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  Archived Posts From: 2017

museums

Division museums closed on Dec. 24, 25 and 31, 2017; and Jan. 1, 2018

Written on: December 15th, 2017 in MuseumsNews

The five museums of the State of Delaware (the John Dickinson Plantation, the Johnson Victrola Museum, the New Castle Court House Museum, The Old State House and the Zwaanendael Museum) will be closed all day on Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017 (Christmas Eve) and Monday, Dec. 25, 2017 (Christmas Day); and Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017 (New Year’s Eve) and Monday, Jan. 1, 2018 (New Year’s Day).

Administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the five museums tell the story of the First State’s contributions to the history and culture of the United States. Through tours, exhibits, school programs and hands-on activities, the museums shine a spotlight on Delaware’s unique history and the diverse people who came to live there. The museums are accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The New Castle Court House Museum and the John Dickinson Plantation are partner sites of the First State National Historical Park. The Old State House is located on the Dover Green, another partner site of the park.

Go to the following for a comprehensive, long-term calendar of division-sponsored events.

American Alliance of Museums accreditation logo


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historic-sites

Division receives $190,000 grant for its partner sites in the First State National Historical Park

Written on: December 14th, 2017 in Historic SitesMuseumsNews

The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has recently been awarded a grant of $190,000 from the First State National Historical Park for a mix of capital improvements and programmatic activities at the New Castle Court House Museum and The Green in New Castle, the John Dickinson Plantation in Dover and Fort Christina National Historic Landmark in Wilmington. Owned by the State of Delaware and administered by the division, the four properties are part of a mix of federal, state and private partners that together comprise the First State National Historical Park.

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper shakes hands with historic-site interpreter Barbara Carrow during his visit to the John Dickinson Plantation on Nov. 17, 2017. Historic-site interpreter Melissa Fitzgerald looks on. The Plantation is a partner site in the First State National Historical Park.

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper shakes hands with historic-site interpreter Barbara Carrow during his visit to the John Dickinson Plantation on Nov. 17, 2017. Historic-site interpreter Melissa Fitzgerald looks on. The Plantation is a partner site in the First State National Historical Park.

On Nov. 17, 2017, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper visited the John Dickinson Plantation to see for himself how federal money has been used, and will be used in the future, to support the First State National Historical Park as a primary attraction for visitors to Delaware.

For press coverage of Carper’s visit, go to the following:

Upgrading a jewel of state history: Improvements set for John Dickinson Plantation
Delaware State News, Dover, Del.—Nov. 19, 2017

Carper returns to inspect state’s National Historical Park
WMDT TV, Salisbury, Md.—Nov. 17, 2017

Funding from the First State National Historical Park grant will be used for the following projects:

New Castle Green
Walkway improvements and the development of a land management and tree plan

Aerial view of the New Castle Green. The New Castle Court House Museum is in the foreground.

Aerial view of the New Castle Green. The New Castle Court House Museum is in the foreground.

New Castle Court House Museum
Window glazing and repair, and the development of interpretive planning utilizing First State National Historical Park Interpretive Theme Matrix

John Dickinson Plantation
Roof replacements on out-buildings adjacent to the main house, repair and/or replacement of fencing along the demonstration garden, and development of a land-use plan for the 450-acre site

Fort Christina National Historic Landmark
Install additional visitor amenities and provide free access to the site during the summer season

Swedish Tercentenary Monument at the Fort Christina National Historic Landmark. The monument depicts the Swedish colonial vessel, the Kalmar Nyckel.

Swedish Tercentenary Monument at the Fort Christina National Historic Landmark. The monument depicts the Swedish colonial vessel, the Kalmar Nyckel.

 


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archaeology

Archaeological discovery writes new chapter in Delaware’s early colonial history

Written on: December 13th, 2017 in ArchaeologyNews

By Doug Denison, director of community relations, Delaware Department of State

An archaeological study years in the making has revealed a wealth of new information about some of Delaware’s earliest colonial settlers and sheds new light on what life would have been like in the region three centuries ago.

