First recorded in its Latinised form of Portus Dubris, the name derives from the Brythonic word for waters (dwfr in Middle Welsh). The same element is present in the town’s French (Douvres) and Modern Welsh (Dofr) forms.
The county seat is Dover, the state capital of Delaware. It is named for Kent, an English county.
Kent County comprises the Dover, DE Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Philadelphia-Reading-Camden, PA-NJ-DE-MD Combined Statistical Area.
In about 1670 the English began to settle in the valley of the St. Jones River, earlier known as Wolf Creek. On June 21, 1680, the Duke of York chartered St. Jones County, which was carved out of New Amstel/New Castle and Hoarkill/Sussex counties. St. Jones County was transferred to William Penn on August 24, 1682 and became part of Penn’s newly chartered Delaware Colony.
Penn ordered a court type town to be laid out, and the courthouse was built in 1697. The town of Dover, named after the town of Dover in England’s Kent, was finally laid out in 1717, in what was then known as the Lower Counties. It was designated as the capital of Delaware in 1777. In 1787 Delaware was first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, and became “the First State.”
Dover was founded as the court town for newly established Kent County in 1683 by William Penn, the proprietor of the territory generally known as the “Lower Counties on the Delaware.” Later, in 1717, the city was officially laid out by a special commission of the Delaware General Assembly. The capital of the state of Delaware was moved here from New Castle in 1777 because of its central location and relative safety from British raiders on the Delaware River. Because of an act passed in October 1779, the assembly elected to meet at any place in the state they saw fit, meeting successively in Wilmington, Lewes, Dover, New Castle, and Lewes again, until it finally settled down permanently in Dover in October 1781. The city’s central square, known as The Green, was the location of many rallies, troop reviews, and other patriotic events. To this day, The Green remains the heart of Dover’s historic district and is the location of the Delaware Supreme Court and the Kent County Courthouse.
Dover was most famously the home of Caesar Rodney, the popular wartime leader of Delaware during the American Revolution. He is known to have been buried outside Dover, but the precise location of his grave is unknown. A cenotaph in his honor is erected in the cemetery of the Christ Episcopal Church near The Green in Dover.
Apart from the state and county governments, Delaware’s capital city’s significant employers include Dover Air Force Base, located within the southeast corporate limits of the city. Two weekends a year, NASCAR stock car races are held at Dover International Speedway, attracting over 100,000 spectators and temporarily making Dover the state’s largest city. Dover is home to Delaware State University and Wesley College. It is also home to the Terry Campus of the Delaware Technical & Community College. Dover has satellite
locations of the University of Delaware and Wilmington University as well.
Dover has a warm temperate climate or humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa). Summers are hot and humid, with 23 days per year reaching or surpassing 90 °F (32 °C). Brief, but heavy summer thunderstorms are common. Winters are moderated by the Delaware Bay and the partial shielding of the Appalachians, though there are normally 8−9 days when the daily high remains below freezing and 15 nights with lows below 20 °F (−7 °C). Snow is typically light and sporadic, averaging only 15.7 inches (40 cm) per season, and does not usually remain on the ground for long. Spring and autumn provide transitions of reasonable length and are similar, though spring is wetter. The monthly mean temperature ranges from 35.2 °F (1.8 °C) in January to 77.7 °F (25.4 °C) in July. The annual total precipitation of around 46 inches (1,170 mm) is spread rather evenly year-round. Dover averages 2300 hours of sunshine annually.
Delaware’s largest employer is also Dover’s – the state government. A large portion, but not all, of the state’s bureaucracy is located in and around Dover. However, like some other American states, Delaware’s capital is not its largest city. Consequently, Wilmington, in the northern part of the state and its largest city, has many state offices and employees one would normally expect to find in the state capital, including the headquarters of the Office of the Attorney General, especially as many large American corporations maintain nominal offices in that city to register their Delaware corporation.
