I passed over Delaware when I got to it alphabetically because it was the only state I had been in only once and it was a long time ago. To accurately report on it, I had to return, and Ruth and I did just that in June, 2013. We found it a traveler’s delight except for downtown Wilmington. This city’s tourist magnets are the 3 du Pont properties–Nemours, Winterthur, and Hagley–which I’ve already blogged about. There are 3 other Wilmington attractions worth seeing (to be continued). Come to think of it, there are 3 in Dover, Delaware’s capital, too. I guess good things come in 3s in The First State.
Ruth and I visited several small towns, Delaware’s biggest treat, and really liked, well, 3.
New Castle, Delaware’s first state capital, was home to 2 signers of the Declaration of Independence, and William Penn, founder of the State of Pennsylvania, landed in North America at New Castle. Hoping to make money, Penn eventually returned to Europe to encourage immigration, but he ended up in an English prison and died penniless. Would Joe Biden, 6 term US Senator from Delaware, make that 4 major historical figures?
New Castle was a thriving trade center until Wilmington, 6 miles north and slightly east, acquired the main railroad lines. New Castle went to sleep and didn’t stir until its Federal and Colonial architecture attracted attention in the 20th century. The best way to see and appreciate its Brigadoonian charm is to stroll about with the Heritage Trail brochure that lists historic properties from A to Z. There are that many. There are 3 museums: The Old Library, the Court House, and Read House and Gardens. We especially liked the Presbyterian Church founded in 1657. Jessop’s Tavern is a good place to have lunch, and you may meet its cheeky ghost.
The railroad bypassed the town of Odessa, which was named after the Russian city, also a grain center. Odessa’s original name was Cantwell’s Bridge and that’s its tavern pictured above, now a very popular restaurant. There are many historic buildings, but 5 are under the auspices of Historic Houses of Odessa. We toured 3–Corbit-Sharp, Wilson-Warner, and Collins-Sharp–with a delightful local gentleman named John who volunteered his services on a day when tours are not normally given. He regaled us with stories about the Underground Railroad, beehive ovens, butterfly shelves, etc.
Lewes is just a couple of miles northwest of Delaware’s ocean playground, Rehoboth Beach. Lewes initial 32 Dutch settlers were massacred by a local tribe, Captain Kidd preyed, and the British bombarded it during the War of 1812, but Lewes persisted as a seafaring town. The ferry to Cape May, New Jersey, leaves from Lewes, the University of Delaware maintains a College of Earth, Ocean & Environment here, and it has all the amenities and charm of a well-preserved, historic town. We especially liked the Zwaanendael Museum built to honor Lewes’ Dutch roots. It’s one of those places that you enter and say to yourself “15 minutes, maybe” and an hour later you’re just getting to the shipwrecks.
We found 3 restaurants of note: Harry’s Seafood Grill in Wilmington, 33 West Ale House & Grill in Dover, and Bon Appetit Restaurant in Seaford. There were 3 with stellar reputations that we wanted to try: Caffe Mezzanotte in Wilmington, Penn’s Place in New Castle, and Michele’s in Dover. Sunday and Monday are sometimes not the best days to be on the road.
Delaware has 3 Senators per country instead of the usual 2, and it has fewer counties than any other state. That’s right….there are exactly 3 of them–New Castle, Kent, and Sussex.