How do I visit First State National Historical Park and where is the visitor center?
There are seven sites throughout the state that collectively tell First State NHP's story, and can be visited in any order. Currently, the park does not have one central visitor center. However, each site has some kind of welcome center where you will receive information about the site and available tours. The seven sites are listed below from north to south:
- Brandywine Valley (Wilmington) - Consist of more than 1,100 acres of woods and rolling pastures three miles north of Wilmington with just over 200 of those acres located in souther Pennsylvania. This land was first deeded to William Penn and reflects early Quaker settlement patterns and Native American migration. In 1906, William Bancroft purchased this bucolic property to preserve the beauty of the Brandywine Valley for future generations.
- Fort Christina (Wilmington) - It was here, along the banks of the Christina River over 375 years ago, that the first Swedish and Finnish American settlers aboard the Kalmar Nyckel and the Fogel Grip landed and settled the first American Swedish colony, New Sweden.
- Old Swedes Church (Wilmington) - Built in 1699 by early Swedish and Finnish settlers, it is celebrated today as the oldest church in America still used for worship.The church has preserved records of life of early settlers and many are buried at the graveyard on site.
- New Castle Court House (Historic New Castle) The court house was the first capital of the state and its State House (1776-1777). The Court House played a significant role in creation of the State of Delaware by allowing the state to separate from Pennsylvania, and held trials for abolitionists Thomas Garrett and John Hunn, who were tried here, found guilty, and fined for helping enslaved people emancipate themselves.
- Sheriff's House (Historic New Castle) - Built in 1858, the Victorian brownstone building served as both the home of the sheriff and as the administrative site for the attached prison. The Sheriffs House and the adjoining New Castle Court House served as the center of New Castle County's justice system. This structure is all that remains of the first county prison in Delaware.
- The Green, Dover (Dover) - Laid out in 1717, it was on the city of Dover's central square, known as The Green. It was here that Delaware voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
- John Dickinson Plantation (Dover) - Home to John Dickinson, known as the "penman of the Revolution" because his writings helped inspire colonial opposition to Great Britain, this site was built in 1739 and located about 6 miles southeast of The Green in Dover. John Dickinson was also a member of the Continental Congress that wrote the Declaration of the Independence, and a delegate to the Constitutional Convention.
- Ryves Holt House - (Lewes) This house, built in 1665 in Lewes, Delaware by early Dutch settlers, is thought to be built thirty years after the destruction of the nearby ill-fated Zwaanendael colony, one of the first Dutch settlements in America, and first European settlement in Delaware. It survived the Lord Baltimore raids, which eventually led to the English taking control of the area.
What are the hours of operation and are there fees?
Hours very site-to-site and seasonal. It is best to visit the "Operating Hours & Seasons" page for details about each site, and call the site manager ahead with questions about accessibility. The seven sites are free to visit, but some special programs and tours require a small fee.
Where are the NPS passport stamps located, and can I purchase, or use, an America the Beautiful pass?
There are seven stamps for each of the seven sites, in addition to three stamps for the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Since the park is fee-free, we do not sell America the Beautiful passes. The passes are available at Fish and Wildlife Refugee Areas in Delaware, and can be used at Old Swedes Church to waive the tour fee. More information is available on our "First State Passport Stamps" page.