Posts Tagged ‘Delaware Historical Society’


The Monster Mile” before it was a monster! (And the origin of the name.)

March 9, 2010

Aerial view of Dover Downs ca. 1965.

I’ve been cataloguing a collection of photographs representing the professional work of Cypen Lubitsh and Jack Bungarz.  They operated Lubitsh and Bungarz, a photographic studio in Wilmington from ca. 1950 until 1989.  I opened a folder to describe it for the on-line cataloguing project and could hardly believe my eyes!  Here was an aerial view labeled Dover Downs.  But what I saw in this view from about 50 years ago blew my mind- what changes time has wrought!  These days, a racing weekend at the Dover International Speedway means busy lunch counters and hotel/motel rooms all across the state.  Here was a view of a well-groomed track in the middle of almost nothing.  A few horses trot around the track but where is the giant monster holding a truck in the air, where are the lots of trailers parked for a race weekend, where are the slots, casino games and hotel?  And, where is Route 1 that passes so close to the rear of the track?!!  Wow!  (For those of us who have been around, it is easy to remember the track before it was “really big” with slots and the 46’ tall giant monster statue.  This stunning view was taken before the outside, racing track was built, and maybe even dreamed about.  Today the complex covers 750 acres. 

The track opened in 1969 as America’s first multi-purpose sports complex and remains that still today.  It’s busy schedule from opening day in 1969 included thoroughbred and standard bred horse racing  on the interior 5/8 mile oval and world-class auto racing on the outside one-mile track.  The concrete auto racing track boasted a new design called “variable degree” which helped drivers transition from flat straights to high-banked turns.  This new design allowed for drivers to reach unprecedented speeds on the one-mile track, earning it the nickname “The Monster Mile.”  It is fiercely known to have destroyed cars and driver’s hopes, an alternate definition of “monster.” 

Who says history at the Delaware Historical Society is boring.  Ha!



The Delaplane (not just a Newark area street name)

March 2, 2010

Delaplane, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

Robie Seidlinger, engineer and builder sits at the controls of Delaware’s first aeroplane. This was taken at the Horse Show Park, now a fashionable neighborhood known as Wawaset Park in Wilmington.

(The following information was abridged and adopted from George J. Frebert, Delaware Aviation History (Dover, DE, 1998)
One hundred years ago the Wilmington Aero Club (WAC) was incorporated. The organizers included David Snellenberg, Robie Seidelinger, George W. Crowe and John Montgomery. They contributed $1000 and sold shares in their enterprise which they hoped would allow them to develop a world-renowned aviation experimental group. The long range plan included highly publicized air-shows and innovation. At the time, they knew they could purchase a Wright (you guessed it- the Wright brothers) Flyer for $5,000 but instead the men opted to spend an estimated $6,000 for member Robie Seidelinger to design and build a plane. He did just that and in August, 1910 the Delaplane was nearly complete and was displayed at the fairgrounds.

The plane met with approval from J.D. McCurdy, an assistant to Glenn Curtiss (of Curtiss airplane fame) and word spread rapidly about the plane. After a couple of miscues because of weather, the plane was finally flown on October 21, 1910. It was placed in a hangar for the winter, with big plans for a huge event in the upcoming June. Unfortunately the hangar was struck by lightning and the entire structure and the plane were consumed by the flames. There lies the sad demise of the Delaplane.
This year marks the one hundredth birthday of the Delaplane and the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame will be celebrating. Don’t miss out on the fun and the rest of Delaware’s history, check them out at This Delaware Historical Society is so glad to know it owns the only know photograph of this plane.

Happy 11:45 everyone, Ellen

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A New Kind of Club….

January 29, 2010

Students Examining Old Image of Their School, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

I am very excited about a new partnership between the us here at the Delaware Historical Society and middle school students and P.S. DuPont. Together, we have formed a history club. The club was the idea of Kelly Whitaker – an absolutely extraordinary 6th grade teacher! Because P.S. DuPont just switched from an elementary school to a middle school – she thought having a history club would be a great way to build a sense of community, history education…and FUN!

Visiting the Jail Cells
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr
What is it?
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr
Locked Up
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

We will all be meeting together – students, teachers, parents, and historical society staff members – once a month and learning about a variety of topics. Our first gathering was two weeks ago and we provided a general overview of the historical society. I gave a tour of the museum, students explored some of our artifacts more indepth, and we also shared with them old photographs including daguerreotypes, tintypes, negatives ,etc. (The image above shows students examining old images of their school when it was first constructed!)

We had a great group! For me, it was exciting to hear the students talk about when they visited the museum in 3rd grade or 4th grade for a field trip. I was impressed (and thrilled) by how much they remembered. Most rewarding, was watching the students feel comfortable in the museum and begin to take ownership of it. The museum is – after all – a place for them, their histories, and their stories!

