(Dover, Delaware - September 19, 2007) The New Castle Court House Museum, one of the oldest and most historic courthouses in the United States, will re-open to the public on September 28th, 2007 after a year-long period in which the main part of the facility was closed for restoration work. An invitation-only reception for the media and guests, hosted by Delaware Secretary of State Harriet Smith Windsor, will take place on September 28 at 6 p.m.
A National Historic Landmark, the New Castle Court House was built in 1732 and is celebrating its 275th anniversary. The building served as Delaware's first court and state capitol. Here in 1776, New Castle, Kent, and Sussex Counties declared their independence from Pennsylvania and England creating the Delaware State. The site was also the location of the 1848 trial which resulted in the conviction of John Hunn and Thomas Garrett on charges of aiding and abetting escaped slaves in violation of the federal Fugitive Slave Act.
The $2.5 million restoration of the New Castle Court House took place between September, 2006 and August, 2007. Funding for these improvements was provided by budget allocations from the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, and supplemental appropriations from the Delaware General Assembly. Renovation activities included the following:
- Painting of the interior of the building based on research of historic color schemes
- Plaster wall repairs
- Floor restoration
- Installation of central air conditioning
- Installation of new heating equipment
- Installation of new electrical service
- Renovated disabled-access ramp
- New exterior handrails at main entrances
- New mechanical room at Sheriff's House (a separate building within the New Castle Court House complex)
Prior to the commencement of restoration work, archaeological investigations were conducted in the west wing of the court house which revealed previously unknown 17th, 18th, and 19th century features including a 17th century fortification wall. Artifacts from these, and previous, archaeological investigations will be explored in the exhibit, "Archaeology of the New Castle Court House," which will be on display upon the re-opening of the facility. Also on display will be the exhibit, "Emeline Hawkins: Her Journey from Slavery to Freedom on the Underground Railroad," which chronicles the compelling story of Emeline Hawkins and her family, and their 1845 odyssey on the Underground Railroad from slavery in Maryland, through Delaware, to freedom in Pennsylvania.
New Castle Court House Museum
Location: 211 Delaware Street, New Castle, Delaware 19720
Telephone: (302) 323-4453
Hours of operation: Closed until September 28, 2007. Thereafter, open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Sunday, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Closed Mondays and state holidays.
Admission: Free and open to the public. Group tour reservations are required.
Parking: Street parking in downtown New Castle.
The New Castle Court House Museum is one of eight museums administered by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs (HCA), an agency of the State of Delaware. HCA enhances Delaware's quality of life by preserving the state's unique historical heritage, fostering community stability and economic vitality, and providing educational programs and assistance to the general public on Delaware history and heritage. In addition to its museums, HCA operates two conference centers, manages over thirty historic properties, and serves as the state's historic preservation office. Funding for HCA's museums, programs, and services is provided by annual appropriations from the Delaware General Assembly, revenue from HCA's History Stores, and grants from the National Park Service, a federal agency.