, St. Stephen’s Protestant Episcopal Church is a small, wood frame, one-story structure that is the town’s only known example of vernacular Carpenter Gothic architecture. Though originally constructed for religious purposes, the building is currently owned by the Harrington Historical Society which operates it as a museum that chronicles the town’s history. The structure retains a substantial degree of architectural integrity including the original stained-glass window at the apex of the west façade, a bell tower with X-shaped cross-bracing at the southwest corner of the building, original decorative electroplated-hardware and its original board-and-batten siding.
The history of the church is deeply associated with the Rev. J. Leighton McKim who ministered to St. Stephen’s first congregation. Ordained in 1859 and assigned to Christ Church in Milford in 1862, he eventually became known as the highest paid Episcopal missionary in Delaware. As the principal donor, McKim oversaw the construction, by subscription, of St. Stephen’s Church in 1876. Though the mission existed as part of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware, McKim retained personal ownership of the building and property throughout his life. Applications requesting that St. Stephen’s be established as a separate parish within the diocese during the 19th century were rejected because of its private ownership status. It was not until after McKim’s death in 1918 that ownership of St. Stephen’s was transferred to the Delaware Diocese.
Located near the Sussex County community of Clarksville, the Union Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church Complex is a grouping of buildings dating from the 19th century to the present that serves as a center of religious life and traditions in the African-American community of southern Delaware. The parcel contains the Union Wesley United Methodist Church (1959), the Blackwater School (1890), a camp-meeting ground (circa 1873) and a large cemetery. The camp-meeting ground features a circular design with a centrally placed large bower (covered but open-sided structure for worship) surrounded by the “tents” that serve as residences for the attendees of the two-week-long annual camp-meeting. The earliest surviving “tents” are small-frame, gable-roofed, two-bay wide and two-stories tall.
The building that serves as the camp’s refectory, or dining hall, is the former one-room Blackwater School which served the educational needs of African Americans from 1890 until 1922 when it was replaced by a school built by industrialist Pierre S. du Pont. Constructed under the auspices of the Delaware Association for the Moral Improvement and Education of the Colored People, the Blackwater School retains a high level of architectural integrity and is the best surviving example in Delaware of the school buildings constructed for black children during the post-Civil-War period.
Featuring more than 300 events in 2013, and serving over 10,000 guests, the Buena Vista Conference Center is certainly a popular place. Called “the perfect wedding location” in Delaware Bride Magazine’s fall/winter 2013-2014 edition, Buena Vista features “lush grounds, cozy accommodations and luxe décor” that are utilized for a wide variety of functions including business gatherings and government meetings as well as receptions, parties and celebrations.
With that kind of acclaim, someone must be doing something right, and that someone (or some people as the case may be) are the conference center’s highly capable staff members. Following are profiles of these dedicated individuals who are helping to make events at Buena Vista a memorable experience.
Overall administration of Buena Vista is managed by Desiree Williams and Morgan Booker who work together to maintain customer relations, meet with new clients, conduct tours of the property, schedule events, process reservation agreements and billing, delegate and monitor staff duties, create and manage social-media initiatives, and oversee the maintenance and upkeep of the house and grounds.
Desiree Williams began service in April 2014 having previously worked as an administrator with the Delaware Department of State. Originally from New York City, Williams attended Delaware State University on a full scholarship, graduating in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and public relations. During the course of her studies, she served as a summer intern at the Cable News Network (CNN) and at the public-relations firm Brotman-Winter-Fried in McLean, Va. The Smyrna, Del. resident is now realizing one of her career objectives by working in the field of event planning.
Morgan Booker began work at Buena Vista in July 2014. She received her bachelor’s degree from Texas A & M University in 2013 with a major in horticulture and a minor in business. While at the university, she volunteered for the Opera and Performing Arts Society of the Memorial Student Center (MSC OPAS), a student organization that presents professional productions of theatre, music and dance. After moving to the East Coast in 2013, she worked in administration, public relations and promotion for the Friends of Belmont Hall in Smyrna, Del.; and as a restaurant floor-manager and a member of the catering team at the Kitty Knight House in Georgetown, Md. The Tyler, Texas native now lives in Wilmington, Del.
Sally Shorey, a familiar face at Buena Vista, has worked at the conference center since 2001. Her responsibilities include customer relations and hospitality, and the upkeep and cleanliness of the facility’s kitchen. A life-long Delawarean and graduate of John Dickinson High School, she currently lives in Bear. Prior to joining the Buena Vista staff, Shorey worked for a local catering firm and for Chemical Bank in Newark, Del. She and her husband of 49 years have two children and three grandchildren.
