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The Delaware Story

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Having lived on a farm at Iron Hill as a child, it was impossible not to feel a connection to the Delaware history we were taught in school.

We learned, among other things, that Generals Washington and Lafayette surveyed the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge from that hillside, and we often reenacted that battle in play. When a classmate brought to school a cannonball unearthed while excavating a swimming pool in his yard, that skirmish—the only one of the Revolutionary War fought on Delaware soil—became suddenly real.

It was a short hop in history when the family moved to Old New Castle. Our home—modest and very old—was a stone’s throw from the place where William Penn made his treaty with the local Lenape. The town remains a living monument. It is Old City before Philadelphia became a metropolis, the Williamsburg John D. Rockefeller Jr. envisioned long before he re-made it as “Colonial.”

We Delawareans love our past. The state is, after all, home to two of the earliest European settlements on the East Coast, so we are fortunate to be surrounded by a wealth of historic sites—not that a place needs 300 years to become historic. The Iron Hill Museum was a schoolhouse for African-American children as recently as 60 years ago. It may not be old, but as a relic of an important chapter in the state’s story, it is highly significant.

This month we take a look back at the Delaware of the 1940s and ’50s. We have a couple key people and organizations to thank for helping us produce the story: Randy Goss and Tom Summers of the Delaware Public Archives, as well as Ellen Rendle of the Delaware Historical Society, author of the beautiful “Historic Photos of Delaware” and other books. All three supplied photos and helped put them in context.

Those images represent the merest sliver of the history you can see at the archives and at the Delaware History Museum. There you’ll find artifacts and documents that go back four centuries, artifacts that tell the story of who we are as Delawareans, even as we continue to write that story today.

You could spend an age in either place, but don’t stop there. There are active historical societies from Laurel and Lewes to New Castle and Claymont. Some manage small, well established museums such as the Zwaanendael and the Harrington Railroad Museum. Others have started interesting new places such as Pencader Heritage Museum and Rehoboth Beach Museum.

And other institutions—the Delaware Agricultural Museum & Village, Hagley Museum & Library, the First State Heritage Park and others too numerous to mention—tell a unique story, and one to be proud of.

You can find a good number of them at delawaretoday.com/Delaware-Today/Delaware-Resources/Arts-and-Entertainment. I hope you’ll find the time to explore.

 

The Day Book
  • It was a great pleasure, as part of the Newark Film Festival, to attend Rose Giroso and JoJami Tyler’s Wine-Design/Fashion-Film Event at Stone Balloon Winehouse before the showing of “Dressed.” I very much enjoyed the chat with director and Delaware native David Swajeski and his wife, producer Maryanne Grisz. Thank you.
     
  • Congratulations to contributor Richard Gaw for winning the Outstanding Playwriting award from Planet Connections Theatre Festivity in New York City for his play “Hourglass.” We’re proud that he brings such a sense of craft to all his work, be it a play or his articles for DT.
     
  • I was glad to reconnect with Ivan and Nancy Solero of engage3sixty during a recent meeting of the Ad Club of Delaware, and to meet Wes Garnett and Steve Roettger of the coIN Loft. Shout outs to Holly Norton of Spark, friend Carol Arnott of Wine4Women and our hosts, photographers Luigi Ciuffetelli and Scott Hewitt. Thanks for everything, everyone.
     
  • Congratulations to my neighbor, DT Top Lawyer Joe Rhoades, and the rest of Whale. The band donated $2,500 from its recent reunion show to local charities. Rock on, guys.

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