On May, 18, 2015, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs received notification from the National Park Service that the Hebron Methodist Protestant Church and Cemetery, located at 18282 Seashore Highway west of Georgetown, Del., 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.
Constructed in 1888 in the vernacular Greek Revival style, Hebron is one of nine Methodist Protestant churches constructed in rural Sussex County, Del. between 1870 and 1888. The church’s history parallels the development, evolution and popularity of Methodism in southern Delaware during the 19th century. Unlike other Methodist churches which began consolidating first in 1939 as the “Methodist Church” and ultimately as the United Methodist Church in 1968, Hebron chose to remain independent under the governance of its own board of trustees.
Although Hebron ceased holding regular worship services in 1934, its trustees continue to develop special services, supervise burial arrangements, develop plans for annual homecoming events and undertake initiatives ensuring the preservation and maintenance of the historic structure.
Overall, Hebron Church retains a high level of historical integrity and is devoid of modern amenities such as heat, water and electricity. Noteworthy features of the exterior include the original door and window surrounds, multi-paned colored light transom above the front entrance, electroplated door hardware and porcelain door knobs, approximately 90% original clapboards and the original double-hung windows in the apse.
The building’s interior features original wainscoting which lines the walls and extends up to the window-still level. Original diagonal and straight bead-board cover the remainder of the walls and ceiling, respectively. Hebron’s unusual paneled interior is the only-known example of its kind in Sussex County. Traditionally, the interiors of rural Methodist churches were lathed, plastered and painted. Additional interior features include the original communion rail, pulpit, pews and pine flooring in the raised pulpit area.
The Delaware Department of Transportation is currently seeking applicants for an archaeologist position in its Environmental Studies section. The application deadline for the position is July 15, 2015.
For application information, go to the following job posting.
In a grand-re-opening ceremony on June 12, 2015, the Milford Century Club welcomed guests to its refurbished home at 18 N. Church St. in Milford, Del. Tim Slavin, director of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, and representatives of the National Park Service, were on-hand for the ceremony which was hosted by Dave and Dawn Kenton of the Milford Century Club, LLC.
Built in 1885 as a schoolhouse for the Classical Academy and sold to the Milford New Century Club in 1905, the building was individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Noted for its architectural features and for its long-standing use as a community center, the structure was severely damaged in October 2012 as a result of high wind, wind-driven rain and rising water from Hurricane Sandy.
Repairs to the property included replacement of the heating-ventilation-air-conditioning system, replacement of the roof, exterior painting and associated interior and exterior repairs. These repairs will allow the Milford Century Club to again be used year-round for civic projects and rental for local events.
Funding for the repairs was provided, in part, by a $60,000 grant from the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Assistance Grants for Historic Properties program, a component of the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. As part of the act, $50 million was appropriated to the National Park Service to cover the costs of preserving and/or rehabilitating historic properties damaged by the storm. Subsequently, the Park Service allocated $1 million for Delaware’s component of the program which is administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. The purpose of the program is to help return damaged historic properties to useful condition, preserving the state’s cultural heritage for future generations.
For a press account of the re-opening ceremony, go to the following:
Milford New Century Club Rededicated
Milford LIVE, Del.—June 23, 2015
In addition to the cleanest beach-water in the nation, a wealth of dining options, arts and entertainment activities, recreational opportunities, natural areas, state parks, night life and tax-free shopping, Delaware’s Atlantic Ocean resorts offer a wide variety of historical attractions including the site of Delaware’s first European settlement.
On Dec. 12, 1630, Capt. Peter Heyes and a group of 28 men sailing in the Walvis (Whale) departed from the city of Hoorn in Holland with the goal of building a whale-hunting station and agricultural settlement at the mouth of the South River (now the Delaware). The river, claimed for the Dutch by Henry Hudson in 1609, formed the southern boundary of the colony of New Netherland.
The Walvis reached the South River in 1631 and a settlement site was identified along Hoorn Kill (present-day Lewes-Rehoboth Canal). Naming their settlement Swanendael (Valley of the Swans), the colonists constructed a palisade, dormitory and cook house. Although none of the original structures remain, the settlement site is marked by a commemorative monument located on Pilottown Road in present day Lewes. The monument is named for David Pieterszoon de Vries who, operating from his offices in Holland, served as the general administrator of the colony.
