Autumn in southern Delaware means history tours, events and festivals that will keep you entertained well into the shoulder season.
Devon Filicicchia of the Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes is most excited about an exhibit that can be viewed online from anywhere. The museum recently unveiled Segregated Sands: Delaware’s Segregated Beaches During the Jim Crow Era.
The oral history project explores African American stories from the 18th and early 19th centuries on Delaware’s beaches during segregation.
Segregated Sands was created by Zwaanendael Museum staff members and intern Kelli Racine Coles, a doctoral candidate at the University of Delaware. As part of her internship, Coles researched and gathered oral histories from people visiting Delaware’s beaches.
The library is looking for people to share their stories as part of the project. To sign up or learn more, visit history.delaware.gov/zwaanendael-museum.
On display at the museum in Lewes is Delaware Railroad: Elegant Travel and Timely Transport, an exhibit highlighting the importance of railroads to southern Delaware. The collection includes photographs, vintage posters, train tickets, timetables, maps and historical objects that tell the story of rail travel in the First State.

The Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes highlights some of Delaware’s most iconic historical landmarks, such as the Cape Henlopen Lighthouse and the Delaware Railroads.

The Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes highlights some of Delaware’s most iconic historical landmarks, such as the Cape Henlopen Lighthouse and the Delaware Railroads.
Museumgoers can learn about the historic railroads important to coastal Delaware in the early to mid-1800s, including the Junction & Breakwater, the Queen Anne’s, the Delaware, and the New Castle and Frenchtown railroads.
Coming up are two of the most popular events during Sussex County fall: the Chautauqua Tent Show and the Mysteries of History walking tours.
This is the 24th year for Chautauqua in Lewes and the theme is entertainment. Live performances, seminars and events will focus on a variety of topics, from Hamilton to Rosedale Beach, the hotel and resort established as a destination for African Americans from the early 1900s to 1970s.
The Mysteries of History walking tours take participants through the spookier and lesser-known history of Lewes, including visits to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church cemetery and the Cannonball House.
“Many of our autumn visitors are history buffs whose fall visits focus on exploring our many museums, history-related events, tours, and historical sites,” says Tina Coleman of Southern Delaware Tourism.
Because of this interest, the tourism organization has a webpage devoted to sharing upcoming history events and tours.
In addition to historical exhibits, there are also many popular events this fall, including the annual Sea Witch Festival in Rehoboth Beach in October. This event draws people from across Delaware and beyond, Coleman says.
“Fall visitors support the local economy in the same ways as our high-season visitors,” she says.
Other popular Sussex County fall events include Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival (September 10), Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival (October 13 through 16), Apple-Scrapple Festival in Bridgeville (October 14 and 15) and Winter WonderFEST (beginning in mid-November).

In addition to the festivals, here is a round-up of southern museums with treasures just waiting for you to enjoy:

DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum

This unique collection of shipwreck finds includes over 10,000 maritime artifacts. Seasonal exhibits highlight the maritime history of Delaware.
708 Coastal Highway, Fenwick Island; 539-9366; discoversea.com

Indian River Life-Saving Station

The original station was used as part of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, which rescued mariners shipwrecked along the Delaware coast. It has been restored to its 1905 appearance and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
25039 Coastal Highway, Rehoboth Beach; 227-6991; destateparks.com/centers/irlifesavingstation

Marvel Carriage Museum

In addition to antique carriages, the museum also features historic and restored buildings, including a one-room schoolhouse built in 1833. Carriages date back to the 1800s.
510 S. Bedford St., Georgetown; 855-9660; marvelmuseum.com

Rehoboth Beach Museum

This kid-friendly museum features postcards from bygone eras, beach-themed memorabilia and a gift shop.
511 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach; 227-7310; rehobothbeachmuseum.org

Seaford Museum

Learn about the Nanticoke Indians and the history of the DuPont nylon factory. Other exhibits highlight shipbuilding and the infamous murderess Patty Cannon.
203 High St., Seaford; 628-9828; seafordhistoricalsociety.com

Related: Bookmark This Guide to Delaware’s Must-See Museums

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