I’m looking forward to our February meeting where we’ll be learning about the Underground Railroad.

Until 11:45 Next, Andrea

Here is a Smile Box Album from our history club!

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Pushmobile Derby Fun!

January 22, 2010

Ready, Set…Go!, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

Hello from the photo files! I am working on the finding aid/cataloguing a large collection of photographs from a photographic studio here in Wilmington. Lubitsh and Bungarz Photographers operated first from Market Street then from Orange Street in Wilmington from 1949-1989.

The negative collection is monster-big. A volunteer spent a few years identifying the prints for us and now I am working to her work into our catalog. There are probably somewhere in the vicinity of 2000 prints of some very cool happenings, places and people. Everyone from this little boy who raced and placed in the 1955 Pushmobile Derby sponsored by the Delaware Association of Police, to the Pope John Paul II, a couple of Miss Delaware contestants and Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon and Kennedy. The collection includes images of both of the Delaware Memorial Bridges being built, views of homes, banks, businesses, ground breakings and numerous civic ceremonies as well as views of the Getty Oil Refinery (most recently Valero) in Delaware City, scenes from Brandywine Raceway and aerial views from across the state.

What a fun collection it is! It is also very significant to us because it picks up almost exactly where the Sanborn Studio (our other very large studio collection) left off. Photographers are some of the very best documenters of history and this is certainly true of Lubitsh and Bungarz.

The Bungarz Print collection, named as such because it was a gift to the Delaware Historical Society from Jack Bungarz after his long-time partner, Cypen Lubitsh had died and as he was retiring from the business, is a rich treasure of everyday scenes and important events, as such it is an indispensable resource for all of us. Come down to browse through the boxes or check us out on-line in a few months!

Until next time- enjoy 11:45!

Help us identify this image!

Pushmobile Derby Winner
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

This little boy raced in the Pushmobile Derby in Wilmington in 1955. He drove the car sponsored by the Lubitsh and Bungarz Photographers. Partner Cy Lubitsh is seen posing to the left of the boy on his car- is this his son? We don’t have an identification- anybody out there who could help? The boy was apparently good, as he is seen here in the second image accepting his prize from the race officials. The Delaware Association of Police sponsored the event which featured the work of local boys in cooperation with local businesses.

Getting ready for Pushmobile Derby
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr
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Welcome 2010

January 7, 2010

Smiling Face and Color Coordination, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

The Delaware Historical Society staff celebrated the New Year with two special events. On January 3, we invited our very special Delaware Historical Society volunteers to the Read House for an open house. Our library and Read House garden volunteers enjoyed getting to know one another and sampling a variety of delicious dishes. We appreciate the hard work our volunteers perform and know that we could not accomplish all that we do without them!

Tap Room at 11:45

On January 4 at 11:45 our staff was finishing up another successful staff work day. Some big tasks at first seem insurmountable, but we realized years ago that if we all work together we can accomplish a lot in a short time. So one day each January the staff all works together on one or more designated projects. This year we worked on several projects at the Read House. Our biggest project was removing collections pieces from the early twentieth century basement tap room to prepare for ceiling repair that is part of our Save America’s Treasures project. Some staff members also helped to rearrange our woodshed in preparation for our February and March hearth cooking workshops and remove holiday decorations and clean period rooms under the direction of the Read House curatorial assistants. With seventeen of us working on the various projects we were even able to fit in a tour of the preservation activities for our Wilmington staff.

Tap Room collections are being stored in the b...

After our work was completed, we enjoyed lunch together at a local restaurant. What a great team!

Until next time…

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Catching Up on Read House Construction at the Delaware Historical Society!

December 16, 2009

Conservator Assesses Wallpaper, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

Okay… here is my big confession…on most days at 11:45 I am not technically making history because I am eating my lunch. Of course because of the current preservation project my work day begins at 7:00 a.m., so taking lunch at about 11:30 feels just right!

Nonetheless, lunchtime usually allows me to take a few minutes to review morning projects and prepare for afternoon endeavors. On Fridays I also think about the week’s activities and plan for the coming week. So I guess my weekly recap posts make sense on our Making History 11:45 blog.

Masons relay brick paving
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

It has been awhile since my last post because I have been busy with wrapping up year-end goals and projects. In the meantime, our construction crew has been working against the clock to complete as much work as possible on our preservation project before winter weather brings some outdoor activities to a halt. Updating an earlier post, after receiving permission from the National Park Service to repoint 100% of the Read House façade, the masons carefully completed mortar removal and replacement in the thin joints characteristic of the front elevation of a fine house.

