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A Walking Tour of New Castle, Delaware (Look Up, America!)
There is no better way to see America than on foot. And there is no better way to appreciate what you are looking at than with a walking tour. Whether you are preparing for a road trip or just out to look at your own town in a new way, a downloadable walking tour from walkthetown.com is ready to explore when you are.
Each walking tour describes historical and architectural landmarks and provides pictures to help out when those pesky street addresses are missing. Every tour also includes a quick primer on identifying architectural styles seen on American streets.
This walking tour of New Castle, Delaware examines the birthplace of historic preservation in America. In 1651, Peter Stuyvesant, governor of the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam (Now New York City) sent a flotilla of eleven ships down the coast into the Delaware River where they established Fort Casimir. Sweden had colonized the river back in 1638 and the colony of New Sweden seized the lightly garrisoned fort in 1654. The next year Governor Stuyvesant sailed back down with seven ships and 317 soldiers. The Swedish settlers surrendered without a fight.
Pouring more resources into the settlement this time the trading post soon grew to more than 200 people and was named New Amstel. Dutch rule was to last less than a decade more, however. In 1664 the British overwhelmed the Dutch in New Amsterdam and the stubborn peg-legged Stuyvesant was forced to cede all Dutch land to England.
In 1681 William Penn, a devoted Quaker and one-time prisoner in the Tower of London was presented with a massive land grant from King Charles II to repay a debt of £16,000 owed to Penn's father. He was now in possession of much of present-day Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Penn came to survey his new land in 1682 and on October 27, first set foot in America in New Castle. He stayed a day before hurrying up to Philadelphia.
For more than 150 years New Castle thrived as a trading center and the second-largest town on the Delaware River behind Philadelphia. Delawareans, however, chafed under strict Quaker rule and in 1702 what would become Delaware was granted its own government under Pennsylvania law and was called "The Lower Three Counties." New Castle was the capital city but after the governor was kidnapped the capital was moved further inland.
The business district was leveled by fire in 1824 and although the town was quickly rebuilt it was dealt a more lethal blow two decades later from which it could not recover: the main overland rail route bypassed New Castle in favor of Wilmington. Cut off from the commerce that followed the iron horse, a secluded New Castle began a long, slow decline. As commerce and people departed town, the historic brick buildings remained. The preservation movement in America began in the early 20th century and New Castle was rediscovered in the 1920s. In 1924 "A Day in Old New Castle" began a tradition of touring the town's colonial homes and gardens. Unlike many colonial towns, New Castle is neither reconstructed or a preserved historical district. It is a fully residential town roughly five blocks wide by two blocks long. On this one day, residents open their private, historic homes to the public for tours.
Our walking tour of this authentic Colonial town will begin...