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Delaware's magnificently preserved first capital, NEW CASTLE , fronts the broad Delaware River, just six miles south of
Wilmington via Hwy-141. Founded in the 1650s by the Dutch - who were intent on expanding from their colony at New
Amsterdam, and taken over by the British in 1664, New Castle was the main stopping point between Baltimore and
Philadelphia. William Penn first set foot in the New World here in October 1682. Largely bypassed when railroads and
highways replaced the riverboats, it has managed to survive intact, its quiet cobbled streets and immaculate eighteenth-
century brick houses shaded by ancient hardwood trees.
The heart of New Castle is the tree-filled town green that spreads east from the shops of Delaware Street. Laid out in 1655
by Peter Stuyvesant, and ringed by a cracked red-brick sidewalk, it is dominated by the stalwart tower of the Immanuel
Episcopal Church, built in 1703 and bordered by tidy rows of two-hundred-year-old gravestones. The church's modern,
pristine white interior was reconstructed after a disastrous fire in the 1980s. On the west edge of the green, the Old Court
House (Tues-Sat 10am-3.30pm, Sun 1.30-4.30pm; free) was built in 1732 and served as the first state capitol. Its dainty
cupola was the centerpoint from which surveyors determined the state's curved northern border, drawn up when Delaware
seceded from Pennsylvania in 1776.
Fine colonial houses fill the few blocks around the town green. The largest, and only one regularly open to the public, is the
George Read II House (Tues-Sat 10am-4pm, Sun noon-4pm), two blocks south along the river at 42 The Strand.
Built between 1797 and 1804 for a signatory of the Declaration of Independence, the original house burned down in 1824.
The sumptuously detailed rebuilt version holds marble fireplaces, brightly painted walls, elaborately carved woodwork and
some of the finest plasterwork ornamentation of the Federal period. The spacious gardens behind the building were laid
out in 1847 to the picturesque designs of Andrew Jackson Downing. The large houses across the street, backing onto the
Delaware River, also date from the early nineteenth century, and many are now run as B&Bs. A large riverfront park spreads
south from the foot of Delaware Street, with rolling lawns and sheltered benches. Its pride and joy is a tiny white-clapboard
ticket office, which dates from the opening of the town's first railroad in 1832 and stands next to a small piece of track.
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