Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Trip to New Castle

I can't resist writing more about this little city because it was such a great place to visit. As I mentioned in my previous post, it's located on the Delaware River south of Wilmington.

The city was first known as Fort Casimir when the Dutch who founded the town in 1651. It was subsequently conquered by the Swedes and then the British. When William Penn came to America in 1682, it was his first point of landing.

New Castle really is as if it has been frozen in time. Its historic architecture and cobblestone streets reminded me of other early cities, like Alexandria, VA, but on a smaller scale.

Like a lot of early American towns, it has a village green. The Green was laid out in 1655 by the Dutch Governor, Peter Stuyvesant and was the location of the market, the jail, and the gallows.

Just off the green is this little house, the Dutch House, built in the late 17th century.

The Town Hall and Market House, built in 1823, is typical of the late 18th/early 19th century form of the building. Like it's British precedents, it features a large open area at the street level with municipal functions housed above.

The Old Court House, built in 1732, was Delaware's Capitol until 1777. The building's spire is the compass point for the arc that forms the northern edge of the state.

The oldest church is Immanuel Episcopal, which is located on the Green. It was founded in 1689, and the original structure was built in 1703. However, it burned in 1980 when cinders from a marsh fire ignited the steeple. It has been reconstructed to its historic appearance, incorporating the remaining foundations and walls.

There is a receiving vault - something I had never heard of - in the church yard. Apparently the receiving vault could serve to hold a body if interment was in dispute or could be used to hold bodies through the winter for spring burial.

Between the church and the market house is this monument, made from railway sleepers and honoring the New Castle and Frenchtown railway, built in 1832 and one of the country's first railroads.

Nearby, there is also a statue of William Penn holding "the key to the fort, one turf with a twig upon it, a porringer with river water and sovle." The gifts symbolized his proprietorship of Pennsylvania which at that time included the three lower counties that became the state of Delaware.

From the riverside Battery Park, you can see the Delaware Memorial Bridge, the longest twin suspension bridge in the world.

It was freezing while we were there, but the trip was well worth it!

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