The discovery of numerous artifacts as well as 11 well-preserved burial sites dating to the late 1600s fill in gaps in Delaware’s early history, telling the story of the colonists’ physical health, diet, family life and how they made their living. Three of the burials, one a young child, were determined to be of African descent, constituting the earliest known discovery of remains of enslaved people in Delaware.

Archaeologists and volunteers working at the Avery’s Rest site.

Archaeologists and volunteers working at the Avery’s Rest site.

In cooperation with Delaware’s historical community, the state will now collaborate on a major research project to attempt to identify each of the individuals buried at the site. Future plans will be developed to exhibit the findings, possibly to include facial reconstructions based on the skeletal remains.

Burial site at Avery’s Rest.

Burial site at Avery’s Rest.

“Delaware’s history is rich, fascinating and deeply personal to many of us who call this state home,” said Secretary of State Jeff Bullock. “Discoveries like this help us add new sharpness to our picture of the past, and I’m deeply grateful to the passionate community of historians, scientists and archaeologists who have helped bring these new revelations to light.”

The site of the discoveries is Avery’s Rest, a 17th-century plantation located in what is now West Rehoboth. The original owner was John Avery who once served as a judge in nearby Lewes in the period just after the colony transitioned from Dutch to English rule.

“This is a story of the life and death of some of the earliest Europeans and Africans to occupy what is now the state of Delaware” said Daniel Griffith of the Archaeological Society of Delaware. “Their interactions with neighbors and colonial governments, and global connections with Europe, Africa and the British colonies are revealed to us through archaeology and archival research. The story is even more significant as its telling would not have been possible without the volunteer efforts of many members of the Archaeological Society of Delaware.”

A pair of scissors unearthed during archaeological excavations at Avery’s Rest.

A pair of scissors unearthed during archaeological excavations at Avery’s Rest.

Designated a historically significant site in the 1970s, Avery’s Rest was slated for development in 2005 which spurred the first round of excavations and surveys at the property by the Archaeological Society of Delaware in collaboration with the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. Over the next few years, archaeologists continued to work the site and branch out into neighboring parcels, uncovering artifacts and evidence of structures from the original plantation.

Pottery fragment found at Avery’s Rest.

Pottery fragment found at Avery’s Rest.

The first burials were discovered in 2012. This triggered a legal process under the state’s Unmarked Human Remains Law, which identified three known descendants of John Avery.

With their consent, the state engaged Dr. Douglas Owsley of the Smithsonian Institution for his expertise in the field of physical anthropology and his well-known work with early colonial settlements at Jamestown, Va. and St. Mary’s City, Md. The remains were excavated and transferred to the Smithsonian for advanced DNA testing under Owsley’s supervision.

“Avery’s Rest provides a rare opportunity to learn about life in the 17th century, not only through the study of buried objects and structures, but also through analyses of well-preserved human skeletal remains,” said Owsley who leads the Division of Physical Anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. “The bone and burial evidence provides an intriguing, personal look into the life stories of men, women and children on the Delaware frontier, and adds to a growing body of biological data on the varied experiences of colonist and enslaved populations in the Chesapeake region.”

Bone and DNA analysis confirmed that three of the burials were people of African descent and eight were of European descent. Coupled with research from the historical record, Owsley further determined that the European burials may be the extended family of John Avery and his wife Sarah, including their daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren. However, genetic markers alone are not sufficient to determine the exact identities of the remains.

“This archaeological discovery is truly exciting and reminds us that the ancestors will always make themselves known to us if we listen. The stories of their sacrifices in life and remembrances in death are truly ‘written in bone’ for us to interpret, understand and honor,” said Dr. Angela Winand, head of the Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage at the Delaware Historical Society. “Long ago, these individuals formed a community at Avery’s Rest upon which our present and our future as a culturally diverse state rests. I look forward to learning more about this discovery from our partners at the Archaeological Society of Delaware and the Smithsonian, and sharing these stories with all of Delaware’s citizens through the work of the Mitchell Center.”

The remains will stay in the custody of the Smithsonian where they will assist ongoing work to trace the genetic and anthropological history of the early colonial settlers of the Chesapeake region. Delaware law strictly forbids the public display of human remains.

