Dover, Delaware and Visit to the Old State House

Dover is the capital of the state of Delaware and this cozy little city is only about an hour drive away from Philadelphia. The old town area is called Dover Green Historic District and in the middle of it you will see the Old State House in its full glory. This magnificent and historic building was finished in 1792.

Old State House from the front
Old State House, Dover Delaware. Picture: Jonna Tuukkanen)

The Old State House is open for visitors, for guided tours, and this two-story brick building is definitely worth seeing, especially if you are interested in American history. The building was used by the Delaware government all the way until 1932 and it was also used as a courthouse of the Kent County from 1792 until 1873.

Old State house fireplace
The Old State House was kept warm by wood burning fireplaces. Picture: Jonna Tuukkanen

The guided tour starts from the first floor, which has been renovated to its original looks. The room opens up as the courthouse and the judges table is on the back wall. Both side walls have a fireplace, no longer functioning, but renovated to their original look. The wooden floor planks are not the original ones, but they are from the John Dickinson plantation, also a historic site in Dover. The Dickinson farm is from the same era as the Old State House, so the floors are old, even though not the original ones.

White pillars of the Old State House, Dover, Delaware
White pillars indicating innocence of the accused at the Old State House, Dover, Delaware. Picture: Jonna Tuukkanen

Back in the day, when court was in progress, the accused person sat on a bench, opposite from the judge’s table between two pillars: one side of them painted white and the other red. The white color was facing the door indicating that each person is innocent until proven otherwise. If the person was found guilty, the pillars were turned to show the red towards the door. That way everyone following the trial, inside or outside the courtroom, knew the verdict.

Staircase of the Old State House
Staircase of the Old State House. View from the second floor. Picture: Jonna Tuukkanen

The tour continues to the second floor and the staircase is sensational. It was built as free-standing staircase, which is amazing from an architectural perspective taking into consideration the era when it was built. All walls of the Old State House could collapse, and the staircase would still be standing! It was also funny to notice how much shorter people used to be, so when climbing the stairs to the second floor, watch out for hitting your head!

Painting of George Washington
Painting of George Washington. Picture: Jonna Tuukkanen

The second floor has the famous painting of George Washington who became the first president of the United States in 1798, two years after Delaware became the first state.

Golden Fleece Tavern wall plaque
Golden Fleece Tavern wall plaque. Picture: Jonna Tuukkanen
Golden Fleece Tavern
Golden Fleece Tavern. Picture: Jonna Tuukkanen

Dover has a lot of American History and all the buildings surrounding the Old State House have been renovated to their original glory. Delaware is the first state to ratify the Constitution, but the Old State House was not built yet when the meeting to decide this took place in Dover. The selected delegates met in a bar called the Golden Fleece Tavern and the building itself is still standing. However, it is no longer a tavern, now functioning as an atelier and a store owned by a local artist Taylor. You can also spot a Swedish flag outside of her store because apparently the swedes had a lot of influence in Dover back in the day, Tayler elaborates.

Copy of Signatures
Copy of the signatures. Picture: Jonna Tuukkanen

So, this important meeting regarding the U.S. constitution was organized in a bar in 1787 and by unanimously ratifying the federal constitution Delaware became the first state of the United States. This historic moment is celebrated annually December 7th as the Delaware Day. The Old State House has an original copy of the signed document and you can see some stains on it. The story doesn’t tell if the stains are beer stains, possibly served at the Golden Fleece Tavern at the time of signing it; we can only guess.

Visiting the first state of the United States is already on its own amazing; just because of the history of it, and on the next trip, John Dickinson plantation is definitely on the list of sites to see (he is also one of the signing delegates). Rehoboth beach is about one hour drive away from Dover if you are looking to enjoy the beach. And those interested in motor sports, Dover International Drydene 400 Nascar Cup Series will be on May 16th this year!