Leaving Swanendael under the command of Gillis Hossitt, the Walvis returned to Holland where preparations were underway for a second expedition to transport additional settlers and supplies to the colony. Before the expedition could get under way, however, de Vries was notified that all the colonists at Swanendael had been killed and the buildings destroyed as a result of a cultural misunderstanding between the Dutch and Native people in the area.
On May 24, 1632, de Vries himself, along with 50 men, sailed from Holland aboard the Walvis and the Teencoorntgen (Little Squirrel), reaching the burned settlement on Dec.5, 1632. Due to continuing tensions with the Native people and a lackluster whaling harvest, the Dutch abandoned the settlement on April 14, 1633.
Although the Swanendael settlement lasted less than two years, the claiming of the territory fostered the eventual Dutch resettlement of the lower Delaware Valley until 1664 when all of New Netherland was captured by the English. It also set the stage for Delaware’s existence as an independent political entity by providing the legal basis for resolving the dispute between the Penn family of Pennsylvania and the Calvert family of Maryland over the ownership and subsequent division of the Delmarva peninsula.
Go to the following for more information on the Swanendael settlement.
Go to the following to read “Voyages from Holland to America,” the journal of David Pieterszoon de Vries.
Go to the Zwaanendael Museum website.
Go to the following for information on other historic sites located near Delaware’s beaches.
Written on: June 11th, 2015 in News
By Tom Welch, historic-site interpreter, Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs
[Editor’s note: Allen McLane (1746-1829) of Duck Creek Crossroads (now Smyrna, Del.) was a hero of the American Revolution, speaker of the state House of Representatives and delegate at Delaware’s Constitution Ratification Convention.]
After a series of overwhelming defeats by British forces, Gen. George Washington realized that he needed much better intelligence in order for the Continental Army to avoid more embarrassing defeats such as the battles of Long Island, Brandywine and others. Intelligence regarding the enemy’s strength, location and movements was a missing component.
Washington knew that he needed dependable sources of military information regarding personnel, number of artillery, leadership and when possible, advance information about the enemy’s plans. He needed to recruit persons with proven abilities to help gather this information and get that data back to command headquarters as quickly as possible.
After observing Allen McLane’s bravery and outstanding performance on the battlefield, especially at Long Island and Princeton, Washington handpicked McLane and promoted him to captain. After McLane journeyed to his home area of Duck Creek Crossroads where he recruited 98 persons for his new company, Washington designated his unit as a light horse cavalry company. His instructions always included the directive to observe the enemy as closely as possible, to harass them and to report back to the commander as often and quickly as possible. From early 1777 until 1782 this was McLane’s main charge.
McLane’s responsibilities grew as his performance sparkled. During the British occupation of Philadelphia, he set up a spy network in the city and traveled there in disguise to gather first-hand intelligence.
Here are two other well-documented intelligence-gathering assignments that deserve noting:
Immediately after the British vacated Philadelphia in June 1778, Washington needed intelligence on the enemy’s strength and disposition. Were they going on through New Jersey to New York, or were they going to double back and surprise the American army as they dismantled the Valley Forge camp and headed east into Philadelphia? Washington wanted to attack the British if they headed toward New York. In a war council, only three of 20 generals supported his proposal to attack. Needing pertinent military intelligence, he chose McLane for this major responsibility. McLane donned a disguise as a farmer and loaded with produce, chickens and eggs, he and another officer wandered close to the British encampment at the Haddon Field in New Jersey where they were challenged by sentries but then admitted into the camp. They were taken to meet with a dapper young British officer, Capt. John Andre (two years later caught and hanged in the plot by Benedict Arnold to turn over West Point to the British). We do not know the nature of the intelligence gathered by McLane in that spying episode, but just a few days later, Washington did order the successful attack on the British at Monmouth Courthouse.
