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Delaware Travel Tips

DELAWARE TOURIST INFORMATION: (800) 441-8846

Legislative Hall, Dover (302) 739-4266
The current Delaware statehouse, Legislative Hall, serves as the anchor in a square of redbrick government buildings, all facing a common green called Capitol Square. Built in 1933 of handmade brick, the building -- both inside and out -- was designed to reflect the 18th century Georgian Revival style of Colonial days. The result is a simple, unassuming structure with a hushed interior of subtle blue walls and simple white columns. It has an elegant presence in its quiet simplicity.

Old Statehouse, Dover (302) 739-4266
Built in 1791, this redbrick Colonial statehouse sits on an old town square of brick and fieldstone buildings. The square was designed by William Penn 100 years before the statehouse was built. (Old town square is adjacent to, almost an extension of, the newer Capitol Square described above.) The oldest statehouse in the United States, it served as the state Capitol for 140 years until Legislative Hall replaced it in 1933. One of the most impressive features of the building is a freestanding geometrically curved staircase in the center hall. Each room off the two-storied center hall has been restored to the period of 1792-1815, furnished to depict the type of business that would have been conducted at that time, thus giving the appearance of a museum, rather than a full functioning statehouse. However, the building contains the Governor's ceremonial office and remains the official Delaware Capitol.

Tip: The Tourist Center on Capitol Square provides free tours of the Old Statehouse. Visitors may only enter the building accompanied by an official tour guide.

Check it out . . . The statehouse was originally built to serve both the county and the state, each sharing the costs based on the rooms used for their respective activities, and splitting the costs of rooms that would be used jointly. It's interesting to note that the county didn't want to spend any money on decorative features, such as columns, lintels and lighting, subsequently, the county rooms are quite plain, while the state spent the additional monies needed to lavish its rooms with the imperial touches befitting the legislative building of a British outpost.

Meeting House Gallery I & II, Dover (302) 739-4266
An 18th Century Presbyterian church and chapel are converted into two museums, featuring Delaware history, resources, crafts, religion and industry. A small, redbrick warehouse behind the church and chapel is home to the Johnson Victrola Museum, a tribute to Delaware native Eldridge Reeves Johnson, an inventor, businessman and philanthropist. The museum also chronicles his company, the Victrola Talking Machine Company, established in 1901. A larger-than-life "Nipper," the famous dog listening to "His Master's Voice," greets visitors as they enter the museum. Old Victrola phonographs, records and historic photographs are displayed in an area designed to appear as a Victrola Dealer's store may have looked in the 1920s.

Check it out . . . Ask the museum curator to tell the story of how the dog, "Nipper," came to be the trademarked icon for Victrola, only after Edison's gramophone company rejected the idea. (What! You want a *dog* representing my company? Get out!) Quite a boner for Edison to make.

John Dickinson Plantation, Kent County (302) 739-3277
The Dickinson Plantation includes his large 18th century brick mansion and reconstructed outbuildings, such as a smokehouse and a slave/tenant house. Dickinson, "The Penman of the American Revolution," (See Delaware Stamps webpage) was a framer and signer of the U.S. Constitution. After an introductory film at the Visitors Center, costumed guides take tourists through the mansion, the slave quarters, the smokehouse and the tenant's shack to see how the rich, the poor, and the slaves lived and worked together on an 18th century plantation.

Tip: During the Christmas season the house is decorated as though a lavish dinner were in progress. The displays of colorful culinary creativity and the abundance and variety of foods available at that time in America is astounding.

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Leipsic (302) 653-6872
Nature trails and a 13-mile loop driving tour showcase the fabulous beauty of this 12,000 acre preserve of Delaware's tidal swamps and marshes. The refuge is primarily home to ducks, geese, egrets, blue herons, whistling swans and other shore birds. A special treat is the thousands of pure white snowgeese who make this place their home from November to March, making the area appear to be in a constant snowstorm from the fluttering, frolicking, and flocking white winter guests.

Zwaanendael Museum, Lewes (302) 645-1148
The state of Delaware built this museum in 1931 in memory of the ill-fated Dutch settlement of 1631. Housed in an exact replica of a Dutch town hall in Hoorn, Holland, it contains rare artifacts from this 300-year old fishing village and its Dutch and English heritage. One of its most interesting exhibits is the display of recovered pieces from the HMS DeBraak, a British warship that sunk in this area in 1798 and was recovered in 1986.

Check it out . . . The town of Lewes (pronounced Lewis) was originally called "Sikeoness" by Native Americans. In 1631 the Dutch settlers named it "Zwaan"(Dutch for the word swan). In 1664 the English settlers changed the name to "Deale," and when Englishman William Penn attained ownership in 1682, he changed the name to "Lewes." In addition to this interesting museum building, the town has many historic buildings and old cemeteries, as well as a delightful, old seaside street of shops and restaurants, on the town's historic Second Street.

OUR CAMPSITE FOR THE WEEK

Duncan's Family Campground, Lothian, MD (410) 741-9558
A rustic, woodsy campground with plenty of pine trees. The dirt roads have deep ruts and the facilities are a bit run down, but clean. Hosts are very friendly. No modem hookups.

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