Delaware was one of the first places settled by Europeans in the 1600s, and it was the official “First State” of the United States of America. Because of this, Delaware history is full of incredible stories and places that hold keys to the past. There are a lot of landmarks in Delaware that are well known to those from the area, such as the Lightship Overfalls, the Harriet Tubman/Underground Railroad Houses, Fort DuPont and Fort Delaware, but there are also a lot of hidden gems that are off of the beaten path. Visit any of these places and find yourself stepping back in time to Delaware history like you’ve never seen it before.
1. The Jacob Broom House / Eleutherian Mills / Hagley Estate
This site really has it all when it comes to Delaware history. One of the ratifiers of the United States Constitution, Jacob Broom, originally lived here. After a fire destroyed much of the property, he sold it to Eleuthère Irénée du Pont. It was the very first du Pont home in America. The family established a mill to make gunpowder, and the rest is history.
2. Town of Odessa
The entire Historic District of Odessa is worth exploring. You can see a vintage town jail and tour the Historic Houses of Odessa. These landmarks include the 1769 Wilson-Warner House, 1774 Corbit-Sharp House 1700 Collins-Sharp House, 1822 Brick Hotel, and 1853 Odessa Bank. Tours are given from March through December.
The Aspendale House and Plantation outside of Kenton is one of the oldest buildings in Delaware. It's stood, intact, since the late 18th century, and has been continuously owned by the same family, which is rare and extremely impressive.
4. The John Dickinson House
If you grew up around Dover, chances are you went on a field trip to Poplar Hall. If you didn't get to explore the grounds then, you should go now and check out the entire estate. Founding Father and American Revolutionary leader John Dickinson grew up on the plantation, and continued to live here for periods as an adult.
His original home was raided by the British and partially destroyed in 1781, and nearly burned to the ground in 1804, but it has since been restored and now offers a glimpse into what Delaware life was like during the 18th century.
5. Fort Christina
Fort Christina was built in 1638 and established the first Swedish settlement in North America. It changed hands forcibly to the Dutch and English as the newly established colonies fought for land. There is a beautiful monument at the site now just outside of Wilmington.
6. Lombardy Hall
Home of Constitutional Convention Delegate Gunning Bedford, Jr., Lombardy Hall is one of the oldest buildings in all of Delaware, built in 1682. Visiting is a great way to step back into the past and imagine what life was like at the start of the USA.
7. Stonum, the George Read House
George Read is the reason that Delaware was the First State to ratify the Declaration of Independence. The house is located in New Castle, Delaware and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1973.
8. New Castle
New Castle's historic district is an incredible journey to the past. Be sure to check out the First State National Monument and the New Castle County Courthouse, which is one of the oldest Courthouses in the country. The historic debate about the 12 Mile Circle around New Castle was fought within the walls of the Courthouse, which is now a museum.
9. Howard High School
Howard High School was one of the 5 Schools brought to the Supreme Court for the Brown v Board of Education desegregation case. In 1953, the desegregation case of Gebhart v. Belton was fought when parents of students bussed to Howard sued to allow their children to go to the all-white Claymont High School. In Brown v Board, the Howard case was the only one that had resulted in an order of desegregation at the state level. It is still a school to this day, but it was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2005.
10. Old Swedes
Holy Trinity Church, better known as Old Swedes, is the nation's oldest church building still used for worship as originally built. It was established in 1698 as a church for Swedish settlers around Fort Christina, and the graveyard on the grounds is the final resting place of several important Delawarians, including a member of the du Pont family and several Bayards.
Wow – what a history our small state has! Will you plan a summer trip to any of these monuments to Delaware history?