DNREC’s First State Heritage Park’s First Saturday invites visitors to explore science

Visit the John Bell House to find out more about how diseases like smallpox were managed during the American Revolution.

DOVER – DNREC’s First State Heritage Park will feature “Science Exploration” as the theme August 4 for the First State Heritage Park’s monthly “First Saturday in the First State,” with a variety of free events and activities.

Crime and Punishment
The stocks and pillory were just one of the ways that social science was used in the 18th century to help deter criminals. Visit the Kent County Courthouse to learn more and try them on for size.

The John Bell House will feature “Revolutionary Medicine,” a program offered throughout the day about what medicine was like in the 18th century. Join historical interpreters in colonial clothing to learn about how Revolutionary War soldiers were treated for smallpox and other diseases. Visitors also will be able to play the role of a bio-archaeologist to help determine the cause of death for theoretical remains based solely on what can be found using archaeology.

Dr. Stephanie Holyfield will present “Colonial Contagion: Smallpox and the American Revolution,” at the Delaware Public Archives. Dr. Holyfield will discuss the impact of the disease and present information about the history of smallpox in the colonial era, George Washington’s decision to inoculate the army, and how the epidemic threatened the outcome of the war.

At 11 a.m., The Old State House will host “Medicine through the Wars: The Evolution of American Wartime Medicine.” From the American Revolution to present, find out how warfare – despite its destructive nature – has led to great advancements in science, especially in medicine.

Social science is the subject at the Kent County Courthouse, where visitors will participate in “Crime and Punishment” to learn how justice was served in the 18th century. The newly constructed pillory and stocks will be on display for visitors to try them on for size.

Here is a list of programs and activities for First Friday and First Saturday in the First State:

First Saturday – August 4

9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Revolutionary Medicine — John Bell House on The Green, 43 The Green
Learn about 18th century medicine and how the inventions of Dover’s own Dr. James Tilton saved lives during the Revolutionary War.

A Capitol Experience — Legislative Hall, 411 Legislative Avenue
Tour Delaware’s State Capitol building, and experience Delaware history. Photo ID is required for all adults entering the building.

Biggs Kids: Bird Prints — Biggs Museum of American Art, 406 Federal Street
Help welcome our visiting flock of John James Audubon bird prints with a special bird craft. Feathers will fly! For ages 5-10.

10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Tours of the Governor’s House — Woodburn – The Governor’s House, 151 King’s Highway
Enjoy guided tours of the official residence of Delaware’s Governor since 1965, and Hall House, the Governor’s guest house.

10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Sickness and Health…and the Occasional Poisoning Walking Tour — John Bell House on The Green, 43 The Green
Highlighting stories of medical curiosities of Dover’s past.

10:30 a.m.

Colonial Contagion: Smallpox and the American Revolution — Delaware Public Archives, 121 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
Dr. Stephanie Holyfield will discuss the impact of smallpox during the American Revolution with information about the history of the disease, epidemic threats, and George Washington’s decision to inoculate soldiers against the disease.

11 a.m.

Medicine Through the Wars: The Evolution of American Wartime Medicine — The Old State House, 25 The Green
This lecture examines the progress made in military medical practices and the role Delawareans played from the American Revolution through World War II.

1:30 – 4 p.m.

Crime and Punishment in the 18th Century — Kent County Courthouse, 38 The Green, Courtroom #1
From the pillory to the gallows, learn how justice was served in the 18th century, and how American colonists showed mercy to criminals in surprising ways.

1:30 p.m.

Sound, Stage, and Screen — Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New Street
Examine the science behind adding recorded sound to film and how that revolutionized the industry.

Each month during “First Saturdays in the First State,” the First State Heritage Park offers a variety of free programs at each of the park’s partner sites, including tours of the two capitol buildings in Delaware’s capital city – the Old State House and Legislative Hall – hourly walking tours leaving from the John Bell House, and the monthly “Biggs Kids” program at the Biggs Museum of American Art. Exhibits are also on display at the Biggs Museum, the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, and the Johnson Victrola Museum.

Admission to all park sites and programs is free. Centrally-located free parking is available at the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, located at 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard North. For more information about “First Saturday” events and all First State Heritage Park programs, please call 302-739-9194 or visit the First State Heritage Park web site.

The First State Heritage Park is Delaware’s first urban “park without boundaries,” linking historic and cultural sites in the city that has been the seat of state government since 1777. The park is a partnership of state agencies under the leadership of DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation, working in collaboration with city and county government, nonprofit organizations and the private sector.

Contact: Sarah Zimmerman, DNREC Division of Parks & Recreation, First State Heritage Park, 302-739-9194 or sarah.zimmerman@delaware.gov.


DNREC’s Fort Delaware State Park to host annual Civil War-era P.O.W. weekends in July and August

DELAWARE CITY – This summer, Fort Delaware State Park will host its two annual prisoner-of-war (P.O.W.) living history weekends. Each historical event begins at 10 a.m. both days, Saturday and Sunday, July 14 and 15, and Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 11 and 12.

During these special weekends, Fort Delaware will come alive with re-enactors and historians dressed as they would have during the American Civil War. Visitors will be offered a fascinating and unique look at what life was like at Fort Delaware during the 1860s, including prisoners being processed, prisoner mail call, and firing demonstrations with blank charges of various 19th century weapons.

