Written on: December 20th, 2017 in News
During an end-of-year staff meeting on Dec. 11, 2017 at the St. Jones Reserve, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs honored its employees and volunteers who helped make 2017 a noteworthy year for the agency.
Zwaanendael Museum historic-site interpreter Andrew Lyter drew the attention of the assembled staff members with a stirring bagpipe performance followed by division Director Tim Slavin who began the program by honoring three employees who had been promoted within the agency during the past year—Dan Davis, Tammy Dayton and Dominique Martucci. Noting that vacancies within the division had started to open up after a period when hiring was frozen by state government, Slavin announced that in January 2018, the agency would be welcoming Laura Walsh as the new curator of collections management and Sara Clendaniel as the new volunteer services coordinator.
After Slavin presented a 10-year service award to Tammy Dayton, division staff members came to the podium to honor their colleagues by bestowing Extra Mile Awards to Andrew Lyter for his actions beyond the call of duty in support of the Zwaanendael Maritime Celebration; Jim Shilling for his many years of volunteer service at the Johnson Victrola Museum; and Business Services Team members Tammy Dayton, Dominique Martucci and Jan Rettig for stepping up their efforts after two fellow team-members departed the division during the course of the year. Finally, Slavin and Deputy Director Suzanne Savery presented a congratulatory graphic, signed by division staff members, to Cherie Dodge-Biron who left the division after many years as the manager of the Business Services Team.
Following the awards presentations, leaders of the division’s teams discussed recent accomplishments and upcoming plans including the following:
–Achieved accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums
–Cleared and organized the Island Field site
–Repurposed restrooms at the New Castle Court House Museum
–Celebrated the 250th Anniversary of John Dickinson’s “Letters From a Farmer in Pennsylvania”
–Removed a damaged silver maple at Woodburn and developed plans for replacing the tree
–Presented new exhibits and special programming at the division’s five museums
–Developed a new division logo
–Accessioned 200 boxes of artifacts from the Avery’s Rest archaeological site into the collections of the State of Delaware
–Eliminated water infiltration at Hale-Byrnes House
–Completing a new State Historic Preservation Plan
–Planning for improvements to the lightkeeper’s house at Fenwick Island Lighthouse
–Planning for paperless processing of invoices
–Conducting renovations to the Buck Library at Buena Vista
–Completing the inventory of the collections of the State of Delaware by consultants from AECOM (Architecture, Engineering, Consulting, Operations and Maintenance)
–Developing a report on the effects of sea-level rise on historic properties in Delaware
On Dec. 14, 2017, members of the Johnson family, museum employees and friends gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Johnson Victrola Museum which highlights the life and achievements of Dover’s native son, Eldridge Reeves Johnson, founder of The Victor Talking Machine Company. Located at 375 S. New St. in Dover, Del., the museum showcases a wide variety of talking machines, trademarks, recordings, objects, paintings and advertisements to tell the story of Johnson’s life, his company and the development of the sound-recording industry. Constructed by the State of Delaware with an endowment provided by the Johnson family, it opened to the public on Dec. 14, 1967.
Helping to cut the celebratory cake for the event were Fletcher Johnson, a fifth generation descendent of E.R. Johnson, and Anne Fenimore, who is related to E.R. Johnson’s wife Elsie Reeves Fenimore Johnson.
Written on: December 20th, 2017 in Uncategorized
The five museums of the State of Delaware will be sponsoring seven special events during the month of January 2018. A full schedule is included below. All programs are free and open to the public.
Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs special programs, January 2018
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.
Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018
“The Caroline.” Guided tours highlight Eldridge Reeves Johnson’s beloved yacht The Caroline including a song written and recorded about the vessel played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. First Saturday in the First State program. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-739-3262.
Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018
“Our Delegates.” Guided tours examine Delaware’s delegates to the Second Continental Congress which adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. 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.
Friday, Jan. 12, 2018
Concert by Sol Knopf. Folk music. 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, Jan. 13, 2018
“Stories of African-American History From St. Jones Neck.” Workshop utilizes primary-source materials including manumission documents, bills of sales and family information to illustrate the lives of free and enslaved African-Americans who lived on the John Dickinson Plantation. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 10 a.m.–Noon. Museum open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.
Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018
“Buccaneers in the Bay.” Lecture by historic-site interpreter Kaitlyn Dykes on the pirates of Lewes, Del. Part three of “Global to Local: International Events and the First State,” a five-part series exploring how world events impacted Delaware’s history. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. Program at 2 p.m. on the museum’s 2nd floor (entry via staircase; no elevator). Museum open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Free admission but, due to space restrictions, reservations for the lecture are required by calling 302-645-1148 no later than Jan. 12, 2018.
Monday, Jan. 15, 2018
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The following museums of the State of Delaware will be open: The Johnson Victrola Museum and The Old State House, open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. The following museums will be closed: The John Dickinson Plantation, the New Castle Court House Museum and the Zwaanendael Museum). 302-744-5054.
Monday, Jan. 15, 2018
“Courage and Freedom.” In commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, guided tours will focus on three compelling stories of courageous Delawareans whose fight for freedom and equality began at The Old State House. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5054.
Monday, Jan. 15, 2018
“The Struggle.” In commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, guided tours focus on African-American vocalists and Civil Rights activists Paul Robeson and Marian Anderson, accompanied by 78-rpm recordings of those artists played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-739-3262.
Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018
CANCELLED: Delaware State Review Board for Historic Preservation meeting. Agenda TBA. The Delaware Room, Delaware Public Archives, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Dover. 10 a.m.–Noon. 302-736-7417. NOTE: Meeting cancelled. Next meeting to take place on April 18, 2018.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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
Remains Tell Stories of Delaware’s Earliest Enslaved
Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.—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
Archaeologists dig up new clues about Delaware’s past at a downstate plantation
WDEL Radio, Wilmington, Del.—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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.