A year later, Washington felt that the support of the press, fellow generals, Congress and the general population had faltered, and was convinced that a victory was necessary to revive the morale of the military and civilian population. He asked Gen. “Mad Anthony” Wayne to propose a target. Stony Point Fort, having recently been taken by the British, was selected. Needing intelligence to prepare for a successful attack, McLane was chosen for the task. Disguising himself as a country bumpkin and a member of the local militia, he accompanied a mother into the fort under a flag of truce as she was there to see her two sons working for the British. While there, McLane gathered information on the number of troops, artillery, trenches, etc. From his report, a battle plan was put together that took the fort in a bayonet-only charge in only 25 minutes. The result that Washington was seeking was achieved. Congress, the press and the public all applauded and crowned Wayne a “national hero.” McLane remained in the shadows. Although his achievements have been often overlooked by historians, one place that has duly noted his prowess is the CIA, which refers to his Stoney Point mission in an article on Intelligence Techniques—Disguise.
Tom Welch has served as a historical interpreter for the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs since 2007 after a successful 27-year career as an administrator at Wesley College in Dover. His interest in Allen McLane began in 2008 when he was asked to portray the Revolutionary War hero as part of a proposed Delaware Day living-history performance. After discovering how little was popularly known about this worthy Delawarean, he began a personal campaign to learn as much as he could about McLane, and to share his knowledge with visitors to Delaware’s state capital. Since then, Welch has portrayed McLane on numerous occasions at events throughout Delaware and the region.
By Carolyn Apple, retired Dover-area emergency medicine physician and Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs volunteer
Did you know that the United States military used stealth aircraft during World War II? Though most of us think of stealth aircraft coming into use by our military in the late 20th century, the U.S. Army Air Force used gliders during World War II to silently land and surprise the enemy.
In organizing and designing the display “World War II Through the Lens of William D. Willis” that was on display at Legislative Hall from March 4, 2015 to Feb. 21, 2016, I discovered the photo documentation of military gliders in the William D. Willis World War II Photographic Collection, one of the permanent collections preserved by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. Because some staff members had not heard of these aircraft and were intrigued to learn more, I was compelled to do more research.
What were gliders? They were lightweight engineless aircraft that were used to transport a group of 13 to 28 infantry troops and heavy equipment into enemy controlled areas without detection. Built to be disposable and for one way missions, the glider’s outer body and wings were made of plywood covered with fabric and the infrastructure was aluminum framing for some larger models which added strength and stability to carry heavy equipment and military vehicles.
It took incredible skill and much courage to fly a military glider. These special aircraft were airlifted by the use of a cable connection to military transport planes such as the C-47 Skytrain or Dakota, or sometimes by bomber planes that were not assigned to a bombing mission, and then released near the designated enemy target. It is hard to imagine how pilots managed to guide these aircraft. Without engines, the gliders had little ability to change course to avoid obstacles or harsh terrain. The goal was to land the gliders, without significant damage to the cargo or crew, in open terrain that was close enough to the enemy. Unfortunately, glider pilots were killed at a higher rate during both training and assigned missions. The gliders would often be destroyed during landing. [Editor’s note: Examples of the Waco CG-4A glider and the C-47 Skytrain are on display at the Air Mobility Command Museum in Dover, Del.]
The images in this blog were selected from the William D. Willis World War II Photographic Collection, one of the permanent collections preserved by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. Mr. Willis of Dover, Del. served as a photographic technician with the Army Air Force during the Second World War.
In a ceremony on May 29, 2015 a group of dignitaries headed by U.S. Sen. Tom Carper unveiled two interpretive signs featuring historical information about The Green in Dover, Del. The Green is a component of the First State National Historical Park which spotlights the state’s early Dutch, Swedish and English settlements and its role in the events leading up to the founding of the United States as a nation.
During his comments, delivered to a large assemblage including a group of first-grade students from Dover’s Holy Cross School, Carper noted that while Delaware was the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, it was the only state that did not have a national park when he and the other members of Delaware’s Congressional delegation began efforts to rectify that situation in 2001. Together with the work of countless Delawareans, their efforts came to fruition in 2013 when President Obama issued a proclamation establishing the First State National Monument. The expanded First State National Historical Park was officially established as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 which was signed by the president on Dec. 19, 2015.
