The New Castle Court House Museum, located at 211 Delaware St. in New Castle, Del., is currently featuring the exhibit “New Castle: Three Forts, One Community” which examines the 17th-century struggle for control of New Castle, Del. by the Dutch, Swedes and English, and the strongholds that they built to maintain their power.
About the three forts …
Modern-day New Castle traces its origin to the conflict between three great colonial powers—Netherlands, Sweden and England. From 1651 to 1681, these nations vied for control of the Delaware Valley and the profitable trade in natural resources with the region’s American-Indian inhabitants.
In response to the Swedish stronghold (Fort Christina) constructed at present-day Wilmington, the Dutch established a fortified settlement five miles to the south. For the next 30 years, the Dutch, Swedes and English would contest and occupy this outpost. Each nation would enforce its claim through a series of fortifications—Fort Casimir (Dutch), Fort Trinity (Swedish) and Fort New Castle (English).
These forts were an anchoring presence within the developing community and have not been completely lost to time. Archaeological excavations have found the site of Fort Casimir and recovered artifacts which are on display in the exhibit. To this day, the distinct cultural influences of the three colonial powers can still be found in New Castle.
“New Castle: Three Forts, One Community” was created by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team working together with the staff of the New Castle Court House Museum. The exhibit opened on Sept. 9, 2017 and will be on display for an undetermined period of time. Museum operating-hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-323-4453.
Constructed in 1732, the New Castle Court House is one of the oldest active court buildings in the United States and was Delaware’s first state capitol. Here, the Colonial Assembly passed the 1776 Separation Resolution creating the Delaware State. During its nearly 300 years of history, this landmark has played many pivotal roles in the political, social and commercial life of both New Castle and Delaware. Administered by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the museum is a partner site in the First State National Historical Park.
The John Dickinson Plantation, located at 340 Kitts Hummock Road in Dover, Del., will be closed on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 26 and 27, 2017, in support of “Thunder Over Dover,” the Dover Air Force Base’s Open House. The Plantation will re-open to the public on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017 according to its normal operating schedule.
On Saturday Aug. 19, 2017 at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., The Old State House, located at 25 The Green in Dover, Del., will present “Doctor Who and William Penn,” a theatrical performance in which the Time Lord once again visits Dover, this time bringing his newest companion, William Penn, all the way from 1704 England. Over the course of the play, Penn discovers that no journey through time and space ever goes smoothly. Admission is free but visitors are encouraged to arrive early to ensure seating. For additional information, call 302-744-5054.
“Doctor Who and William Penn” was created by historic-site interpreters from The Old State House in celebration of the Dover Comic Con comic-book festival that will be held at a variety of Dover locations on Aug. 19, 2017. The play is based on the British science-fiction television program “Doctor Who” which depicts the adventures of a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who explores the universe in a time-travelling space ship. His companion in the play, William Penn, was the founder of the colony of Pennsylvania who made his first landing in the New World at what is now New Castle, Del. in 1682 and who founded the town of Dover in 1683.
Completed in 1791, The Old State House is one of the oldest existing capitol buildings in the United States. It served as the home of Delaware’s legislature until 1933 when the General Assembly moved to larger quarters in Legislative Hall. The venerable structure now appears as it would have in the late 1700s during the United States’ critical early years as a nation. It features a courtroom, governor’s and county offices and chambers for the state’s Senate and House of Representatives. The building is situated on Dover’s historic Green, a public area laid out in 1717 in accordance with William Penn’s order of 1683. The Green is a partner site in the First State National Historical Park.
By Madeline Dunn, Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ historian and National Register of Historic Places coordinator
On July 26, 2017, staff from the State Historic Preservation Office conducted a National Register research workshop at the Delaware Public Archives building in Dover. The workshop helped address one of the goals of Delaware’s statewide historic preservation plan for 2013 to 2017 which calls for expanding opportunities for public education to increase support for historic preservation, and continuing historical-research training for property owners. As part of the workshop, nine attendees, including property owners and volunteers, engaged in research activities associated with historic properties previously designated as potentially eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
Exploring a host of primary-research materials within the extensive collections of the Delaware Public Archives, participants reviewed deeds, wills, probate records, court-case files, education records and U.S. Census information. In addition to examining a myriad of archival records, participants also reviewed a variety of National Register issues including eligibility qualifications and criteria, functions, classifications, a glossary of terms, research requirements, as well as essential research questions. Throughout the day, staff from the Preservation Office assisted attendees with reading and interpreting historical documents while Archives staff helped participants navigate the facility’s archival collections and access miscellaneous resource materials.
Participants from all three counties learned about the rigors of conducting historical research; were impressed with the extensive collections housed within the Delaware Public Archives; and expressed determination to complete their research projects on selected historic properties including a country estate and a private residence in New Castle County, a historic school in Kent County, and a small farm complex and a beach cottage in Sussex County.
The Historic Preservation Education Foundation is currently accepting proposals for the fall 2017 round of its Partners in Training initiative. The initiative was established in 2014 to provide training opportunities on topics associated with preservation technology.
The deadline for submissions is Oct. 3, 2017. Grant recipients will be announced on/around Dec. 1, 2017.
