Click here for New Castle Community History and Archaeology Project website
Step back in time and experience the charm and beauty of colonial New Castle. Walk the cobblestone streets and enjoy the historic sites of this riverfront community.
New Castle, originally named Fort Casimir, was founded in 1651 by Peter Stuyvesant, who was sent to provide the Dutch with command of all river traffic. Because of its strategic location, ownership of the settlement was constantly changing. The flags of the Netherlands, Sweden and Great Britain have all flown over New Castle.
The three counties which make up the state of Delaware were added to William Penn’s lands in America. In 1682, Penn came ashore at New Castle and took possession, but these counties, which were well established, became dissatisfied with Penn’s rule. In 1704, when he granted them a separate legislature, New Castle became the colonial capitol of Delaware. The lively town also briefly served as the first state capital, and continued as the county seat until the 1880’s.
New Castle’s location made it an ideal transfer point for trips up and down the coast. As a result, New Castle was a thriving community throughout the 1700’s and early 1800’s. The courts and general assembly also attracted various judges, lawyers and government officials who built handsome houses, many of which still remain. The Great Fire of 1824, which started in the stables behind the Jefferson House, claimed many of the inns and warehouses located on The Strand. Among the buildings destroyed was the modest home of George Read, signer of the Declaration on Independence and the Constitution.
Unlike many historic communities, New Castle is a residential town where people live and work. Each house reflects the individuality of its past and present owners. Because New Castle has been named a National Landmark Historic Area, all renovations and restorations are carefully supervised.
This small, picturesque City allows vacationers, as well as business travelers, a refreshing respite from the pressures of daily life. Whether you are enjoying the beaches, the Brandywine Valley, or other treasures of Delaware, be sure to include New Castle in your itinerary.
A timeline of New Castle City History, compiled by the New Castle Historical Society:
1651 – Fort Casimir established at today’s New Castle by the Dutch under Gov. Peter Stuyvesant.
1682 – William Penn landed in New Castle to take control of the colony of Pennsylvania.
1704 – Penn granted Lower Three Counties (today’s Delaware) independent status, with New Castle as their capital.
1764 – First Board of Trustees of New Castle Common named to manage common land for residents.
1776 – New Castle became the state capital, but the state moved its governmental seat to Dover the following year.
1824 – New Castle was devastated by the Great Fire on Water Street, now known as The Strand.
1831 – New Castle and Frenchtown Railroad opened. It was the first railroad in Delaware and one of the first in the nation.
1875 – New Castle incorporated as a city under an act of the state legislature.
1881 – New Castle County seat moved from New Castle to Wilmington.
1897 – Electric trolley service to Wilmington added.
1925 – New Castle-Pennsville, N.J., ferry service was inaugurated. It ended in 1951.
1934 – New Castle Historical Society established for purpose of opening the 1738 Amstel House as the first historic-house museum in town.
1949 – The town’s central district was surveyed and mapped by Historic New Castle Inc. in a preservation initiative.
2001 – The city celebrated the 350th anniversary of its founding.
Researching Your House in the Town of New Castle
A house research guide for New Castle County is available from the State of Delaware has much useful detail, but there are some resources specific to the Town of New Castle. These research approaches are listed below in order of ease of use and usefulness. Even if you know only the address of a property in the historic area you can find out the names of occupants or owners from the first settlement in the 1650’s up to the 1840’s. These names help with the other approaches such as census, probate, tax or burial records.
You can find more information on New Castle Community History and Archaeology Project on their website.