Senator Carper, Interior Secretary Haaland Celebrate Opening of First State National Historical Park’s Visitor Center

U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) joined Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland at the opening of the First State National Historical Park’s Visitor Center at the Sheriff’s House in Historic New Castle today. The visit comes during National Park Week, a nine-day celebration of the more than 400 national parks nationwide. 

Delaware’s long journey to opening a national park began with an effort led by Senator Carper in 2001. He formed a committee with University of Delaware Professor Jim Soles and a dozen Delawareans to examine the scope of a national park for the state. That effort led to a National Park Service Special Resource Study, which concluded that a national park should be placed in Delaware to focus on early settlement and Delaware’s role in the birth of the nation as the first state to ratify the Constitution. After the study concluded and over a dozen public meetings were held – including legislative hearings in both chambers of Congress – it was clear there was overwhelming support to open a park. In 2013, the concept of the park was designated as the First State National Monument by President Barack Obama. The following year, Senator Carper led the successful passage of legislation to officially turn the designated monument into a national park.

“Today is a very special day for our park to finally open its visitor center – a place that will bring all of our historical sites together and where people from all over the world can learn about Delaware’s rich history, from the Old Swedes Church in Wilmington to The Green in Dover,” said Senator Carper. “This day would not be possible without the hard work of so many Delawareans who were inspired to fight for Delaware – the last state to get a national park – to have its story told!”

The Sheriffs House was constructed in 1857 on the site of a 1793 jail. It is all that remains of Delaware’s first prison system. The Sheriff’s House is the only National Park Service owned facility in Historic New Castle and was donated to the National Park Service by the State of Delaware in 2013 as part of First State National Monument. The Sheriff’s House is the central visitor contact station for all First State National Historical Park sites with areas for orientation, exhibits, education, and rest rooms. The $7.9 million project to rehabilitate the Sheriff’s House included a new heating and air conditioning system, accessibility and life safety improvements, and office space to support park operations.