Housekeepers Ryan Cardwell, Kevin Garner and Carlton Hall work hard to ensure that Buena Vista is clean and ready for the many visitors that attend events at the site. In addition to the upkeep of the house, they are responsible for the set-up and break-down of events, and assist in a wide variety of tasks including food service, hospitality, customer relations and inventory management.
Lifelong Wilmingtonian Ryan Cardwell received both his high school diploma and a certificate in facilities maintenance from the Job Corps Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. A member of the Buena Vista staff since June 2013, Cardwell previously worked in construction and at Sears, as well as serving as an inventory clerk for the Delaware Transit Corporation (DART) and as an account representative for Comcast.
Brooklyn-born Kevin Garner joined the Buena Vista staff in June 2013. He has studied both heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC), and accounting in New York City and is continuing his studies at Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington with the ultimate goal of becoming a certified public account. Prior to moving to the First State in February 2013, Garner worked for Graffiti-Free NYC, a graffiti removal service in the City of New York. He currently lives in Newark, Del.
Carlton Hall holds a bachelor’s degree in theater arts from Cheyney University and a master’s degree in historic preservation from Delaware State University. Originally from Salem, N.J., the New Castle resident previously worked in food service at the Glen Mills Schools, a residential facility for juvenile delinquents located in Glen Mills, Pa. He joined the Buena Vista staff in September 2014.
Located at 661 S. Dupont Highway (Route 13), southwest of New Castle, Buena Vista is one of Delaware’s most historic homes. The main section of the house was built between 1845 and 1847 by John M. Clayton, United States secretary of state from 1849 to 1850 under presidents Taylor and Fillmore, and United States senator from 1829 to 1836, 1845 to 1849 and 1853 until his death in 1856. The home later became the residence of C. Douglass Buck, governor of Delaware from 1929 to 1937 and United States senator from 1942 to 1948. Buena Vista and its grounds were donated to the state by the Buck family in 1965 and now serve as a state conference center administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.
Written on: October 15th, 2014 in News
The American Association for State and Local History has presented a prestigious History in Progress Award to the Delaware Historical Society and the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs for their collaborative exhibit “Forging Faith, Building Freedom: African American Faith Experiences in Delaware, 1800-1980.” The award, a component of the association’s Leadership in History Awards program, is presented for projects that are highly inspirational; exhibit exceptional scholarship; and/or are exceedingly entrepreneurial in terms of funding, partnerships or collaborations, creative problem-solving or unusual project design, and inclusiveness. Only four projects in the entire nation were honored with the award in 2014.
“Forging Faith, Building Freedom: African American Faith Experiences in Delaware, 1800-1980” explored the faith experiences of Delaware’s black community and its contributions to the development of religion in the United States including a commemoration of the bicentennial of the African Union Methodist tradition and the August Quarterly, the nation’s oldest African-American religious festival.
On-display from Sept. 27, 2013 to June 14, 2014 at the Delaware History Museum, a unit of the Delaware Historical Society located at 504 N. Market St. in Wilmington, Del., the exhibit was created through a partnership between the society’s curatorial staff, which researched and wrote the exhibit narrative and organized loans of exhibited objects; and the division’s Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team which designed, fabricated and installed the exhibit. Go to the following to view the exhibit online.
The American Association for State and Local History initiated the Leadership in History Awards program in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation and interpretation of state and local history throughout America. In 2014, the association conferred 77 national awards honoring people, projects, exhibits, books and organizations.
In addition to the History in Progress award, the “Forging Faith” exhibit was honored with an Award of Merit which recognizes excellence in history programs, projects and people when compared with similar activities nationwide. The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs was also the recipient of an Award of Merit for the “The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World,” a multi-dimensional interpretive program on the British warship that sank off the coast of Delaware in the late 18th century.
In addition to its three Leadership in History awards, the division was also recognized as a graduate of the association’s StEPs program (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations) which helps small- and mid-sized history museums assess policies and practices, manage daily operations and plan for the future. All of the honors noted above were conferred during the American Association for State and Local History’s awards banquet which took place in St. Paul, Minn. on Sept. 19, 2014. Constance J. Cooper, chief curator of the Delaware Historical Society, and Marian Carpenter, the division’s curator of collections management, accepted honors on behalf of their respective organizations.
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.