July Fourth 2016: American history displayed in Dover walking tours

Historic interpreter, Amanda Cinque conducts a walking tour on The Green in Dover on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Historic interpreter, Amanda Cinque conducts a walking tour on The Green in Dover on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — First State Heritage Park offers walking tours every Saturday focusing on colonial America and their efforts have ramped up for Independence Day.

Each weekend focuses on a different topic –– this weekend’s was Dover’s Heroes of the Revolution. The tour travels down State Street and around The Green, pointing out the significance of historical buildings that may just seem like another law office while driving by.

The law office of Hopkins & Windett, the yellow building at the intersection of State and Water streets, is actually one of the oldest buildings in Delaware. It was built in the 1720s and was home to one of Delaware’s most famous historical figures –– Caesar Rodney.

Rosemary Staniszewski of First State Heritage directed youth volunteers on traditional colonial dancing outside the John Bell House Saturday. Members of the public are welcome to observe or join in on any of the colonial dancing presentations. (Ashton Brown/Delaware State News)

Rosemary Staniszewski of First State Heritage directed youth volunteers on traditional colonial dancing outside the John Bell House Saturday. Members of the public are welcome to observe or join in on any of the colonial dancing presentations. (Delaware State News/Ashton Brown)

“Caesar Rodney was not a well man but he made it to Philadelphia through the rain and storm in 14 hours –– faster than a well man in perfect conditions,” historical interpreter Michael Roth told his Saturday walking tour. “He got there just before the vote, covered in mud, soaking wet. He was on the verge of collapsing from exhaustion when he voted ‘yes’ for independence.”

Mr. Roth has been doing walking tours for about a year and a half after realizing his combined interest in Delaware history and confidence in public speaking would make him a perfect fit for historical interpretation.

The tour also touches on Dover’s prominent figures of the time and their opinions on the quest for independence. One of the most notable was Vincent Loockerman, a merchant who lived across the street from Caesar Rodney.

“He was a merchant, someone you’d go to for goods you couldn’t find in the area or maybe that you’d like to be imported from Europe,” Mr. Roth said. “So he was making money off his relationships with both America and the UK. This left him in a difficult spot to decide who he’d side with.”

Mr. Loockerman ended up siding with the patriots and even donated large sums of money to support Delaware’s regiment during the revolution.
One of the final stops of the tour is The Golden Fleece –– not the stop on Loockerman Street where you might spend a Saturday night –– the historical site on the corner of State Street and the Green.

The location, now home in part to Parke Green Gallery, was the largest tavern in Dover, able to accommodate more than 30 people. Many important discussions and debates about independence were held within its walls.

Monday’s Independence Day Revolutionary Heroes walking tours depart the John Bell house at 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. The Tales of Slavery and Freedom tour departs at 2:30 p.m. Each tour lasts approximately 45 minutes.

At 1 p.m. students of the educational program Listen Up will give a spoken word performance of their interpretation of the journey toward independence at the Old State House.

For an agenda of all the programs offered by First State Heritage Park on the Fourth of July, visit destateparks.com/park/first-state-heritage/programs.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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