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New Castle Court House Museum to be closed for several months during installation of fire sprinkler system

New Castle County Court House Museum
State of Delaware
New Castle County Court House Museum

A popular Delaware museum is getting a much needed addition.

The historic New Castle Court House Museum is closing for a few months so a fire sprinkler system can be installed.

Dan Citron is the museum’s team manager with the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.

He says the museum will shut down after December 30, 2021 and staff will then remove the objects inside and temporarily relocate their offices to the West Wing.

Citron explains why it's taken so long to put a sprinkler system in the building.

“It’s a very complicated project and it’s also a very expensive project," Citron said. "And so it’s been something that we’ve been wanting to do for quite a while. And fire has always been a concern at this building. The original center section was completed in 1732; that was on top of the earlier remains of the earlier Court House that had burned down. There had been a fire set by a prisoner who was trying to escape and he ended up burning the entire building down.

He says all contractors working on the project have experience working on historic buildings.

“With historic structures you have to really balance whatever new things you’re adding in for the safety of the structure and the safety of the people inside vs the damage you may do to the historic fabric of the building," Citron said. "And in this case, having a sprinkler system makes it safer for the people inside the building and it makes it safer for the building itself as long as it’s done in a very well thought out and well planned out fashion.”     

Citron notes that because the building is a national historic landmark, there are federal rules governing the installation.

The National Park Service and Delaware’s Historic Preservation Office also had to sign off on the project.

The New Castle Court House is one of the nation’s oldest surviving courthouses - built in 1732.

The cost of adding the sprinkler system is $429,000.

Citron says they expect the museum to reopen in May or June of 2022.

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