Local Legal Tourist Attractions – New Castle County Courthouse Museum
If you have a little spare time why not take a local legal history tour? The New Castle County Courthouse Museum located in historic New Castle, Delaware is one of the oldest surviving courthouses in America. It was built in 1732 and served as New Castle County’s Courthouse until 1881 when the courts moved to Wilmington. It also served the federal courts and was Delaware’s original state capital building.
The cupola of the New Castle County Courthouse was used as the center of the 12 mile circle that created Delaware’s unique circular northern border.
Probably the most famous trial held in the Courthouse was the 1848 trial of abolitionists Thomas Garrett and John Hunn on a charge of aiding fugitive slaves. They were found guilty and heavily fined, but both were undeterred and Garrett declared in court, “I say to thee and to all in this court room, that if anyone knows a fugitive who wants shelter send him to Thomas Garrett and he will befriend him.”
The Courthouse Museum has limited hours, so be sure to check before you go.
While you’re in New Castle you can also visit the George Read House, built by the son of George Read, attorney and signer of the US Constitution. The New Castle Common has a statue of William Penn holding a key, a turf and twig and a container of water. These are symbols used in the ancient common law ceremony of “livery of seisin” which was used to convey land.