History of The Green, Dover

Part of The Green, Dover surrounded by historic buildings.
Part of The Green, Dover surrounded by historic buildings.

First State Heritage Park


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The Green was laid out in 1717 in accordance with William Penn’s 1683 orders. Surrounded by government buildings, shops, homes, and taverns, it quickly became the heart of Dover. On December 7, 1787 thirty delegates, ten from each county, met on The Green at the Golden Fleece Tavern (now gone). At this meeting they ratified the United States Constitution, giving Delaware a place of honor as "The First State."

When the people of Dover first heard the words of the Declaration of Independence, they were standing on The Green hearing it from the step of the courthouse (now the site of the Old State House). They were so moved by the inspirational words that they stormed into the courthouse, tore the painting of King George off the wall, paraded it around The Green, and threw it into a bonfire on The Green saying, “with these words, we thus destroy the shadow of a king who refused to reign over a free people.” Then they all retired to the Golden Fleece for the traditional toasts and a feast of turtle soup.

While The Green is most known for ratifying the United States Constitution other significant events have taken place since then. Including the trial of Samuel Burris, a free man and Conductor on the Underground Railroad, who was captured in Dover in 1847 for helping a women escape slavery. He was immediately imprisoned in Dover, and forced to await trial for 14 months. Eventually, he was found guilty and sentenced to be sold into slavery for seven years. Unknown to Burris at the time, he was rescued on the auction block by abolitionist posing as buyers. 

The Green captured national attention again in 1920 when Delaware had the opportunity to be the 36th (and final) state to ratify the 19th amendment. Mabel Lloyd Ridgely, Florence Bayard Hilles, and others advocated tirelessly in Delaware to get the vote. Reporters from across the country arrived to find the “war of the roses” had come to The Green; yellow flowers were given in favor of the vote – known as suffrage; red roses were the symbol of chivalry and the anti-suffrage movement. A fierce legislative debate was waged at The Old State House but Delaware legislators declined to vote – leaving the deciding vote to Tennessee.


Last updated: May 22, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

New Castle Court House Museum
Attn: First State NHP
211 Delaware Street

New Castle, DE 19720


(302) 544-6363
This phone number is not staffed. You can leave a message on the park's main phone number (302-544-6363) and we will return your call as soon as possible. If you are visiting one of the seven sites, and need specific information, please refer to the "Places to Go" page for phone numbers and addresses of each site.

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