In late 2017, 200 boxes of Avery’s Rest artifacts—prepared for curation by the Archaeological Society of Delaware—were transferred to the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs which accessioned them into the collections of the State of Delaware. The division will continue to work with the Delaware Historical Society, the Archaeological Society and others to craft a plan to exhibit the Avery’s Rest findings for the public.

Key dates in the discovery and investigation of the Avery’s Rest archaeological site

–1976: Site identified by Delaware state archaeologists

–1978: Site listed in the National Register of Historic Places

–2005: Proposed development plan in the area raises concerns from the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs

–2006: The state obtains landowner permission to survey the site

–2006–2008: The Archaeological Society of Delaware, with assistance from the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, carries out surveys and excavations of the part of the site to be affected by the development

–2009–2012: The Archaeological Society of Delaware continues its investigation on adjacent properties

–2010: An exhibit on findings is presented at the Rehoboth Beach Museum

–September 2012: First burials identified

–November 2012: In accordance with Delaware law, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs publishes a notice of the discovery seeking next-of-kin. Three descendants of John Avery come forward

–2013: Next-of-kin and the property owner consent to excavation and analysis of burials. The Archaeological Society of Delaware continues investigation and identifies a total of 11 burials

–September 2014: Memorandum of Agreement signed by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, Smithsonian, Archaeological Society of Delaware, and next-of-kin for Smithsonian excavation of the burials, with division oversight. Remains are transferred to the Smithsonian

–March 2017: Smithsonian confirms the age, gender and ethnicity of the burials

–August 2017: Final report completed by the Smithsonian

For recent press accounts on Avery’s Rest, go to the following:

Unearthing the past
Cape Gazette, Lewes, Del.—Dec. 11, 2017

Rehoboth archaeological discovery holds clues to Delaware’s earliest settlers, slaves
Delaware Public Media, Dover, Del.—Dec. 8, 2017

Burial sites of slaves discovered in West Rehoboth excavation
WXDE-FM, Milford, Del.—Dec. 7, 2017

Major archaeological discovery could rewrite Delaware’s history
WMDT TV, Salisbury, Md.—Dec. 7, 2017

Revolutionary Archaeological Discovery Made in West Rehoboth
WBOC TV, Salisbury, Md.—Dec 7, 2017

Archaeological discovery to ‘write new chapter’ in state history
Delaware State News, Dover, Del.—Dec 6, 2017

Archaeologist Uncovers the Graves of Delaware’s Earliest Settlers and Their Slaves
WCAU TV, Philadelphia, Pa.—Dec. 6, 2017

Avery’s Rest burial sites offer window into 17th century living
Cape Gazette, Lewes, Del.—Dec. 6, 2017

Burial site from 17th century found in Rehoboth Beach
WPVI TV, Philadelphia, Pa.—Dec. 6, 2017

Colonial Cemetery Excavated in Delaware
Archaeology Magazine, New York, N.Y.—Dec. 6, 2017

Delaware archaeologists find 17th century remains
Newsworks, WHYY TV, Wilmington, Del.—Dec. 6, 2017

Rehoboth burials reveal stories of Delaware’s earliest settlers
News Journal, Wilmington, Del.—Dec. 6, 2017

Skeletal remains hold clues to lives of early settlers in Delaware
Delaware Business Now, Newark, Del.—Dec. 6, 2017

An archaeological dig unearths one of the earliest slave remains in Delaware
Washington Post, D.C.—Dec. 5, 2017

Rehoboth discovery may change Delaware history
News Journal, Wilmington, Del.—Dec. 5, 2017


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events

EVENT CANCELLED: Buena Vista Holiday Open House on Dec. 9, 2017

Written on: December 8th, 2017 in EventsHistoric SitesNews

Based on a winter weather advisory from the National Weather Service,  the Buena Vista Holiday Open House in New Castle, Del., scheduled for Dec. 9, 2017, has been cancelled.

Buena Vista

Buena Vista

Following is information on the original event:

Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017
Buena Vista Holiday Open House. One-day-only event featuring self-guided tours of one of Delaware’s most historic homes decorated for the holidays plus crafts and other activities for children and adults, refreshments and a book drive hosted by the University of Delaware Pi Beta Phi sorority. Guests are encouraged to bring books to benefit local schools through Read>Lead>Achieve! Buena Vista: A Delaware Country Estate, 661 S. Dupont Highway (Route 13), New Castle. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Free admission. 302-323-4430.

