The First State
I can honestly say that I never thought I would go to Delaware and wasn’t even sure what we would do while visiting the state. Well like every other state we have visited so far, Delaware didn’t disappoint us and we had a blast while visiting the nation’s very first state. We decided to stay at a state park that was south of Dover, since we knew we would be heading to Annapolis when we left. Killen’s Pond was almost full when we arrived and we took the last spot in the camp that our trailer could fit into. I was a bit worried over the camp because it was so full and the campsites were pretty close, but the next day was a Monday and we quickly had the entire loop to ourselves. The camp ground was not the best we have stayed out, which is ironic since they have signs saying Delaware state parks are the best in the United States. There was quite a lot of trash in our site though and we never saw anyone picking up the sites the entire time we stayed there. Every time I needed help at the entrance station it was a fiasco and the workers were struggling. The bathrooms were decent, but were operated with push buttons and anyone who has used this style of shower knows how annoying they are (especially when you have three kids to shower off). The location for seeing the capitol was very convenient being just a twenty minute trip into the city.
The original legislators met in a tavern for the first 14 years before finally getting a capitol building. The tavern was called the Golden Fleece and unfortunately it burned down and you can’t visit the original building. You can visit the first capitol building though and get a free tour from an informative guide. The building was first used as the court house and the main room is set up as it used to be including the verdict staves, so people from outside could see whether the defendant was guilty or innocent from a distance. When the legislature took over the state was divided by hundreds, which was a population large enough to provide 100 men to the militia. It was neat to see the map of how these hundreds districts lead to the eventual formation of counties, some of which retained the name of their hundreds. The desks in the senate and the house all had laminated sheets with information about the legislators and it was educational for the kids to read about these everyday citizen senators and representatives. They also have all the accoutrements that the legislators would have had like candles and quills in ink jars. There was also interesting information about the Underground Railroad and manumission including a story about a freed slave who manumitted his kids and several generations later they are still in the same county. Since Delaware was the first state to ratify the constitution, the historic statehouse had one of the original copies. We all were impressed to see it and to learn other interesting facts, like that Delaware was originally part of Pennsylvania before it voted to become its own state. Yes there is always more to learn, for both the kids and the adults! Of the historic capitol and the modern statehouse, the historic capitol was more educational and we gained an insight into Delaware’s beginnings.
The modern statehouse, know as Legislator Hall, sits across a green field of grass from the historic capitol building. If you are checking out the town, it is definitely worth taking the time to see them both. The statehouse in Dover wasn’t the fanciest or largest capitol building we have seen, but it had a charm of its own and we enjoyed exploring it all. I really liked the carving of Washington crossing the Delaware River that they have. Even after visiting nineteen other capitol buildings, we are still in awe when we visit these prestigious buildings that have helped shape our nation. They are filled with beautiful works of art, history and the inner workings of our government. We showed up when a political rally/event was going on and the statehouse was filled with people bringing a flower to their representative or congressman, so it was a bit crowded inside. Even though it was super busy, it was great to have the kids witness first hand people petitioning their government to make changes. There were also several school groups touring different places and we actually didn’t get to see the historic capitol because of them. Luckily for us we are flexible and we just added another day to our stay and came back when it wasn’t so busy. I am glad we did too because the gentleman giving tours of the historic capitol recommended we visit the Victrola Museum and we didn’t have time the first day, but we did the next day when we returned we toured both the historic capitol building and the Victrola Museum.
When someone mentions that there is a free museum, we are almost always willing to go check it out. I wasn’t sure what a Victrola was, but if they had a whole museum dedicated to it then it must be interesting. Well we learned that the Victrola was a brand of record players back before they were powered by electricity. Yes these old machines had hand cranks on them and Victrola introduced the hidden horn that was inside of a cabinet. The volume control was just opening/closing the cabinet or putting the lid down, hence the term ‘put a lid on it’. Before television or radio, people were thrilled to be able to put a three minute record on. These machines were so important to people that they effected the language people used and some of the sayings are still in use today. Put a sock in it was putting a pair of socks in the horn to quiet it down and all wound up was in reference to the machine being ready to play. The tour guides had tons of these sayings and we all enjoyed the humor of still saying them today even though no one uses Victrola machines anymore. One of the best parts about this museum is that they put on records and you get to hear the actual machines running. It was interesting to hear the difference between the earlier external horn machine and a Victrola cabinet. They even had one of Edison’s records, which are really thick, along with some displays about the first talking machines and phonographs. I was really impressed by the factory photos too because Victrola started his business in a single room workshop and grew it into a huge production facility encompassing several city blocks. Not bad for a guy who didn’t graduate high school. Yes visiting the Johnson Victrola Museum was a blast and well worth the admission price of donations accepted.
The older section of Dover has some nice shops and restaurants nestled in a quaint historic district. We wanted to get our magnet for Dover, but neither the capitol nor the visitor’s center had any for sale, so we headed over to the Delaware Store to find one. I love it when we get to meet the business owner, especially when they are nice. Well since her sister full times, when the business owner found out about our adventure she was super nice to us. The store had lots of different local products, crafts and art plus the souvenirs you would expect and we were able to add another magnet to our collection. We visited a local restaurant and had lunch too, but it wasn’t somewhere we would recommend and so I will leave its name off. I just didn’t want you thinking we recommend every place we visit. No, we only recommend businesses and restaurants that we think our readers will enjoy and that are local only. You can visit a national chain no matter where you are at and it is the local place that you might not know about that we want to share. After all you have to stay somewhere and we mention different camps to give you an idea of what they are like, but if you full time then eating at home is always an option. It was nice to get to see another great capital city, but like always the road was calling and we needed to head into a new state.
Here are some links to the places we talked about and more pictures:
Killen’s Pond State Park (medium pricing)
The weekend was over and we had the loop to our selves!
The Old Statehouse (Free)
State Capitol Building (Free)
Johnson Victrola Museum (Free)
Trip even enjoyed the Johnson Victrola Museum and especially like the company Mascot Nipper. The museum had tons of Nipper merchandise that had been produced over the years. It was fun to learn about these amazing machines that played such an important part in history, especially because Thomas Edison is one of the people I look up to and they had some of his machines and displays about the origins of the phonographs.