A new exhibit examining the 17th-century struggle for control of New Castle by the Dutch, Swedes and English will open Saturday, Sept. 9 at the New Castle Court House Museum.
“New Castle: Three Forts, One Community” explores New Castle’s contentious origins – a time when three great colonial powers, the Netherlands, Sweden and England, vied for dominance over the Delaware Valley and its profitable trade and natural resources. Over a thirty-year period in the late 1600s, the rival powers jockeyed for supremacy along the Delaware and Christina waterways, establishing a series of fortifications – first the Swedish stronghold of Fort Christina (present day Wilmington) then Fort Casimir (Dutch), Fort Trinity (Swedish) and Fort New Castle (English) – to enforce their claims.
These forts were an anchoring presence within the developing community and have not been completely lost to time. Archaeological excavations have found the site of Fort Casimir and recovered artifacts which are on display in the exhibit. To this day, the distinct cultural influences of the three colonial powers can still be found in New Castle.
The museum will celebrate the opening with a series of activities including Dutch and Swedish re-enactors and encampments; museum and exhibit tours; Swedish craft-activities for children; a walking tour of the site of Fort Casimir; on-board tours of the Kalmar Nyckel, a replica of one of the ships that brought the first Swedish settlers to what is now Delaware; and Dutch-, Swedish- and English-style refreshments.
“New Castle: Three Forts, One Community” was created by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team working together with the staff of the New Castle Court House Museum.
Museum operating-hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Except for Kalmar Nyckel tours ($5), admission is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-323-4453.
Constructed in 1732, the New Castle Court House is one of the oldest active court buildings in the United States and was Delaware’s first state capitol. Here, the Colonial Assembly passed the 1776 Separation Resolution creating the Delaware State. During its nearly 300 years of history, this landmark has played many pivotal roles in the political, social and commercial life of both New Castle and Delaware. The museum is a partner site in the First State National Historical Park.