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Kent County leaders hope to preserve history of Delaware's Underground Railroad with new museum

Star Hill AME Church & Museum.jpg
C. E. Couchman
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Star Hill AME Church & Museum

Kent County could soon get a new museum to preserve Delaware’s Underground Railroad history - as well as hundreds of artifacts and books by African Americans.

The museum would be at the historic farmhouse known as the Goggin Manor at Brecknock Park in Camden.

Goggin Manor1.jpg
Kelli Steele
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Goggin Manor at Brecknock Park in Camden

Kent County Levy Court commissioner Jody Sweeney says the idea would build on Lucreatia Wilson’s work at the Star Hill Museum in Dover.

Sweeney says the 81-year-old Wilson wants to move to Utah to be with her granddaughter and no one has stepped up to run Star Hill.

“She wants to move that Museum to someplace where Kent County can have a Kent County Museum that will depict life in Kent County - not only for Kent Countians but for the Black experience in Kent County,” said Sweeney.  

Sweeney says he’s worked with Wilson over the last four years to make it happen.

Now, using a $500,000 federal grant and $500,000 in matching funds from Kent County, they can upgrade the Goggin Manor to fit the bill.

“There’s a lot of work to be done to make the house public-ready, to allow people to get in - like making it ADA-compliant," Sweeney said. "And we have to install a whole new heating and air conditioning system to add climate control. And when you do that, you’ve got to upgrade the entire electric and plumbing system. We also have windows that we have to seal. So there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. And that $1 million is going to go really, really, quickly.” 

Sweeney says the County needs to hire a historical architect to do a complete assessment of Goggin Manor - and how much all the needed work will cost.

Sweeney notes that the finished museum is 3 to 5 years down the road. Kent County will run it with the help of Friends of Historic Camden.

Kelli Steele has over 30 years of experience covering news in Delaware, Baltimore, Winchester, Virginia, Phoenix, Arizona and San Diego, California.