CLOSED FOR RENOVATION UNTIL DECEMBER 2006
The Delaware State House was the first permanent capitol building in Dover, Delaware. Begun in 1787 and completed by May 1792, this Georgian-style structure was home to all levels of government in the First State. Sitting on the historic Green in Dover, the State House has been witness to many important events that have occurred in Delaware history. The State House has been a center of attention for two centuries and continues to hold a special place in the eyes of Delawareans and visitors alike.
A visitor today can observe the work completed by the major restoration project in the 1970’s to bring the stately building back to its original appearance. An interior detail of special interest is the breathtaking gilt sunflower ceiling medallion. Viewing the grand staircase of the State House has been pleasing for visitors in the State House whether in 1800 or 2001. This entrance to the Legislative chambers of State Government is very impressive. John Howe’s “geometrical” stair of 1791 was reproduced by the 1970’s restoration architects based on information derived from original documents and physical evidence found in the building.
The landing on the second floor of the State House provides a step back into history. The House of Representatives is on the right and is furnished as it was two hundred years ago. Twenty-one men, seven from each county, were elected to fill these chairs. Two portraits painted by Thomas Sully enhance the walls of the House Chamber to honor Jacob Jones and Thomas McDonough, heroes from the First State in the War of 1812. On the left is the Senate Chamber. Nine men would occupy these chairs. The minimum age for a senator was 27 and each member was required to be a freeholder and a resident of the state for three years. Of course, the requirement for all office holders in the colonial era was that of male and a white citizen. Many of the issues of the day are discussed at this location in relation as to who was allowed a voice in governement of the past and how far we have progressed today under the United States Consitution, first ratified by Delaware.
An historic interpreter will take the visitor inside the building for a personal tour. Learn about the judicial branch of government as you enter the re-created courtroom of the eighteenth century. Participants are encouraged to take a seat in this area as a judge, juryman or even the prisoner to help make the experience come alive. The guide will tell documented stories of famous trials and issues of everyday people who were affected by Delaware government or society in general.
Listen to the facts of the Underground Railroad and the work done by Samuel D. Burris, or the actions that took place in the Recorder of Deeds Office on the first floor. Learn how segments of local society worked hard to free slaves in Delaware and hold copies of primary source documents that were the actual freedom papers of many other citizens of the Fist State.
Although the General Assembly moved to nearby Legislative Hall in 1933, the State House remains Delaware’s symbolic capitol. The State House building is unique in design and history. Please come prepared with questions and enthusiasm for a place rich in Delaware history!