Designated by William Penn in 1683, the Dover Green functioned for nearly 200 years as the city’s commercial and governmental center. It served as the site where the Declaration of Independence was read to the townspeople in 1776, and where a Continental regiment was mustered for service in the American Revolution. The Green was also home to a number of taverns and inns including the Golden Fleece Tavern where representatives from Delaware’s three counties ratified the United States Constitution on December 7, 1787, becoming the first state to do so. The Green remains the historical heart of Dover and is the location of The Old State House, Delaware Supreme Court and the Kent County Courthouse.
On May 15, 2015, the City of Dover, Del. received notification it had been accorded the status of a Certified Local Government by the National Park Service. Part of a nationwide effort, Delaware’s Certified Local Government Program is administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ State Historic Preservation Office in partnership with the National Park Service. The program strengthens preservation efforts at the local-level by providing technical and financial assistance, while encouraging successful preservation programs and practices. Delaware now has six Certified Local Governments: Delaware City, Dover, Lewes, Milton, New Castle County and the City of Wilmington.
Founded by William Penn in 1683, Dover is one of the state’s most historic cities. In 1777, Delaware’s capital was moved there from New Castle because of the city’s central location and relative safety from British warships operating in the Delaware River. The Dover Green, now a component of the First State National Historical Park, functioned for nearly 200 years as the city’s commercial and governmental center. It served as the site where the Declaration of Independence was read to the townspeople in 1776, and where a Continental regiment was mustered for service in the American Revolution. The Green was also home to a number of taverns and inns including the Golden Fleece Tavern where representatives from Delaware’s three counties ratified the United States Constitution on December 7, 1787, becoming the first state to do so. The Green remains the historical heart of Dover and is the location of The Old State House, Delaware Supreme Court and the Kent County Courthouse.
For information about the Dover Green Historic District and the Victorian Dover Historic District, as well as individual Dover properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places, go to Delaware’s Cultural and Historical Resources Information System (CHRIS). Go to the following for Dover’s historic district guidelines.
John Kufuor, former president of the Republic of Ghana, visited the John Dickinson Plantation in Dover on Saturday, May 16, 2015 where he received a guided tour by site supervisor Gloria Henry. Kufuor was in Dover to deliver Delaware State University’s commencement address on May 17.
Henry’s tour provided extensive information on the life of Dickinson, one of the founding fathers of the United States, signer of the Constitution and “Penman of the Revolution.” In a notable moment, Kufuor mentioned that he had studied law at Lincoln’s Inn in London which is located across the street from Middle Temple where Dickinson studied. Other highlights of the tour included an examination of books in Dickinson’s library, weaving on the plantation’s barn loom, and demonstrations of meat curing in the smokehouse and hearth cooking in the log’d dwelling. Kufuor was accompanied on the tour by his nephew Dr. Akwasi Osei, a member of the Delaware State University faculty and former vice chair of the Delaware State Review Board for Historic Preservation.
Go to the following to read a press account of President Kufuor’s address at Delaware State University
Former president of Ghana gives DSU commencement
News Journal, Wilmington, Del.—May 17, 2015
Desiree Williams has recently been promoted to the position of site manager of the Buena Vista Conference Center located at 661 S. Dupont Highway in New Castle, Del. Called “the perfect wedding location” by Delaware Bride Magazine, 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.
Williams has worked in the administration of Buena Vista since April 2014 having previously served as an administrator with the Delaware Department of State. Originally from New York City, she attended Delaware State University on a full scholarship, graduating in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and public relations.
“It’s been one of my career objectives to work in the field of event planning, and managing a beautiful site like this [Buena Vista] is a dream come true for me,” noted Williams. As site manager, her responsibilities include maintaining the historical integrity of the mansion, conducting tours for potential brides and clients, assisting with planning and logistical details for events and weddings, maintaining the property’s social media sites, creating marketing and promotional strategies to increase visitation, and managing staff members who serve the more than 10,000 guests that attend events at the conference center each year.
Commenting on Williams’ service, Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs Director Tim Slavin noted, “Desiree is a wonderful addition to our team. She is customer-focused and has made Buena Vista one of the finest sites in Delaware for meetings and special events. We look forward to great things with Desiree as our site manager.”
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 conference center administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.