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Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes, Delaware, commemorates Delaware’s first European colony.

The Dutch established that colony, called Swanendael, in 1631.

A distinctive building and interesting exhibits draw groups to Zwaanendael Museum, part of the Delaware Historical & Cultural Affairs agency.

“The museum is patterned after the town hall in Hoorn in the Netherlands, so the building itself is quite unique,” said Bridget Warner, site supervisor. “We have artifacts from the HMS DeBraak, a British Royal Navy vessel that sunk off the coast in 1798. The exhibit provides a very in-depth look at the life aboard a Royal Navy vessel.”

Also displayed are artifacts from a merchant ship that wrecked off Roosevelt Inlet around 1774.

Dutch “Delft” pottery items are displayed and, currently, there is a railroad exhibit, “Delaware Railroads, Elegant Travel and Timely Transport.”

Planned and created by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the exhibit uses photographs, posters, tickets, timetables, maps and historical objects from the collections of the State of Delaware to tell the history of rail travel and transport in the First State.

Zwaanendael Museum exhibit
Section of railroad exhibit, Zwaanendael Museum, Lewes, Del.
Credit: Zwaanendael Museum

In particular, the exhibit explores four railroads that were historically important in Delaware: The New Castle and Frenchtown Railroad (1832), the Delaware Railroad (1852), the Junction and Breakwater Railroad (1857) and the Queen Anne’s Railroad (1896).

“The building is usually what first attracts visitors, but then I believe our knowledgeable and friendly interpreters help to round out the overall experience of their visit,” Warner said. 

Zwaanendael Museum building
Zwaanendael Museum, Lewes, Del. Credit: Zwaanendael Museum

Zwaanendael Museum can tailor tours to groups, or tours can be self-guided.

Warner said the museum is in the heart of Lewes and within walking distance to restaurants and shopping.

Zwaanendael Museum was built in 1931 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Swanendael. Designed by E. William Martin, it is modeled after the town hall in Hoorn, the Netherlands. The museum building features a stepped facade gable with carved stonework and decorated shutters.

For more information on Zwaanendael Museum call 302-645-1148 or go to history.delaware.gov/zm_main