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Lewes Historical Society gets federal grant to study Swanendael site

Library of Congress
A nautical chart showing Delaware Bay and Swanendael, left, in 1639.

Federal money will help the Lewes Historical Society learn more about one of the nation's earliest known European settlements -- Swanendael.

The National Park Service is providing $45,000 for geomorphic mapping of the site along the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal. The historical society's executive director Mike DiPaolo says it'll also help them study early writings about the site, which was settled by the Dutch in 1631.

DiPaolo says that had an effect on where later arrivals -- like Lord Baltimore in Maryland and the Penns in Pennsylvania -- could lay their claims.

"It really impacted not just the establishment of Delaware, but if you stop and think about it, what the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and even New Jersey look like today," he says. "So it really had a far-reaching impact well beyond the borders of the small state of Delaware."

Swanendael isn't part of the new First State National Historical Park, but DiPaolo says what they learn about it will be displayed at the Ryves Holt House in Lewes, which is a park site. He hopes the park adds some incentive for future funding to study places like Swanendael.


"We want to make sure that the story that really started the park, which is the first settlement in Delaware -- there wouldn't be a first state without the settlement here -- we want to be able to make sure we tell as thorough and complete and exciting of a story as we can," DiPaolo says.


The grant to study Swanendael comes from the Park Service's American Battlefield Preservation Program. DiPaolo says the site hasn't been explored in depth since the 1950s.


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