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 conference/event center administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.


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news

Division welcomes three new staff members

Written on: December 6th, 2017 in News

During the past several months, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has welcomed three new employees including two members of the Horticulture Team and an addition to the staff of the Buena Vista conference/event center. Following are profiles of these newest members of the division family.

As members of the Horticulture Team, Scott Chambers and George Pardee provide landscape support-services at division sites, helping to maintain a beautiful and safe natural environment that complements the historic nature of the individual properties.

A native of Philadelphia where he graduated from Olney High School, Chambers now lives in Milford, Del. Prior to joining the division staff, he worked for the Delaware Department of Transportation where he exhibited a wide variety of horticultural and landscape-maintenance skills.

Scott Chambers

Scott Chambers

A lifelong resident of Kent County, Del. and graduate of Caesar Rodney High School, Pardee worked for several years for a private landscaping company before joining the division staff. Earlier in his career, he worked in television repair and as an electrician in his father’s business. As part of his work with the division, he has enjoyed researching historical horticultural practices and heirloom plants.

George Pardee

George Pardee

Executive housekeeper Tammy Pack works 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, her varied responsibilities include assisting with the set-up and break-down of events, food service, hospitality, customer relations and inventory management. The lifelong Newark, Del. resident comes to Buena Vista after a 10-year stint in which she operated her own home-cleaning business. Prior to that, she worked for 11 years as the head of plant operations for the University of Delaware.

Tammy Pack

Tammy Pack


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events

PROGRAM CANCELLED: “A Dead Whale or a Stove Boat, Part Two”—Dec. 9, 2017 lecture at Zwaanendael Museum

Written on: December 5th, 2017 in EventsMuseumsNews

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the lecture, “A Dead Whale or a Stove Boat, Part Two,” scheduled for Dec. 9, 2017 at the Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes, Del., has been cancelled. Part of “Global to Local: International Events and the First State,” a series exploring how world events impacted Delaware’s history, the content of the program will be incorporated into “A Dead Whale or a Stove Boat, Parts Two and Three” that will take place on March 24, 2018.

Zwaanendael Museum

Zwaanendael Museum

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.

American Alliance of Museums logo


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collections

100th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Jacob Jones

Written on: November 20th, 2017 in CollectionsMuseumsNews

During service in World War I, the American destroyer USS Jacob Jones was torpedoed and sunk off the Scilly Islands, England on Dec. 6, 1917. Out of the 110 men who were aboard the ship that day, 64 lost their lives. The Jacob Jones was the first U.S. destroyer ever to be lost to enemy action. This year marks the 100th anniversary of its sinking.

USS Jacob Jones

The ship was named in honor of Commodore Jacob Jones (1768–1850) of Smyrna, Del., an American hero of the War of 1812. In 1814, the Delaware legislature commissioned the English-born, American artist Thomas Sully (1783–1872) to paint portraits of Jones and another Delaware hero of the War of 1812, Commodore Thomas Macdonough, for display in the House of Representatives chamber of The Old State House. The paintings still hang in that location.

Portrait of Commodore Jacob Jones by Thomas Sully

Portrait of Commodore Jacob Jones by Thomas Sully

Portrait of Commodore Thomas Macdonough by Thomas Sully

Portrait of Commodore Thomas Macdonough by Thomas Sully

Thomas Sully

Thomas Sully

 


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news

Cherie Dodge Biron leaves division employment

Written on: November 17th, 2017 in News

The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has bid farewell to its long-time Business Administration supervisor Cherie Dodge Biron who left the agency to accept the position of controller of the new Delaware Department of Human Resources which was created in July 2017 in response to Gov. John Carney’s Action Plan for Delaware.

Cherie Dodge Biron

Cherie Dodge Biron

Commenting on Dodge Biron’s service to the division, director Tim Slavin noted that “her knowledge, experience and ability to find solutions is something which will be sorely missed. Under Cherie’s guidance, the Business Administration Team has performed at a very high level for many, many years, and much of that success is the product of Cherie’s work with her fellow colleagues.”