With a number of additional re-enactors from a wide geographic range participating in the days’ events, visitors will see Delaware history as it happened almost 160 years ago.

Fort Delaware is a Civil War-era structure built to protect the city of Philadelphia from attack via the Delaware River. During the Civil War, it was used as to house captured Confederates, Union criminals, and civilians arrested for acts of presumed disloyalty. Between the years 1862 and 1865, about 33,000 prisoners spent time at Fort Delaware. P.O.W. Weekends are the fort’s best opportunity to tell their stories.

Visitors also can view many of the park’s regular daily events, including seeing the fort’s blacksmith, listening to Civil War folk songs, watching musketry drills, and much more.

Admission is $12 for adults, $7 for children, and $11 for those 62 and older, and active military. Children under two get in free. Most special programs at the park are free with Pea Patch island admission.

The Fort Delaware ticket office and ferry launch is located at 45 Clinton Street, Delaware City, DE 19706. Fort Delaware is regularly open from 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.

Media Contact:
Beth Shockley, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902


DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation’s Brandywine Zoo introduces two new red pandas to the public

Meet Sherman – male red panda. Profile: outgoing, curious, loves to sleep in large buckets, very intelligent and fast learner, and will approach keepers to see what kind of food and enrichment they’ve brought him for the day.

WILMINGTON – DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation’s Brandywine Zoo has made a red panda transfer and introduced two new pandas to the public. The zoo sent the panda predecessors to other zoos for breeding purposes, and Brandywine Zoo visitors are encouraged to welcome the newcomers to Delaware.

Mohu, a female Red Panda
Meet Mohu – female red panda. Profile: shy but coming out of her shell daily, loves apples and grapes but is crazy about dried cranberries, and has more white on her face than Sherman.

The zoo’s new residents are Sherman (above), a five-year-old male from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology institute in Virginia, and a four-year-old female, named Mohu (right), from the Blank Park Zoo in Iowa. Former resident sisters, Meridoc and Gansu, who have lived at the zoo since 2014, have been transferred to other accredited zoos, where they have been paired with mates.

Before Sherman and Mohu’s arrival, zookeepers were informed about each animal’s personality, dietary preferences, medical history, training techniques, and favorite enrichment activities. This helps the keepers make the transition as seamless as possible for the animals in their new home.

The transfer of red pandas is mandated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which tracks animal populations in human care in American zoos. The SSP is coordinated by a specialist management group that follows the genetics and demographics of their respective animal populations. Annual meetings are held to examine the health of the population, and make recommendations for transfers and breeding.

The current red panda population in North American zoos includes 150 animals in 58 AZA-accredited facilities. All of the red pandas were captive-born. The median lifespan for red pandas is 10 years with some living to 20 years. Taking this information into consideration, with a desire to maintain the current population size, the management group has recommended 23 births next year. As a result, pandas, like sisters Meridoc and Gansu, are transferred among different zoos for breeding with unrelated pandas to ensure genetic diversity for the population.

In the wild, red pandas can be found in mountainous regions of China, India, Bhutan, and Nepal. They face threats of habitat loss from deforestation caused by commercial logging, demand for firewood, and clearing for agriculture. This has led to reduced food supply for the red pandas and habitat fragmentation that threatens their ability to move about their territories. Another threat is ongoing hunting of red pandas for pelts.

Sherman and Mohu are not a reproductive pair. Sherman has several offspring already, and Mohu is not a breeding female. In the future, the zoo plans to add a new red panda exhibit that would allow for red panda breeding.

In addition to its newest residents, DNREC’s Brandywine Zoo features Andean condors, river otters, pygmy goats, llamas, rheas, and other animals native to the Americas and the temperate areas of Asia.

Accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the Brandywine Zoo is one of only 200 accredited zoos and aquariums in North America, a distinction that marks its commitment to providing excellent animal welfare. The zoo is managed by the Division of Parks & Recreation with the support of the Delaware Zoological Society.

More information about the Brandywine Zoo is available at destateparks.com or brandywinezoo.org, or by calling 302-571-7747.


DNREC Division of Parks & Recreation announces Brandywine Zoo closure on April 16 – 17

DOVER – DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation announced today that the Brandywine Zoo will be closed Monday, April 16, and Tuesday, April 17, for routine tree removal.

It was determined that four trees need to be taken down and away from the zoo over the two days. The zoo is being closed as a precaution, to ensure the safety of animals and visitors.

Media Contact: Beth Shockley, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902


DNREC Division of Parks & Recreation announces weekday closure of ‘Swinging Bridge’ in Brandywine Park

DOVER – DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation announced today that the “Swinging Bridge,” a pedestrian foot bridge in Brandywine Park in Wilmington, will be closed on weekdays beginning Monday, Feb. 12. The bridge will be open for weekend use.

The Swinging Bridge straddles the Brandywine River between North and South Park Drives. The closure is necessary for the repair of the bridge decking. Repairs are expected to take up to one month to complete.

An alternate river crossing for pedestrians is on the Van Buren Street Bridge to the south.

For more information, contact the Wilmington State Parks Office at 302-577-7020.

Media Contact: Beth Shockley, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902.