By Madeline Dunn, Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ National Register coordinator-historian
The Godwin School, a historic one-teacher schoolhouse located at 23235 Godwin School Road west of Millsboro, Del., was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on July 16, 2018. The Millsboro Historical Society, organized in 1985 for the purpose of preserving this historic building, worked under the direction of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ State Historic Preservation Office to prepare the National Register nomination. Archival research, enhanced by oral-history interviews conducted previously by the society, provided an opportunity to thoroughly document the history of this 1897 building.
As a result of a steadily increasing student population within the Georgetown–Millsboro area 122 years ago, the State Board of Education authorized county commissioners to evaluate the situation and prepare a report for the Sussex County Levy Court. During the court’s May 13, 1896 proceedings, Commissioner William P. Short made a motion referring the issue to the county’s Committee of Education which included Peter Shockley, Elihu A. Phillips and Theophilus S. Rogers. After visiting the county’s nine existing school districts, each consisting of a single building, they proposed new boundaries as well as the creation of new districts. The Godwin School, historically known as School District #190, was thereby created and a building constructed on a parcel of land owned by Jacob R. Godwin by 1897.
During the 1922–1923 school year, Mrs. Willa Lingo taught as many as 30 students per day within the confines of this building. Her students ranged from the first- to eighth-grade levels and were taught a variety of subjects including arithmetic, history and science. Since bus transportation did not exist, teachers and students alike walked up to three miles to school and never stayed at home on snowy days. A teacher’s routine duties included building a fire in the wood stove and sweeping out the classroom before students arrived.
During the 1935-1936 school year Millsboro School District #23 became one of the county’s thirteen schools which offered education to students grades seven through 12. By the end of the 1935–1936 school year, enrollment in rural one-teacher schools had significantly dropped and the Godwin School was among the state’s 11 districts which closed. Therefore, students previously attending the Godwin School were officially transferred to Millsboro School District #23. In his 1936 annual report to the Department of Instruction, Principal James M. Bennett praised Millsboro School District #23 noting that it had emphasized scholastic work and that its students had experienced better-than-average success. Like other closed schoolhouses, the Godwin School was eventually repurposed with descendants of Jacob R. Godwin utilizing it as an agricultural-support building for many decades.
As a result of its enthusiasm and dedication to the preservation of the Godwin School, the Millsboro Historical Society has successfully increased public awareness about the importance of identifying and preserving a once commonplace building-type that has vanished from the rural landscape, encouraged elected officials to contribute financially to historic preservation, and ignited interest in learning about local history through the development and implementation of interpretive programming activities for visitors of all ages. The school is open by appointment only. Call 302-934-6820 to make a reservation.
Written on: July 24th, 2018 in News
The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has recently welcomed four new members to its staff including two historic-site interpreters at the Zwaanendael Museum, and two new members of the agency’s Preservation Maintenance Team. Following are profiles of these newest members of the division family.
As historic-site interpreters who conduct tours and special programs at the Zwaanendael Museum, Abigail Davis and Fran Mahon help bring to life the Lewes-area’s maritime, military and social history. A life-long resident of the First Town in the First State, Davis loves to share Lewes history with visitors—so much so, that she holds a second job at the Lewes Historical Society. When not at work, she is pursuing her bachelor’s degree from Wilmington University and eventually hopes to earn a graduate degree in forensic anthropology or archaeology. She is particularly interested in historic textiles and enjoys appearing in period clothing.
Originally from El Paso, Texas, Mahon attended high school in Fairfax, Va. and now lives in Lewes, Del. He graduated from the University of Delaware in May 2018 with both a bachelor’s degree in art history and a bachelor’s degree with distinction in anthropology. Mahon has wide-ranging archaeological experience including participation in field schools in St. Augustine, Fla. and on the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Eustatius. With interests in maritime- as well as African- and African-American-history, he helped organize a three-day program in Delaware featuring the Slave Dwelling Project, and has conducted research for the Zwaanendael Museum which resulted in a presentation entitled, “Painting a Portrait: Crystals and Hoodoo Aboard the H.M.S. DeBraak.” He is currently in the process of creating a brochure for the museum tentatively titled, “Seafarers of Salt: Black Sailors, the Sea, and Their Lives.”
With more than 120 years of combined experience in various trades, the Preservation Maintenance Team can handle any challenge that comes its way in order to maintain, repair and preserve the nearly 90 structures administered by the division. After a brief hiatus, Chris Conley returned to the team in July 2018 as a Physical Plant Trades Mechanic II. A graduate of Lake Forest High School in Felton, Del., he previously worked for a variety of Delaware organizations including service as a member of the installation team for Artisan’s Marble and Granite in Newark, as a machine operator for the HandyTube Corporation in Camden and as a construction worker. In 2017, Conley was part of a group of Preservation Maintenance Team members who received a Delaware Award for Heroism from Gov. John Carney for their efforts in helping to save the life of one of their fellow employees.
