Visual Images - Dutch and English
by Hazel D. Brittingham
Visitors in the coastal town of Lewes in Sussex County, Delaware, if just riding through or passing time while awaiting the next ferry to Cape May, will probably retain two visual images. One is the unusual architecture of the Zwaanendael Museum and the other, the colorful shields displaying the Coat of Arms of Lewes, England, on selected buildings.
The "Dutch Building" and the shields are reminders of the Dutch and the English influences on the area during the 1600s when the governments of Holland and England intermittently claimed the land like a sprightly game of ping pong. One writer, in describing the power struggle over ownership of the west shore of the Delaware, states: "First the Dutch, then the Swedes, then the Dutch, then the English, then the Dutch again, and finally the English claimed the settled parts of the western shore for various periods of time." Note that the date of the final claim by England was 1674.
The Zwaanendael Museum, built in 1931 to mark the 300th anniversary of the first European settlement in Delaware, is an adaptation of a portion of the Old Town Hall in Hoorn, Holland. It was from Hoorn that the settlers of the ill-fated 1631 settlement came. The event paved the way for Delaware to emerge as a separate state. Visitors to the museum will find exhibits and artifacts relating to the area's rich historical heritage. Tourists from the world over make it a point to view the interesting offerings at the site. A State of Delaware facility, the museum offers barrier-free access and is open to the public without charge every day except Monday.
The attractive coat of arms, adopted from Lewes, England, and found on buildings throughout the town, calls attention to the historical significance of those places designated. Reproduced in its authentic colors, the emblem shows a lion rampant on a blue and gold checkered field, set in a background of red surrounded by crosses.
Permission to use the coat of arms was obtained from its source in the early 1950s by the Col. David Hall Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Many landmarks bear the seal affixed by the DAR, and the number at each base corresponds to a description of the building or site in the publication, History of Lewes, Delaware, published by the chapter in 1956. A revised edition appeared in 1981.
A large replica of the shield graces the facade of the Lewes Town Hall. The emblem is seen on the sleeves of Lewes Police Department uniforms and glides by on the unit's vehicles. It is depicted in full color on City of Lewes stationery and on numerous brochures prepared for special events in Lewes. An adaptation of the coat of arms is used by the Chamber of Commerce, but perhaps the most noticeable use of the emblem is by the Lewes Fire Department, Inc. Firefighting equipment and ambulances, as well as stationery and publications by the volunteer group, are embellished by the colorful symbol.
The most recent addition of the coat of arms of Lewes, England, in Lewes, Delaware, is the display of a flag designed by Lewes resident Alan Keefer. It is fast becoming part of the lore and lure of Lewes and is seen waving from the entrances of homes and businesses.
©Copyright 1997 Hazel D. Brittingham