Obama honors Delaware history

President signs proclamation creating First State National Monument
April 8, 2013

Delaware has earned the distinction of being the first state to ratify the Constitution in 1776, and it is also known as the last state to have its own national park.

What has been a dream for many in the state, including longtime advocate Sen. Tom Carper, is becoming much closer to reality. On March 25, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation establishing the First State National Monument. Through the Antiquities Act, Obama celebrated and honored Delaware's history on a national stage.

“This is not the finish line, but it’s a very good step toward the end goal, which is a national park for Delaware,” said Carper, a democrat. “Every year, millions of Americans and countless others from across the world plan their vacations around America’s national parks and monuments. [Now], these visitors will find a new and exciting monument to visit in the First State and our neighbor, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Obama also signed proclamations establishing four other new national monuments in New Mexico, Ohio, Washington and Maryland, the last being the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, only a short distance from Delaware's border in Dorchester, Md.

“These sites honor the pioneering heroes, spectacular landscapes and rich history that have shaped our extraordinary country,” said Obama. “By designating these national monuments, we will ensure they will continue to inspire and be enjoyed by generations of Americans to come.”

Delaware's monument will comprise three historic areas: the Dover Green, the New Castle Court House complex and the Woodlawn property in the Brandywine Valley, which was donated to the cause and stretches into Pennsylvania. The monument, which will be managed by the National Park Service, 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.

“Delaware played a critical role in the founding of our country and deserves this historical recognition, and Senator Carper deserves tremendous credit for getting it done,” said Gov. Jack Markell. “A national designation will draw more people to discover the stories in our history and landmarks of early settlers here in the First State.”

He continued, “This marks a first for Delaware and helps put us on the map for visitors, history buffs and park enthusiasts everywhere.”

The monument has no locations in Sussex County. Carper introduced Senate Bill 347 in February, another attempt at establishing the First State National Historical Park. That bill includes the three components of the new monument as well as other historical locations around the state, such as the Ryves Holt House in Lewes. The bill also calls for interpretive tours at many other locations in the state, including the DeVries Monument and Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes. The bill was discussed in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee March 14.

The national monument designation does not prevent Congress from including the areas in a future national park. Almost half of the current national parks were first designated as national monuments.

“This is a great major step to get included in the National Park Service, but we're not done,” said Katie Wilson, Carper's Delaware press secretary.


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