Dodge Biron began her full time, 21-year career with the division’s State Historic Preservation Office in July 1996 as an administrative specialist. Over time, she advanced in the agency until 2007 when she was appointed supervisor of the Business Administration Team which provides a fiscal and administrative support-network that is the foundation for all of the division’s activities.

Following are just a few of Dodge Biron’s achievements during her tenure with the division:

–Played a pivotal role in the multi-year efforts that led to the division’s accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums, the highest recognition afforded to museums in the United States

–Led efforts to develop and implement the division’s Volunteer Program which recruits and organizes the work of volunteers who are interested in aiding the agency in its efforts to preserve and promote Delaware history

–Established an employee recognition program to pay tribute to division employees and volunteers for outstanding performance, leadership and innovative ideas

–Oversaw the implementation and use of AssetWorks software for managing capital projects

–Managed numerous information technology upgrades

On Nov. 17, 2017, Dodge Biron’s colleagues celebrated her career at the division with a farewell gathering at the agency’s main office at 21 The Green in Dover.

Cherie Dodge Biron accepting a card from Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs Director Tim Slavin during her farewell gathering on Nov. 17, 2017.

Cherie Dodge Biron accepting a card from Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs Director Tim Slavin during her farewell gathering on Nov. 17, 2017.


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collections

Social practices in art

Written on: November 16th, 2017 in CollectionsExhibitsMuseumsNews

By Valerie Kauffman, historic-site interpreter, Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs

“Give me liberty, or give me death!” was the defining phrase of America’s push for independence. Revolution, liberty and political rights are themes that have frequently been portrayed in art and have been the banner for many great artistic creations. Denis Alexandre Volozan was well aware of the power of the visual arts to arouse patriotic emotions and was happy to oblige when he was commissioned in the year 1800 to paint one of the first post-mortem portraits of George Washington.

Engraving of Denis A. Volozan by Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin, 1800

Engraving of Denis A. Volozan by Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin, 1800

Volozan was born in Lyon, France in 1765 and studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris before ultimately making his way to Philadelphia in 1799 where he lived, respectively at 209 S. Second St. and 109 Spruce St., in an environment filled with artists and intellectuals including many recent arrivals from war-ravaged Europe.

As a 34-year-old artist and teacher working in the capital of the newly independent United States, Volozan lived in a world that was roiling with revolutionary and patriotic fervor. On Nov. 9, 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte engineered a coup and became First Consul of the Republic thus bringing to a close the republican phase of the French Revolution. The American Revolution had ended in 1783 and the Haitian Revolution was still in full swing.

Circa 1800, Volozan painted a heroic portrait in ink and wash of Toussaint L’Ouverture on his horse Bel-Argent. L’Ouverture was the most noted leader of the Haitian Revolution which eventually led to the world’s first independent country founded by former slaves. Volozan depicted L’Ouverture riding on a white horse charging into battle in the same way that George Washington and Napoleon had been portrayed by other renowned artists. The white horse was symbolic of the ideals of good and right.

Portrait of Toussaint L’Ouverture on his horse Bel-Argent by Denis A. Volozan, pen and wash, circa 1800

Portrait of Toussaint L’Ouverture on his horse Bel-Argent by Denis A. Volozan, pen and wash, circa 1800

On Dec. 14, 1799, George Washington died at the age of 67. Subsequently, during the opening session of the Delaware Senate on Jan. 10, 1800, Sen. John Vining introduced a resolution, which was seconded by Sen. Isaac Grantham and unanimously adopted that “in commemoration of the afflicting event an elegant and full portrait, large as the life, with suitable devices and suitable motto, bearing the resemblance of this first of heroes and greatest of men, be produced at the expense of the State, as soon as it conveniently can be done.” Shortly thereafter, Volozan was commissioned to paint the portrait of Washington which he completed in 1802.

Portrait of George Washington by Denis A. Volozan, oil on canvas, 1802, The Old State House, Dover, Del.

Portrait of George Washington by Denis A. Volozan, oil on canvas, 1802, The Old State House, Dover, Del.

