Sussex County, Delaware


Gary B. Speck



ZWAANENDAEL (or SWAANENDAEL) is an old Dutch colony site inside the town limits of Lewes (pronounced LOO-IS).   It is located along the southeastern shoreline at the mouth of Delaware Bay, across from New Jersey’s southern tip.  Lewes is a busy seaport community and the site for the famous Dutch shipwreck, HMB DeBraak.  It is also the site of another wreck, discovered in 2004.  Another old ship, possibly the 1770s era British freighter Severn, was discovered by dredgers replenishing the beach sand at Lewes’ beach. 


The Site of old the old colony is bare of any colonial remains, but is well marked by an historic marker.  It sits on Pilottown Road (State Highway [SH] 267), along the western bank of the Lewes & Rehoboth Canal just south of the entrance at the mouth of the Broadkill River.  The University of Delaware, College of Marine Studies, is across the street.  The site is about a mile-and-a -half northwest of the intersection of Kings Highway and Front Street (which turns into Pilottown Road.) 


The Zwaanendael Museum at Lewes tells the story of this ancient colony. In 1931, on the 300th anniversary of the founding of Zwaanendael, the museum was erected.  It is located at the junction of Kings Highway (US 8) and Savannah Road (SH 268) in the heart of Lewes.


Zwaanendael was founded in 1631, when 32 Dutch settlers established a whaling station, and named it “Valley of the Swans.”  This was the first European outpost on Delaware soil.  Unfortunately, it did not last long, as it was destroyed in an Indian attack later that same year.  However, it served as the catalyst for further development, and eventually the town of Lewes grew up here.


This was our Ghost Town of the Month for April, 2008


MUSEUM (In Lewes):

·        Latitude: 38.774098

·        Longitude: -75.139178

·        (GNIS is slightly off.  This is the actual number on the museum building.)


COLONY SITE (Monument):

·        Latitude: 38.786309

·        Longitude: -75.158576




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FIRST POSTED:  April 12, 2008

LAST UPDATED: September 22, 2009


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