A tour of The Green in Dover brings history closer

 

DOVER — Just outside the John Bell House a small group of people gathered Friday to hear the many tales of the capital city’s history, most notably how Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution of the United States.

Historic interpreter Michael Roth stands in what once was the center of Dover, The Green. In Colonial days it would have been bustling with farmers and livestock. (Delaware State News/Arshon Howard)

Historic interpreter Michael Roth stands in what once was the center of Dover, The Green. In Colonial days it would have been bustling with farmers and livestock. (Delaware State News/Arshon Howard)

The tour is one of the many Independence Day events First State Heritage Park has planned this weekend in downtown Dover.

Michael Roth, First State Heritage Park historic interpreter, led the group on a short walk down South State Street and The Green, explaining historical markers along the way.

“The city’s central square, known as The Green, was the center of town,” Mr. Roth said. “There used to be cattle, livestock and farmer market fairs that used to go on here.”

Mr. Roth also explained the significance of local hero Caesar Rodney, who famously rode all night in a thunderstorm to Philadelphia to vote for independence in July 1776.

“He’s a big historical figure here in Delaware,” Mr. Roth said.

Mr. Rodney, along with Thomas McKean and George Read, were the three Delaware delegates to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

The Delaware Assembly released their three divided delegates to vote their individual judgments regarding independence.

However, Caesar Rodney was in Delaware dealing with the creation of a militia.

The Delaware vote on independence was deadlocked as Mr. McKean voted yea and Mr. Read nay.

“That was an obvious problem,” Mr. Roth noted. “Mr. McKean sent a courier to Caesar Rodney advising him of the deadlock and Caesar Rodney immediately left for Philadelphia on his horse.”

It was no easy feat.

“Back then that trip took about three or four days, but he managed to get there in under a day right before the vote was made,” Mr. Roth said.

“He voted yes for independence and then South Carolina and Pennsylvania decided to change their votes, as well.”

Dover resident Maggie Moody said she enjoyed learning new information about the capital.

“We stumbled onto this tour,” she said. “It was extremely interesting. We learned a lot of history and it was wonderful.”

The last stop was The Golden Fleece Tavern, which is where Delaware legislators later voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

“The capital of the state of Delaware was moved here from New Castle in 1777 because of its central location and relative safety from British raiders on the Delaware River,” Mr. Roth said.

“The courthouse was too small and the Old State House wasn’t built yet, so they met at the Golden Fleece Tavern.”

In 1787, a new framework of the new nation’s government was sent to the states for consideration. Thirty delegates were elected to meet and review the document.

The meeting was held at The Golden Fleece on Dec. 3. Approval was unanimous and on Dec. 7, 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution.

Ms. Moody said the she’s appreciative of everything that was done so she can live the life she lives today.

“Independence means a lot to me,” Ms. Moody said. “Freedom means everything.”

History in Dover

SATURDAY
9 a.m.-9 p.m.: Biggs Museum of American Art, Federal Street. Self-guided tours of permanent collection of American fine and decorative arts and exhibits.
9 a.m.-6 p.m: First State Heritage Park Welcome Center & Galleries, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. North. Exhibitions and information on statewide attractions, events and activities. All-day free parking.
9 a.m.-6 p.m.: Old State House, 25 The Green. Guided tours of 1791 building that served as Delaware’s capitol until 1933.
9 a.m.-6 p.m.: Historic Dover Scavenger Hunt. Hunt begins at First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries; win a prize for uncovering the secrets of Delaware history within the First State Heritage Park.
9 a.m.-6 p.m.: Simple Pleasures: Games and Amusements in the 18th Century, John Bell House, 43 The Green. Colonial games and activities for all. No experience necessary
9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.: Biggs Kids: Patriotic Painting. Create a patriotic scene using watercolors at Biggs Museum. Ages 5-10. Drop in anytime.
9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.: Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St. Guided tours. Early phonographs and recordings chronicle the developments of the sound recording industry and the achievements of E.R. Johnson, founder of the Victor Talking Machine Co.
9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.: Legislative Hall. Free guided tours without reservations. Photo ID is required for all adults entering the building.
9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.: John Bell House, 43 The Green. The Interpretive Center for First State Heritage Park is the location from which walking tours leave. This site also features rotating programs and activities based in Delaware history.
9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.: Stars and Stripes. Enjoy patriotic music recorded by the Victor Record Co. at Johnson Victrola Museum.
10 a.m.-1 p.m.: Governor’s House,151 King’s Highway. Guided tours of Woodburn, the official residence of Delaware’s governor since 1965, and Hall House, the Governor’s guest house.
11-11:30 a.m., 1-1:30 p.m., 5-5:30 p.m.: “Thunder and Rain.” Feature film presentation about Caesar Rodney’s historic ride for independence. Old State House.
12:30-1:30 p.m., 4:30-5:30 p.m.: Dover’s Heroes of the Revolution Walking Tour. Dover was a hotbed of activity during the struggle for American independence. Tours led by historical interpreters in period dress begin at the John Bell House on The Green every hour and last approximately 45 minutes.
1-2 p.m.: Flags on The Moon. Celebrate the 46th anniversary of the lunar landing. Six Apollo missions landed on the moon and each crew planted an American flag — hear each of their stories. Delaware Public Archives, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., North.
1:30-4 p.m.: Kent County Courthouse, 414 Federal St. Guided tours.
2-2:30 p.m., 4-4:30 p.m.: National Bell Ringing Ceremony. Declaration of Independence will be read ant the Old State House bell will ring. The Old State House.
2:30-3:30 p.m.: Tales of Slavery and Freedom Walking Tour. As a border state, Delaware held a complicated position regarding slavery. Tours led by historical interpreters in period dress begin at the John Bell House on The Green every hour and last approximately 45 minutes.
SUNDAY
1-4:30 p.m: First State Heritage Park Welcome Center & Galleries, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. North. Exhibitions and information on statewide attractions, events and activities. All-day free parking.
1-4:30 p.m.: Old State House, 25 The Green. Guided tours of 1791 building that served as Delaware’s capitol until 1933.
1:30-4:30 p.m.: Biggs Museum of American Art, Federal Street. Self-guided tours of permanent collection of American fine and decorative arts and exhibits.

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