Volozan was influenced by the French neoclassical stylists of the late-18th and early-19th centuries. Symbolism and moralizing historical figures were characteristics of portraits of that period. His 5 feet 3 inches by 7 feet 2 inches, oil on canvas, portrait of Washington has a classic background which includes a tent in striped fabric fashioned after the imperial military tent of Napoleon. In the landscape, cloud masses and mountain peaks were painted to magnify the figure in full uniform. Washington’s hand is resting on the U.S. Constitution placed on the table. He is represented as the “Defender of the Constitution.”

The portrait was officially dedicated on Jan. 19, 1803 and hung in Delaware’s State House. After undergoing its seventh restoration in 2007, it was returned to The Old State House and re-hung over the speaker’s desk in the Senate chamber where it remains to this day reminding us of revolution, liberty and political rights.


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events

Division to sponsor 17 special programs during the 2017 winter-holiday season

Written on: November 16th, 2017 in EventsExhibitsHistoric SitesMuseumsNews

The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will be sponsoring 17 special events, including eight winter-holiday-themed activities, between Nov. 25, 2017 and Dec. 23, 2017. A full schedule is included below. Except where otherwise indicated, all programs are free and open to the public.

The John Dickinson Plantation will be offering four “Handmade for the Holidays” programs during the 2017 winter-holiday season.

The John Dickinson Plantation will be offering four “Handmade for the Holidays” programs during the 2017 winter-holiday season.

Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017
“Handmade for the Holidays.” Seasonal program in which visitors can create a sachet with herbs and spices. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017
“Hospitality Night—Victorian Yule-Tide Celebration.” Holiday-themed program in which the museum will be decorated for the season by the Sussex Gardeners including luminarias lighting the entrance walkway. Activities will include historical interpreters, demonstrations, music and seasonal refreshments. Presented in partnership with the Lewes Chamber of Commerce. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. 5–8 p.m. 302-645-1148.

Friday, Dec. 1, 2017
Concert by the Honey Badgers. Folk music duo. Presented in partnership with the Delaware Friends of Folk and the First State Heritage Park. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. 7:30 p.m. 302-744-5054.

Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017
“Delaware’s State Constitution.” Guided tours explore the Delaware State Constitution of 1792 which changed the Delaware State to the State of Delaware. First Saturday in the First State program. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5054.

Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017
2017 Holiday Open House at Woodburn: The Governor’s Residence. The home of Delaware’s governor will be decorated for the holidays and open for guided tours. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Woodburn: The Governor’s Residence, 151 Kings Highway S.W., Dover. 302-739-5656.

Woodburn: The Governor’s Residence

Woodburn: The Governor’s Residence

Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017
“Tour Zwaanendael Museum.” Enjoy the museum’s festive holiday-décor created by the Sussex Gardeners. Event held in conjunction with the Lewes Historical Society’s Christmas Tour of Lewes. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. 10 a.m.–4 p.m. 302-645-1148.

Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017
“Johnson Victrola Museum’s 50th Anniversary Celebration: A Country Tale.” Program, “Play That Old-Time Country Music,” explores Victor Records’ early recordings of country music, accompanied by 78-rpm records played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. Part of a series celebrating the museum’s creation in 1967. First Saturday in the First State program. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. Programs at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. in the museum’s 2nd floor gallery (entry via staircase; no elevator). Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Free admission but, due to space restrictions, reservations are required for the programs by calling 302-739-3262.

Displays in the Johnson Victrola Museum

Displays in the Johnson Victrola Museum

Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017
“Handmade for the Holidays.” Seasonal program in which visitors can design a tile for the holidays. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Thursday and Friday, Dec. 7 and 8, 2017
“Fully, Freely and Entirely— Becoming the First State.” Historical theater production based on Delaware Day, the date when Delaware became the first state to ratify the United States Constitution on Dec. 7, 1787. Sponsored by the First State Heritage Park and presented in the candlelit Old State House. Ticket-holders will meet at the John Bell House, 43 The Green, Dover. 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Admission $10. Pre-registration is required and spaces are limited. 302-739-9194.

Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017
CANCELLED: “Fully, Freely and Entirely— Becoming the First State.” Historical theater production based on Delaware Day, the date when Delaware became the first state to ratify the United States Constitution on Dec. 7, 1787. Sponsored by the First State Heritage Park and presented in the candlelit Old State House. Ticket-holders will meet at the John Bell House, 43 The Green, Dover. 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Admission $10. Pre-registration is required and spaces are limited. 302-739-9194. NOTE: Due to inclement weather, these two performances have been cancelled.

The Old State House

The Old State House

Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017
POSTPONED: Delaware Day awards ceremony. Event honors participants in the Delaware Department of State’s 16th annual Delaware Day Fourth Grade Competition which challenges students to create displays that help illustrate and explain the U.S. Constitution and the role played by Delawareans in the writing and ratification of the nation’s founding document. Delaware Public Archives, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Dover. 10 a.m. Free admission. 302-744-5000. NOTE: Due to inclement weather, this event has been postponed. Rescheduled date TBA.

Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017
CANCELLED: Buena Vista Holiday Open House. One-day-only event featuring self-guided tours of one of Delaware’s most historic homes decorated for the holidays plus crafts and other activities for children and adults, refreshments and a book drive hosted by the University of Delaware Pi Beta Phi sorority. Guests are encouraged to bring books to benefit local schools through Read>Lead>Achieve! Buena Vista: A Delaware Country Estate , 661 S. Dupont Highway (Route 13), New Castle. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Free admission. 302-323-4430. NOTE: Due to inclement weather, this event has been cancelled.

Buena Vista

Buena Vista

Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017
Spirit of Christmas in New Castle.” One of the best preserved Colonial-era towns in America will feature tours of historic homes bedecked in holiday decorations, activities at museums including the New Castle Court House Museum, crafts, musical entertainment, caroling, shopping, tree lighting and more. Downtown New Castle. 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. 302-328-3279.

Aerial view of the New Castle Green

Aerial view of the New Castle Green

Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017
Demonstrations by the Thistledown Fiber Arts Guild. Program explores spinning, weaving, knitting and other fabric arts. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 1–3 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017
CANCELLED: “A Dead Whale or a Stove Boat, Part Two.” Lecture by historic-site interpreter Andrew Lyter on the glory days of the American whaling industry (1783–1861). Part of “Global to Local: International Events and the First State,” a series exploring how world events impacted Delaware’s history. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. Dec. 9, 2017 program cancelled and incorporated into March 24, 2018 program.

Zwaanendael Museum

Zwaanendael Museum

Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017
“Johnson Victrola Museum’s 50th Anniversary Celebration.” Activities include music, merriment and refreshments on the 50th anniversary of the museum which opened to the public on Dec. 14, 1967. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. Celebration from 1–3 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-739-3262.

Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017
“Handmade for the Holidays.” Seasonal program in which visitors can create a gift tag with paper quilling. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017
“Handmade for the Holidays.” Seasonal program in which visitors can design a holiday card with stencils. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Monday, Dec. 25, 2017
Christmas Day. All museums of the State of Delaware (the John Dickinson Plantation, the Johnson Victrola Museum, the New Castle Court House Museum, The Old State House and the Zwaanendael Museum) will be closed. 302-744-5054.

Monday, Jan. 1, 2018
New Year’s Day. All museums of the State of Delaware (the John Dickinson Plantation, the Johnson Victrola Museum, the New Castle Court House Museum, The Old State House and the Zwaanendael Museum) will be closed. 302-744-5054.

Administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the five museums of the State of Delaware—the John Dickinson Plantation, the Johnson Victrola Museum, the New Castle Court House Museum, The Old State House and the Zwaanendael Museum—tell the story of the First State’s contributions to the history and culture of the United States. Through tours, exhibits, school programs and hands-on activities, the museums shine a spotlight on Delaware’s unique history and the diverse people who came to live there. The museums are accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the highest recognition afforded to museums in the United States. The New Castle Court House Museum and the John Dickinson Plantation are partner sites of the First State National Historical Park. The Old State House is located on the Dover Green, another partner site of the park.

Go to the following for a comprehensive, long-term calendar of division-sponsored events.

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