Delaware’s motto is “The First State,” since it was the first state to ratify the Constitution to become part of the United States. This little historical fact becomes quite ironic when paired with the fact that there are disputes about Delaware’s borders up to this very day!
Alfonso and I enter Hardcastle Gallery, located in Centreville. They have agreed to display the painting that was inspired by New Jersey, and with our coincidental timing, we arrive while one of the galleries exhibiting artists is visiting. We speak with Larry Anderson, who represents Delaware’s past and present through his nostalgic depictions of the state. He, and gallery director, Allison Weer, become the perfect sources for an introduction to America’s second smallest state.
We learn that the Eastern border of Delaware has been controversial. It is a combination of the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware River, and causes problems with New Jersey. When the original land was given to William Penn, he requested ownership of the Delaware River so as to have access to his land by way of the ocean. Delaware continues to claim ownership of the river, preventing New Jersey from building ports or docks on their banks. Twenty-years ago, this boundary dispute was taken to the Supreme Court, who ruled in favor of Delaware. Today, the BP oil company wants to build on the New Jersey side, but since they would technically be building on Delaware’s land, they are unable to receive the permits. Delaware’s concerns are safety-related, but New Jersey knows how much money will head their way with developing this land. The two states continue to battle as the case returns to the Supreme Court.
While visiting New Castle, we speak with a man named Brian Cannon. He shares some history about another land dispute that took place years ago between William Penn and Lord Baltimore. The Duke of York was the original owner of Northern Delaware and beyond. When the Duke granted land to William Penn, he wanted to keep a twelve-mile radius from the city of New Castle. Once Delaware succeeded from Pennsylvania, that northern curve of the Duke’s circumference became the northern Delaware border, making it the only state to be divided with a curved boundary. When King Charles granted Southern Delaware land to William Penn, Lord Baltimore claimed to already own the land bordering the Atlantic. The dispute went on for over ninety years before the land was granted to Delaware, after which Mason and Dixon came to survey the dividing line between Maryland and Delaware.
Brian sends us to Broad Dyke, which is the original center point for the twelve-mile radius. We then continue exploring Delaware by driving down to Cape Henelopen. Here, cement cylinders dot the Atlantic Coastline. These fire towers were built during WWII to watch for German ships or submarines, invading American waters. From posts on these towers, guards were able to calculate the location of a ship, and determine the proper angle of firing. Today, advancements in technology have left the towers useless, and their towering height appears out of place along flat beaches. They stand as quiet reminders of a time when guns and military strength protected the borders instead of courts and judges.