By Madeline Dunn, Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ historian and National Register of Historic Places coordinator
On July 7, 2017, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ State Historic Preservation Office received notification from the National Park Service that the Dinker-Irvin Cottage in Bethany Beach was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the U.S. government’s official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects deemed worthy of preservation.
The cottage’s nomination was prepared by a committee of volunteers from Bethany Beach which included the property owners Mr. and Mrs. Clem Edgar; Carol Olmstead, chair of the Bethany Beach Cultural and Historic Affairs Commission; and other residents who worked diligently with staff from the Preservation Office throughout the past year. The successful listing of the property complements Delaware’s statewide Historic Preservation Plan 2013–2017 which encourages the identification, documentation and nomination of 20th-century buildings.
Built in 1904 by William Dinker, one of Bethany Beach’s original financial investors, this white-painted cut-shingled beach cottage was relocated to its 310 Garfield Parkway Extended address in 1911 because of a property dispute. Between 1922 and 1925, part of the first floor of was utilized as a U.S. Post Office. As the resort’s only-documented public building to survive from this early period, the cottage served as the terminus of the contract mail-service route known as Star Route 12110. Serving the local communities of Bethany Beach, Ocean View, Millvillle, Clarksville, Omar and Frankford, it took approximately 3 1/2 hours to make an 11-mile trip by horse-drawn wagon between these six Sussex County communities.
In 1925, a Pittsburgh, Pa. resident named Ida May Irvin purchased the property which remained in the ownership of female descendants for more than 90 years. Despite its continuous use as a family beach cottage, it retains a high level of architectural integrity. Among its most significant features are the living room’s tongue-and-groove paneled fireplace wall and ceiling, the basket-weave- and running-bond-brickwork around the fireplace and an original closed-string staircase. Other significant features include the dining room’s built-in corner cupboard, the pantry’s built-in floor to ceiling cupboards with original electroplated hardware, as well as original flooring, baseboards and molded door and window surrounds with bullseye corner block-trim.
With an eye toward preserving this historic building, its owners recently donated it to the Town of Bethany Beach. In consultation with the National Park Service and the State Historic Preservation Office, it was repositioned 200 feet west of its nominated location in June 2017. As one of six remaining cottages constructed in the resort community between 1902 and 1905, the town plans to utilize it as a museum which will highlight both the history of the cottage and of Bethany Beach.
On July 5, 2017, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs received notification that its museum system, which includes five museums and the archaeological and historic-objects collections of the State of Delaware, has been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the highest recognition afforded to museums in the United States.
“Achieving accreditation is the gold standard of the museum profession” said Timothy Slavin, director of the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. “This achievement is doubly significant because we persevered and achieved it during trying economic times for the State of Delaware. Across our entire division, we maintained focus and effectiveness and our role as cultural stewards was recognized.”
Accreditation signifies excellence to the museum community, to governments, funders, outside agencies and the museum-going public. The newly accredited state museums include the John Dickinson Plantation near Kitts Hummock; the Johnson Victrola Museum and Old State House in downtown Dover; the New Castle Court House Museum; and the Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes. State museums are under the stewardship of the Department of State.
“Our state museums, and the collections they house, are treasures to be appreciated by Delawareans and visitors alike, and the dedicated team at the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs serve as excellent caretakers,” said Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock. “The people of Delaware can be proud of the work they do and the rich historic and cultural legacy they help preserve and safeguard for all of us.”
Developed and sustained by museum professionals for over 45 years, the American Alliance of Museums accreditation program is the field’s primary vehicle for quality assurance, self-regulation and public accountability. It strengthens the museum profession by promoting practices that enable leaders to make informed decisions, allocate resources wisely, and remain financially and ethically accountable in order to provide the best possible service to the public.
Of the nation’s estimated 33,000 museums, approximately 1,000 currently are accredited. Delaware’s state museums join only two other museums accredited in Delaware.
Accreditation is a rigorous process that examines all aspects of a museum’s operations. To earn accreditation, a museum first must conduct a year of self-study and then undergo a site visit by a team of peer reviewers. An independent and autonomous body of museum professionals then considers the self-study and visiting-committee report to determine whether a museum should receive accreditation.
The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will be sponsoring 12 special events during the month of August at the locations across Delaware. A full schedule is included below. With the exception of DeBraak tours, all programs are free and open to the public.
Administered by the Delaware 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.
Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs special events, August 2017
Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017
National Night Out in Historic New Castle. Annual community-building, family friendly event that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie. Activities at Battery Park include New Castle City Police and Good Will Fire Co. activities, K-9 demonstrations, music, food and more. Activities at the New Castle Court House Museum, 211 Delaware St., include historical interpreters in period clothing, colonial children’s games, coloring activities and photo opportunities in the colonial stock. 6–8 p.m. 302-323-4453.
Wednesdays, Aug. 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, 2017
“Lost Off Lewes: The British Warship DeBraak.” Special tours explore the 18th-century history, artifacts and the surviving hull section of this shipwreck. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. 9 a.m. Limited seating. Admission $10 (cash or check only). For reservations, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 302-645-1148.
Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017
“Who Done It: A Historic Murder Mystery.” Fictionalized historical play in which museum guests assist Delaware’s Dr. James Sykes in questioning suspects in the death of Samuel Bedford, III. Based on a real 18th-century medical mystery solved by Dr. Sykes. First Saturday in the First State program. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Performances at 1 and 3 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Free admission but, due to space restrictions, reservations are required by calling 302-744-5054.
Saturdays, Aug. 5 and 19, 2017
“Johnson Victrola Museum’s 50th Anniversary Celebration: An Inventor’s Tale.” Guided tours, entitled “From Tinfoil to the 78,” explore the origins of recorded music from the earliest tinfoil phonographs of Thomas Edison to the Victrola of Eldridge Reeves Johnson’s Victor Talking Machine Company while discovering the brilliant inventors and engineers who took recorded music from a novelty to a daily part of life. Accompanied by 78-rpm records played on authentic Victor Talking Machines. Part of a series of programs celebrating the museum’s creation in 1967. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-739-3262.
Saturday, Aug. 12, 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.
Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017
Second annual “Movie Night on the Lawn.” Screening of the Disney film “Moana” plus live music, food trucks, lawn games and a photo booth. Luau themed attire is welcomed. Buena Vista Conference Center, 661 S. Dupont Highway (Route 13), New Castle. Activities begin at 6:30 p.m. Film begins at 8 p.m. Free admission. 302-323-4430.
Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017
“Doctor Who and William Penn.” Theatrical performance in which the Time Lord once again visits Dover, this time bringing his newest companion, William Penn, all the way from 1704 England. Mr. Penn will soon discover that no journey through time and space ever goes smoothly. Presented in coordination with Dover Comic Con. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Programs at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Free admission but visitors are encouraged to arrive early to ensure seating. 302-744-5054.
On Saturday, July 22, 2017, students from Delaware State University will present free interactive, history-related activities at four historic sites located in Dover, Del. The programs were developed as a partnership between the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the First State Heritage Park and Delaware State University’s Jumpstart Program, an academic-enrichment and leadership-development initiative that provides opportunities for academically advanced, incoming freshmen to get a “jumpstart” on their college careers.
The featured programs are as follows:
“The Story of Freedom”
The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover, Del.
Program explores the stories of enslaved and free individuals as they navigated to freedom from slavery in Delaware. Between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., five “stations” will be set up throughout the museum where visitors can interact with the students on the following topics: Factors that were at work to eliminate slavery, how manumission became instrumental in freeing enslaved persons, the role of the Underground Railroad, the ordeal of Samuel Burris and the aftermath of the Civil War. At 11 a.m., there will be a presentation in the State House’s court room in which all of the “stations” will be brought together into one program.
“The Development of Recorded Sound”
Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover, Del.
Between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., programs will explore how recording technology developed over the 100 years that recorded music has been available in the United States from E.R. Johnson’s Victrola to the revolution of sound recording using the microphone to the CD and the IPod. The program will also feature the story of Nipper, the dog who adorns the Victor trademark, “His Masters Voice.”
“Escaping to Freedom”
First State Heritage Park’s John Bell House, 43 The Green, Dover, Del.
Between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., programs will tell the heroic story of the Dover Eight: a group of fugitives who narrowly escaped slavery in Dover in 1857. During the program, the students will help audiences explore the institution of slavery in Delaware, as well as the trials people faced as they escaped along the Underground Railroad.
“Stories of the Plantation”
John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover, Del.
Between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., students will recreate the lives of people associated with the plantation. In this interactive program, visitors will meet people from the past and hear their stories as they move through the mansion house. Stories will include the lives of the Dickinson family members, tenant farms, free African Americans and enslaved people. A special hands on activity will be available at the visitor center to complement the tour.
-Note: This event was rescheduled from July 22, 2017-
One of Delaware’s most historic estates will host an outdoor screening of the Disney film “Moana” on Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017. The event will take place on the lawn of the Buena Vista mansion located at 661 S. Dupont Highway (Route 13), in New Castle, Del. Visitors are invited to bring blankets and chairs or they may sit directly on the grass. Between 6:30 and 8 p.m., activities will include lawn games, live music and the Professor Looney Photo Booth. Food and beverages will be available from the Plum Pit food truck. Screening of the film begins at 8 p.m. Note: This event, originally scheduled for July 22, 2017, was postponed due to inclement weather and rescheduled for Aug. 13, 2017.
Admission to Buena Vista Movie Night on the Lawn is free and open to the public. In the event of inclement weather, the event will be cancelled and rescheduled to a later date. For notice of cancellation, or for questions, call 302-323-4430, or visit https://www.facebook.com/BuenaVistaConferenceCenter.
“Moana” is a 2016 computer animated, musical-adventure film created by Walt Disney Pictures. The film tells the story of Moana, the strong-willed daughter of a chief of a Polynesian tribe, who is chosen by the ocean itself to reunite a mystical relic with a goddess. When a blight strikes her island, Moana sets sail in search of Maui, a legendary demigod, in the hope of saving her people.
The main section of the Buena Vista mansion 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 Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.