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Old New Castle Sheriff's House to become office space, park visitor center

The First State National Historical Park is moving toward turning what was once the state’s first county jail into a park office and visitor center.

The National Park Service recently approved the plan, after finding the proposed renovation would not hurt the building’s historical value.

David Blackburn, acting superintendent for the park, says the restoration can now go from the planning to the design phase.

“It’s the first step in the long journey to get it restored, rehabilitated and open to the public,” he said.

Park Iterpretation and Education Coordinator Lorin Felter says the old Sheriff’s House was once part of the state’s first county jail and was then used as a police station. After that, it became a social club, was abandoned and boarded up for a number of years, then housed the HVAC systems for the nearby courthouse.

“So outside it looks awesome, it’s a beautiful building. But inside there’s a lot of holes in the ceiling and the floor and the stairs are a little shaky and scary but you can just kind of see all the layers of history,” she said.

According to Blackburn, funding will determine the restoration timeline. He hopes it will be finished in the next few years.

He expects the building’s history, including a few old jail cells, to be accessible to the public.   

As a partial visitor center, the Sheriff’s House will also support public access to the seven sites across Delaware—including the adjacent New Castle Courthouse—that make up the First State National Historical Park.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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