Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley are rich with history. Early settlers date back to the 1600's and the area offers some of the finest examples of 18th and 19th century living in the region. If history is your thing, grab the kids, get in the car, and program your GPS for these First State history hot spots:

Historic New Castle

No history trip to our area is complete without a stop in the town with historic in its name! Historic New Castle was originally settled by the Dutch West India Company in 1651 under the leadership of Peter Stuyvesant. Originally named Fort Casmir, the town changed name and ownership several times over the next 30 years and through the second and third Anglo-Dutch wars. It wasn't until 1680 that New Castle was conveyed to William Penn by the Duke of York and served as his landing place and where he first set foot on American soil on October 27, 1682.

Historic New Castle is located just 10 minutes south of Downtown Wilmington, and is the oldest continuously occupied town in the Delaware Valley. And, thanks to the efforts of legendary preservationist, Louise du Pont Crowninshield, this vibrant, fully occupied community remains one of the most important Colonial/Federal villages in America - second only to Williamsburg, Virginia in the number and authenticity of its historic structures.

What to see when you get there:

Read House and Gardens: 22-room Federal-style mansion where several rooms are restored to capture the gentility of the Colonial Revival movement and the gaiety of the Roaring ‘20s.

The Arsenal: Home to the New Castle Historical Society and their Museum Shop and Visitor Center. They will have all your information on the Amstel House, Dutch House, and the Old Library Museum.

New Castle Court House Museum: Delaware's first court and capital. Learn about Delaware's colonial and state history and early system of law government!

Delaware City

Delaware City can trace its origins back to 1801 when the Newbold family from New Jersey purchased a tract of land that became known as Newbold's Landing. The Newbolds drew plans for the town in 1826 with the expectation that it would eventually grow to rival Philadelphia as a Delaware River port and commercial center. Fortunately for today's visitors, that didn't quite happen.

Today, Delaware City is a quaint riverfront community. The city encompasses only 1.3 square miles and boasts an historic district with more than 200 buildings constructed during the 19th-and early 20th-century. The city's main street has a number of independently owned shops, including art galleries, gift shops, bakeries and an authentic blacksmith.

What to see when you get there:

Fort Delaware: A Union fortress dating back to 1859, once housed Confederate prisoners of war. It was originally built to protect the ports of Wilmington and Philadelphia. Just a short ½ mile ferry rides gets you a day of hand-on-history at the fort!

Historic Odessa

Odessa was first settled by the Dutch in the 17th century and was originally named Appoquinimink, after a neighboring creek. British settlers gradually replaced the Dutch, and in 1664 the Appoquinimink area was confiscated and deeded to Captain Edmund Cantwell. Today, Odessa's footprint is a mere .5 square miles with approximately 286 residents.

What to see when you get there:

Historic Houses of Odessa: Operated by the Historic Odessa Foundation, these five unique properties are open year-round and boast some of the finest examples of 18th and 19th century architecture and lifestyles.

• The houses include: the Corbit-Sharp House (circa 1774), the Wilson Warner House (circa 1769), the Collins-Sharp House (circa 1700), the Brick Hotel (circa 1822) and the Odessa Bank (circa 1853).


Wilmington is Delaware's largest city, but it was originally known as Willington, in honor of Thomas Willing, the first developer of the land. The original colony was founded by Sweden and Finland in 1638, and later fell in to the hands of the Dutch in 1655. Years following, under British rule and King George II the colony was granted a borough charter in 1739. It was at this time the name was changed from Willington to Wilmington, in honor of Spencer Compton, the Earl of Wilmington, a favorite of the King.

Wilmington not only has a strong Swedish tradition, but also many French influences, courtesy of the du Pont family legacy!

What to see when you get there:

Old Swedes Historic Site: Visitors from around the world seek out Old Swedes Church to experience and explore the only surviving structure from the first Swedish settlement along the banks of the Christina River

Hagley Museum and Library: Get a unique glimpse into 19th-century American life and work at Hagley Museum and Library, the site of the original Du Pont powder mills, estate, and gardens, with live machinery demonstrations in the powder yard, changing exhibits in Henry Clay Mill, the homes and school on Blacksmith Hill, and the Georgian-style Eleutherian Mills mansion.

Rockwood Museum and Park: Tour Rockwood Museum and Park, a rural gothic mansion built by Quaker merchant banker Joseph Shipley between 1851 and 1854, with rooms restored to the way they looked in 1895 at the height of the Victorian Era when Shipley's descendants lived here.

Winterthur Museum and Library: Founded by Henry Francis du Pont, Winterthur's preeminent collection of American antiques reflects both early America and the du Pont family's life at this glorious estate. Enjoy tours of the house and spectacular 60-acre garden.