aThe De Vries Monument, which marks a site in Lewes known as the “cradle of Delaware,” is one of our state’s most significant but often overlooked landmarks.

It was here, in 1631, that a fort was built under Captain David De Vries to establish the southern-most Dutch colony and one of the earliest in America.  The first settlers were subsequently slaughtered by local Indians and, in 1664, Great Britain seized all Dutch holdings of what was then called “New Netherland.”

Existence of that first colony was subsequently the deciding factor in an 89-year court battle in Great Britain over which of two claimants – Lord Baltimore, for Maryland, and William Penn, for Pennsylvania – had the rights to what is, today, the state of Delaware.

By finding that a long-forgotten colony had been founded and cultivated prior to any other claim, the British court decision in 1769 led to a compromise settlement of the boundary dispute, thereby creating a third colony – Delaware.

The De Vries Monument sits at what is believed to have been the northern bastion of the original fort.  Other markers defining the fort itself are located in and around St. Peter’s Cemetery, just across Pilottown Road from the marker.

Dedicated 106 years ago in 1909, the large granite marker and surrounding grounds have fallen into disrepair.  According to W. Joseph Stewart, chair of the Greater Lewes Foundation, “This is a very appropriate project with which to celebrate the GLF’s 15th anniversary.  We are delighted to work with the State of Delaware to help refurbish and draw renewed attention to this important historic site.”

Stewart said the Delaware Department of State has offered to pay for landscape design, and the GLF will launch a small campaign later this year to enable interested citizens to participate, similar to the improvement campaign done in 2014 for the Lewes Post Office.

Apart from landscape planning, the project involves trash removal, new plantings, irrigation, lighting and signage, which will require an estimated $25,000, Stewart said.   For more information about participating in this effort, please contact Mike Rawl at 302-644-0107.