Physical Plant Trades Mechanic I Keith Sands is currently assigned to the Buena Vista conference/event center near New Castle, Del. Sands comes to the division after a nearly 30-year career at the former General Motors assembly plant in Wilmington where he rose to the position of team leader. He has also worked in cleaning and maintenance at a variety of oil refineries and chemical plants and, immediately prior to joining the division, worked for nearly three years in grounds maintenance at White Clay Creek State Park near Newark, Del. The Bear, Del. resident is originally from New Castle and is a graduate of Delcastle Technical High School.
One of Delaware’s most historic estates will host an outdoor screening of the adventure film “Jumanji” starring Robin Williams on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018. 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. Insect repellent is recommended. Between 6 and 8:30 p.m., activities will include lawn games, live music and the Professor Looney Photo Booth. Food and beverages will be available from the following food trucks: Out of The Ordinary Catering, Kona Ice and the Sweetest Rose Cupcake Company. Screening of the film begins at 8:30 p.m.
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.
Released in 1995, “Jumanji” tells the story of a man-child (Williams) who, after being trapped in a jungle board-game for 26 years, wins his release from the game. But, no sooner has he arrived that he is forced to play again, and this time sets the creatures of the jungle loose on the city. Now it is up to him to stop them.
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/event center administered by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.
During the month of August 2018, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will be sponsoring 12 special programs at sites across the state. A full schedule is included below. Except where noted, all programs are free and open to the public.
Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs special events, August 2018
Thursdays, Aug. 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, 2018
“Lost Off Lewes: The British Warship DeBraak.” Special tour explores the history, artifacts and surviving hull section of this 18th-century shipwreck. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. 9 a.m. Limited seating. Admission $10 (cash or check only). For reservations, e-mail email@example.com or call 302-645-1148.
Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018
Third annual “Movie Night on the Lawn.” Screening of “Jumanji” provided by Ultimate Outdoor Movies plus the Professor Looney Photo Booth, live music, lawn games and food trucks from Out of The Ordinary Catering, Kona Ice and the Sweetest Rose Cupcake Company. Guests are encouraged to bring blankets, lawn chairs and bug spray. Buena Vista: A Delaware Country Estate, 661 S. Dupont Highway (Route 13), New Castle. Activities begin at 6 p.m. Film begins at 8:30 p.m. 302-323-4430.
Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018
“Medicine Through the Wars: The Evolution of American Wartime Medicine.” Lecture examines the progress made in military medical practices, and the role Delawareans played in that progress from the American Revolution through World War II. First Saturday in the First State program. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Lecture at 11 a.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.
Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018
“Sound, Stage, and Screen.” Program examines the careers of two American musical pioneers of the early-20th century—George M. Cohan and Irving Berlin—and shows how they shaped the Broadway stage and Hollywood movies for more than 50 years. First Saturday in the First State program. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. Program at 1:30 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-739-3262.
Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018
“Straws.” Screening of the documentary “Straws” by Linda Booker which explores plastic straw litter, its impacts and how communities are making a sea change on plastic waste. Free reusable straws and bags for participants until supplies run out. Co-sponsored by Plastic Free Delaware and New Castle Green: Net Zero Waste. New Castle Court House Museum, 211 Delaware St., New Castle. 7 p.m. 302-323-4453.
Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018
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, Aug. 18, 2018
“The Empty Glass: Sherlock Holmes Comes to Dover.” Theatrical performance in which Sherlock Holmes, having solved every case in Victorian London, embarks on a journey to America. Arriving in Dover, he and his trusted colleague Dr. Watson attempt to solve the grisly murder case of “The Empty Glass.” Based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and an actual Dover court case. Presented in coordination with Dover Comic Con. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. Programs at 11 a.m. and 2 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.
Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018
“Lost Off Lewes: The British Warship DeBraak.” Special tour explores the history, artifacts and surviving hull section of this 18th-century shipwreck. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. 5 p.m. Limited seating. Admission $10 (cash or check only). For reservations, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 302-645-1148.
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 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.
Written on: July 16th, 2018 in News
Beginning in June 2018, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has been utilizing the skills of intern Emmitt Best who has been working as a social-media manager helping to engage residents and visitors in Delaware history.
A senior at Wesley College in Dover, Best plans to earn his bachelor’s degree in 2019 with a major in marketing and a minor in law enforcement. He has been an active user of social media since his early teens and is well acquainted with all of the platforms that the division is currently utilizing including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and a WordPress blog. As part of his internship, Best has been conducting research and consulting with staff members as he works to develop a social-media marketing plan for the agency.
Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Best moved with his family to New Castle, Del. when he was 14 years old. He graduated from William Penn High School in New Castle in 2014 and currently lives in Dover, Del.
The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs is currently seeking qualified applicants for the casual/seasonal position of executive housekeeper at Buena Vista: A Delaware Country Estate. The position is responsible for directing the daily operations of housekeeping services at this state-run conference and event center. Applications are available by going to the Delaware Employment Link. Application opening date: July 11, 2018. Closing date: July 17, 2018.
On Wednesday, July 18, 2018 at 7 p.m., the New Castle Court House Museum, located at 211 Delaware St. in New Castle, Del., will present “An Immigrant Story: Crossing the Atlantic in a 17th Century Sailing Ship,” a program by New Castle’s own Jean Norvell who will discuss what life would be like for a two-month crossing of the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to the New World. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-323-4453.
As part of the program, Norvell will demonstrate the small spaces that were available for sleeping onboard ship, and how hard-boiled eggs were used to determine if meat was sufficiently ‘brined’ to be fit for consumption. She will also discuss how beer and wine were used to modify the drinkability of water, and the difficulties of basic hygiene and toileting during the voyage.
Jean Norvell was born in London, England and educated at London University with a major in English and a minor in theology. An Air Force wife, she travelled the world with her husband and during one three-year assignment in Japan studied garment design and pattern making. Prior to retirement, she worked in product development for W.L. Gore & Associates and has earned several patents for her inventions. She writes a bi-weekly column in the New Castle Weekly which focuses on the Penn family and 17th Century history in England and America. Her business—‘Bit of History’—is housed in a circa 1682 house reputed to be the home where William Penn spent his first night in New Castle.
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 National Historic Landmark has played pivotal roles in the political, social and commercial life of both New Castle and Delaware. The museum is administered by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs and is a partner site in the First State National Historical Park.
After a standing-room-only performance on April 21, 2018, the Zwaanendael Museum, located at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, Del., will reprise its production of “Mysteries at the Museum: ‘Blood Diamond: The Murder of Ebe Lynch.’ ” Created by Zwaanendael Museum staff, this theatrical murder-mystery will be presented outdoors on the museum’s grounds on Saturday, July 14, 2018 at 2 p.m. Guests should bring lawn chairs. The rain date for the performance is Friday, July 20 at 2 p.m. Admission is free but, due to space restrictions, reservations are required by calling 302-645-1148 no later than July 13, 2018.
“Blood Diamond: The Murder of Ebe Lynch” is based on an actual incident that took place on a hot summer night in 1916 on Second Street in Lewes. During that incident, shots were fired and Ebe Lynch, a prominent local postmaster and president of the Lewes baseball team, was found dead. As part of the play, museum visitors will serve as detectives, meeting suspects and evaluating clues to determine who committed this heinous crime. Guests of all ages will enjoy participating in this historical whodunit.
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.
On Thursday, July 12, 2018 at 5:30 p.m., The Old State House, located at 25 The Green in Dover, Del., will present an audience-participation program by historic-site interpreter Tom Welch on the life and legacy of Alexander Hamilton, one of the principal founding fathers of the United States. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-744-5054.
Taking place on the 214th anniversary of Hamilton’s death, the program will consist of biographical information on the American patriot; an audience participation section featuring 12 important players in Hamilton’s life including his wife Eliza, the Marquis de Lafayette, and founding fathers George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Benjamin Franklin; and will conclude with a re-enactment of the July 11, 1804 duel between Hamilton and political rival Aaron Burr which resulted in Hamilton’s passing on July 12, 1804.
About Alexander Hamilton (1757–1804) …
Alexander Hamilton, born on the island of Nevis, British West Indies, January 11, 1757; immigrated to the United States in 1772, where he received educational training in the schools of Elizabethtown, N.J., and King’s College (now Columbia University), New York City; entered the Continental Army in New York in 1776 as captain of Artillery; appointed aide-de-camp to General Washington March 1, 1777, and served in that capacity until February 16, 1781; Member of the Continental Congress in 1782, 1783, and 1788; member of the Annapolis Convention of 1786; served in the New York State assembly in 1787; member of the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in 1787 which adopted the Constitution of the United States and signed it; member of the State ratification convention in 1788; studied law; was admitted to the bar and practiced in New York City; Secretary of the Treasury in the Cabinet of President Washington 1789-1795; returned to New York and resumed the practice of law; mortally wounded in a duel with Aaron Burr at Weehawken on the Hudson, and died in New York City the following day, July 12, 1804; interment in Trinity Churchyard.
Source: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
Completed in 1791, The Old State House is one of the earliest state-house buildings in the United States, serving 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 designated by William Penn in 1683.