Delaware's claim to fame had always been that it was the First State to ratify the U.S. Constitution but it had become the last state to not have a national monument.
For years, that has bothered U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.). He has worked for some time with Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of the Interior and former senator Ken Salazar to remedy that situation.
On Monday, Carper finally got his wish when he, Biden and Salazar were among those who witnessed President Obama sign the proclamation that made Delaware the site of the 400th national monument. On Tuesday, those men joined city of New Castle Mayor Don Reese in historic Old New Castle to celebrate the designation.
The designation includes the New Castle Court House, the New Castle Green, the New Castle Sheriff's House, The Dover Green and Woodlawn in Brandywine Creek State Park at the Delaware-Pennsylvania state line in northern New Castle County.
Carper received a standing ovation when he arrived at the New Castle Sheriff's House with his wife, Martha.
He told the crowd that he had been asked repeatedly why he wanted a national monument in Delaware. The history of the areas included in the national monument were precisely why he wanted a national monument in the Diamond State, Carper said.
"We helped create the United States of America," Carper said.
As noted in the new brochure printed up by the U.S. Department of the Interior's National Park Service:
- The Dover Green was where the Delaware Legislature met in 1787 to become the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Carper also noted that Caesar Rodney, a native of Dover Hundred in Kent County, rode his horse on July 1, 1776 to cast the tiebreaking vote for Delaware to allow it to be one of the 11 states voting for independence.
- The New Castle Courthouse was the first capital of the state and its State House from 1776 to 1777, the New Castle Sheriff's House and the adjoining New Castle Court house the center of New Castle County's justice system and the New Castle Green has been the center of the city's business district since the 17th Century.
- And Woodlawn contains the "12-mile arc" drawn from the New Castle Court House to establish the state border with Pennsylvania. The property was also the site of some of the first Quakers to settle the area with William Penn.
Among the dignitaries attending the event were New Castle County Councilman Bob Weiner (R-Chatham), Dover Mayor Carleton Carey Sr., Dover Councilman David Bonar, incoming Councilman Tim Slavin, Dover Director of Planning Ann Marie Townshend and Dover Economic Development Director Bill Neaton.
With some people still questioning whether Dover and New Castle gave away land to the feds, Townshend and Neaton said there was no validity to those concerns.
Page 2 of 2 - "We still have full control of the land," Townshend said. "We'll still going to manage the land and we're going to work with the state of Delaware and the federal government. The programming that has been provided on The Green by the state of Delaware I think will actually improve by working with the Park Service.
"I do think it's ironic and kind of sad that we're the First State but the last to have a national monument," she said. "It's long overdue. It's great for Delaware and it's great for the country."
Neaton said the National Park Service would provide valuable marketing and advertising to Dover and Delaware.
"When people are visiting the state of Delaware, they will have a brochure that directs them to The Green," he said. "What better place to go than the birthplace of our nation? There's no question it's about time. Senator Carper has worked diligently to get this done."