Dover is one of the fast-growing areas in the state of Delaware, due in large part to the relatively low cost of living. As a consequence, the Kent County government is a major employer in the area as well. Apart from the state and county governments, Dover’s significant employers include Dover Air Force Base, located within the southeast corporate limits of the city. The base houses two airlift wings as well as the U.S. military’s only mortuary in the continental United States, which accepts and processes the remains of soldiers killed in battle. In addition, Kraft Foods and Procter & Gamble have manufacturing facilities in Dover. The Kraft Foods plant in Dover has been the plant that manufactures Jell-O since 1964 when it relocated from Bloomfield, New York. The P&G plants makes Pampers Baby Fresh wipes. ILC Dover, in nearby Frederica, is the producer of fabrics for military and aerospace uses, along with being the primary contractor for production of the Apollo and Skylab spacesuits, as well as the spacesuit assembly for the Space Shuttle‘s Extravehicular Mobility Unit(EMU). Several local and national retailers and restaurants line US 13 through Dover, with the Dover Mall situated along this corridor and serving as the only shopping mall in the area.
The City of Dover Parks & Recreation Department maintains several parks in the city, consisting of 3 larger parks and 27 smaller parks. Silver Lake Park is a 182-acre park located along Silver Lake and offers fishing, boating, a walking/jogging path that provides views of the lake, a playground, benches, and pavilions. Schutte Park offers a variety of athletic facilities including 10 multipurpose fields, 4 lighted softball fields, a pavilion, a playground, a cross country course, waking paths, the Dover Little League baseball fields, and the John W. Pitts Recreation Center. The recreation center at Schutte Park has meeting rooms, a gym with 2 basketball courts and 3 volleyball courts, and an indoor walking track; it is home to a variety of fitness classes, sports, and sport leagues. Dover Park offers 3 tennis courts, a softball field, multipurpose field, 2 basketball courts, a disc golf course, and two pavilions. Dover is home to several smaller neighborhood parks including City Hall Plaza, Continental Park, Crossgates Park, Division & Kirkwood Streets Park, Kirkwood & Mary Streets Park, Hamlet, Heatherfield East, Mallard Pond, Mayfair Park, Millcreek Park, New & Dover Streets Park, Orville Myers, Paul’s Property, Richardson Park, Saulsbury Park, The Green, Turner Drive, Westfield, Westwind Meadows, Williams Park, and Woodbrook.
Delaware’s capital city keeps one foot firmly planted in the past – with museums and historic buildings galore — while the other is apt to always be in motion, as proven by the twice-yearly NASCAR race weekends and Firefly Music Festival. It’s those kinds of events that ensure Dover always delivers some decidedly “big” things to do.
A big event or a fun festival is usually just around the corner in Dover, which hosts some of the biggest get-togethers in Delaware, including NASCAR races at Dover International Speedway and Firefly Music Festival. Travelers in search of things to do in Dover are in the right place for historic attractions (like the First State Heritage Park and Amish Country), as well as fun celebrations such as the Delaware Wine and Beer Festival and Dover Days.
The former Dover Opera House, built in 1904, was renovated and converted to the Schwartz Center for the Arts, which hosted performances by the Dover Symphony Orchestra, ballet, and classic films. The Schwartz Center for the Arts closed on June 30, 2017 due to financial issues.
Dover is also home to The Children’s Theatre, Inc. of Dover and Kent County, a non-profit organization.
The Delaware State Library, the Delaware State Museum, and the Delaware State Archives are in downtown Dover and are open to the public for research and browsing.
In Dover’s historical district is the Sewell C. Biggs Museum of American Art, featuring collections from the Colonial days to the present.
An Amish community resides to the west of Dover, consisting of 9 church districts and about 1,650 people. The Amish first settled in Kent County in 1915. The area is home to several Amish businesses selling items such as Amish food, furniture, quilts, and handmade crafts. Every September, the Amish Country Bike Tour, one of the largest cycling events in Delaware, takes place in the area. In recent years, increasing development has led to the decline in the number of Amish living in the community.
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