Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today joined Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Senator Tom Carper, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, local officials and community stakeholders to celebrate President Obama's establishment of First State National Monument as America's 400th national park site and the first unit of the National Park System in Delaware.
The new park, which will tell the story of the early Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, and English settlement of the colony of Delaware as well as Delaware's role as the first state to ratify the Constitution, is comprised of three historic areas: the Dover Green, the New Castle Court House complex (including the courthouse, Green and Sheriff's House), and the Woodlawn property.
"With the establishment of our 400th national park, President Obama has recognized Delaware's important role as the first state to ratify the Constitution and the three centuries of the history of its people and their contributions to our country," Salazar said. "In addition to helping tell the story of America and her people, the national monument we are celebrating today will also be an engine for economic development, creating jobs and driving tourism to the First State and the region."
The National Park Service's (NPS) annual peer-reviewed report found that the 279 million visitors to our national parks generated $30.1 billion in economic activity and supported 252,000 jobs nationwide in 2011. More than one third of that total spending, or $13 billion, went directly into communities within 60 miles of a park, and the national parks return more than $10 for every $1 the American taxpayer invests in the National Park Service.
"Up until yesterday, the First State was the only state in our great nation without a unit of the national park system, and that was a loss not just for Delaware but for our entire country," said Carper. "This national monument corrects that omission and tells a more complete story of our country by sharing Delaware's early colonial settlement and involvement in the birth of this great nation. Today's celebration of an enduring monument to our state's rich history is particularly timely, because in just three days we'll mark the 375th anniversary of the first Swedes and Finns to land in this country off the shores of the Christina River. It's a fitting tribute to an event which had a significant impact on the history of both our state and our nation."
NPS Director Jarvis welcomed the addition of First State National Monument, saying, "Delaware's important contributions to the founding of the United States make it a significant addition to the National Park System. We are honored to be entrusted with the responsibility to help preserve these places and share their history to inspire future generations, and we are grateful for the support of The Conservation Fund, Mt. Cuba Center, the Woodlawn Trustees and the State of Delaware in making this new national monument a reality. As we approach the National Park Service's centennial anniversary in 2016, this designation creates a national park in every state and lays an important foundation to reconnect Americans, especially young Americans, to our national heritage and treasured landscapes."
The lands to establish the monument were generously donated to the federal government. The State of Delaware donated the Sheriff's House in New Castle and preservation easements over the New Castle Court House and the Green; the City of Dover donated a preservation easement over the Dover Green; and the Woodlawn property in Delaware and Pennsylvania was donated by The Conservation Fund with more than $20 million in support from Mt. Cuba Center. Public access to Woodlawn will not change.
The NPS will seek cooperative agreements for management efficiency with the Brandywine Creek State Park abutting Woodlawn, and with the State and local historic preservation agencies in New Castle and Dover. As part of the acquisition, funding has been set aside to cover some of the interim management costs.
The new national monument includes:
Dover Green (Kent County) -- It was on the City of Dover's central square, known as The Green, that Delaware voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution on December 7, 1787. Delaware became the first of the 13 former colonies to ratify the United States Constitution, laying claim to the moniker "First State." Throughout the years, The Green has also been the location of many rallies, troop reviews, and other patriotic events. Today, The Green remains the heart of Dover's historic district and is the location of the Delaware Supreme Court and the Kent County Courthouse.
New Castle Court House and the Green in New Castle (New Castle County) -- These sites, along with the Sheriff's House, are part of the New Castle National Historic Landmark District and are the core of the oldest town in the Delaware River Valley. Dating to 1732, the New Castle Courthouse is one of the oldest surviving courthouses in America. It was in this building on June 15, 1776, that legislators passed a resolution separating from Great Britain and Pennsylvania, creating the "Delaware State." It was also here in 1848 that abolitionists Thomas Garrett and John Hunn were prosecuted for violating the Fugitive Slave Act in a trial overseen by future Chief Justice of the United States Roger Taney. Found guilty, they were fined thousands of dollars, lost their homes and businesses, but vowed to continue the fight against slavery regardless of the cost.
Sheriff's House (New Castle County) -- Sitting next to the court house is the Sheriff's House, built in 1857 and designed by noted architect Samuel Sloan; it is all that remains of the first county prison in Delaware. Both the courthouse and Sheriff's House are located on the historic New Castle Green, which dates to Delaware's Dutch settlement period and served as the public square.
Woodlawn Tract (New Castle County) - This site is comprised of more than 1,100 acres of woods and rolling pastures three miles north of Wilmington, 220 of which are in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and includes farmlands, scenic rock outcrops and wetlands along the banks of the Brandywine River. The property is historically significant to the early settlement in Delaware. It straddles and contains the demarcation line known as the "12-mile arc," which is a part of a circle drawn from the Old New Castle Courthouse establishing the boundaries of the British colonies of Pennsylvania and Delaware in the 17th century. The property contains homes dating back to some of the first Quakers that settled the area with William Penn and contains landscape patterns of these original Quaker settlements. The tract was acquired by The Conservation Fund from the Woodlawn Trustees and donated to the National Park Service for inclusion in First State National Monument.
Russ Smith has been named acting superintendent of the new monument. Smith is currently superintendent of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park in Virginia and has previously served as the chief of interpretation and education for the Northeast Region of the National Park Service.
"The stories of First State National Monument touch on so many issues relevant in American today - freedom, citizenship, justice, race, urban planning, and the role of the federal government," said Smith. "I look forward to working with the community, park partners and stakeholders who first envisioned this national monument to develop these stories for our visitors."
First State National Monument is one of five national monuments established on Monday by President Obama pursuant to his authority under the Antiquities Act. The President also designated the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio, home of a distinguished officer in the United States Army who was the third African American to graduate from West Point and the first to achieve the rank of Colonel, and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland, commemorating the life of the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad resistance network who was responsible for helping hundreds of enslaved people escape from bondage to freedom. These three national monuments will be managed by the National Park Service; two additional monuments, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico and San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington will be administered by Interior's Bureau of Land Management.
First exercised by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to designate Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, the Antiquities Act has been used by sixteen presidents to protect unique natural and historic features, such as the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Colorado's Canyons of the Ancients.
For more information and to follow plans for the development of the site, visit the First State National Monument website at www.nps.gov/frst.