While removing caulk around the façade windows, the masons discovered a surprise. The windows on this elevation are characteristic of the finest from the Federal period. They are recessed from the façade with no heavy brickmoulding , creating a very minimal appearance. In order to create this delicate window framing, the original masons broke the backs of the bricks immediately around the window, sometimes creating a sizable gap between brick course and window frame. George Read II’s original crew must have used putty to fill in the gap, and successive owners used caulk, which created a noticeable band around the windows. The latter was not the intended effect these monumental windows were meant to create.

Steel Reinforcement in Place
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

The project manager, restoration architect, and I surveyed the situation and discussed possible options. We needed to assure that a secure seal to exterior weather was created, but preserving the intended appearance of the front windows was paramount. We decided upon a brick patch that would help to close the existing gap and retain the very fashionable Federal period appearance, allowing a thin layer of caulk to create the seal.

More recently the masons have been relaying sections of our garden walks to create a safe walking surface and assure that in our graded garden area rainwater flows away from the house foundation. Yesterday the masons discovered a concrete post hole at one of our fence lines. After reading information about archaeological excavations performed on the property the masons knew that this feature should not be removed without examination. I noted its similarity to another post hole found during a recent excavation. Because this one was located on a fence line, the masons were able to pave around it without disturbing it so that we can investigate it further in the future.

Concrete Posthold at Fence Line
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

High above our brick garden walks, roofers have been working in between periods of rain—some quite heavy—to install a new roof membrane for the flat roof of the house’s primary block. Before the membrane could be applied, an old membrane had to be removed, as well as a layer of tin and a layer of plywood. Non-historic German siding placed on the bridge between east and west chimneys was also removed, revealing that the most recent roofing layer did not extend beyond the siding to the original masonry wall surface. Water was infiltrating and becoming trapped between the roofing layers and possibly contributing to existing leaks on the third floor. We look forward to the completed installation of the new roofing membrane and flashing and caulking that will help make the house watertight.
Inside, the carpenters were able to move forward with reinforcing the northeast window lintel in the Laird dining room.

Deteriorated Lintel

The lintel was reinforced with steel on the outside several weeks ago so that the lintel could support the outer brick wythes. The inner stabilization supports the innermost brick wythe. In order to stabilize the lintel from the interior, the carpenters had to remove the window casing and several inches of plaster above the window, and the wall surface is covered with an early twentieth century hand-painted wallpaper depicting scenes of New Castle.

Therefore, before the carpenters proceeded with the repair we first consulted with conservators regarding the condition and possible removal and/or repair of the wallpaper in question. After an initial general assessment a paper conservator was on site this week to prepare the wallpaper for the work and for possible repairs. We discovered that the wallpaper, which had been repaired and conserved in the past, was adhered fairly securely to the wall, and in some places wallpaper had long ago been lost and infill painting was performed directly on the plaster wall surface. Therefore, we decided that the conservator should fabricate a new piece of wallpaper to fit above the window, recreating the blue sky that comprised this section of paper. While the conservator was on site, she also adhered sections of the wallpaper throughout the room that were lifting from the wall surface.

Presently the carpenters have replaced the window casing and are plastering the area above the window. The conservator will return in January to carefully replace the section of wallpaper above the window.

And the work continues!
Until next time…

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Happy 11:45 from the 1860s!

December 15, 2009

2nd and West Streets, Wilmington, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

It’s 11:45 and I’m enjoying a trip back in time. I’m nearly finished cataloging the Delaware Historical Society’s Stereocard Collection into Cuadra Star and I am enjoying these last moments visiting another era! I thought I’d share a little with you- nothing sensational- just fun today.

I picked two views to share- both of 2nd Street but in different towns. The first view shows the corner of 2nd and West Streets in Wilmington in the mid-1860s. It looks like a pretty normal day- a few people walk along the street and it looks as if the maid for the home and one of the youngsters of the family are posed at the corner of the house. I just love the “action shot” of the lady with her long dress walking in front of the home. Most stereocard views are much more staged than this seems to be.

2nd St., New Castle

The second image shows 2nd Street too, but it’s Second Street in New Castle. This house sits across from the Arsenal, a well-known site in New Castle then and today. This one looks different as I converted it into a grayscale image for another purpose. In this view, the photographer spent some time arranging his subjects, or possibly asking the owner of the home what he/she/they might like to have pictured. Standing in front of the horse and buggy is the man responsible for keeping the horse. His jacket is torn on its sleeve- and stands in sharp contrast to the fancy hat of the owner, who you see standing behind the buggy and nearly blocked from view.

Between the two views, we get a tiny sense of what life was like some 130 years ago. Pretty cool job I have today!

-Until Next Time, Ellen

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