Gov. Jack Markell and other Delaware state officials cut the ribbon Tuesday on the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, the symbolic gateway to Dover’s historical and cultural sites.
It’s also a place for a friendly greeting, helpful information and plenty of free parking.
But according to Gary Patterson, former president of the Downtown Dover Partnership, it is much more than that.
“It solves the first question every visitor that comes to Dover has,” Patterson told the crowd gathered at the grand opening ceremony. “Where’s the bathroom?”
Beyond that, the Welcome Center, located just inside the front door of the Public Archives Building, serves as a starting point for visitors to explore the First State Heritage Park, which includes Legislative Hall, the Old State House and Woodburn (the governor’s house).
The massive building also houses the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs and the Delaware Public Archives.
And now, it all starts with the Welcome Center.
“For me this is just one of those great events where it’s positive, positive, positive across the board,” Markell said.
The governor said it’s no coincidence the ribbon-cutting ceremony comes on Delaware Day, Dec. 7th, the date when Delaware became the first state to ratify the United States Constitution.
“Such an incredibly important day for our state and of course for our country,” Markell said. “And to have this kind of event on a day like this is especially meaningful. It’s important to our kids and for all who care about and love our Delaware history.”
Currently on display in the gallery portion of the Welcome Center is “The Civil War; Five Delaware Soldiers’ Stories.” The exhibit explores the wartime experiences of five Delawareans who served in the Civil War.