New Castle, Delaware
Community History and Archaeology Program
The Ice Piers of New Castle originated in a
February 7, 1794 act of the Assembly permitting a lottery of $12,000 for the town to erect two piers in the harbor
for the security of shipping.
Later, piers were constructed from 1804 to 1882 by the predecessors to the Corps of Army Engineers. The piers or ice breakers are recognized as perhaps the first national public works project. They are a legacy of the days of wooden ships  and were constructed, to protect the wooden hulls from ice floes running up and down river with the tides. They were listed on the National Historic Register in 1982.
The piers were deeded to the US government in the early 1800's The US Corps of Army Engineers maintained them and built new ones until they became obsolete in an age of steel vessels.
It is now the ice piers that need protection. They are
constructed of 4 to 6 courses of slabs of granite on a wooden
platform sitting on a rubble-filled crib-like structure. The wooden
platform is at mean-low-water,
and over time has deteriorated.
The close-in pier underneath the dock (picture at right) is almost ready to collapse. Two of the outer piers resemble decayed teeth, with the entire east face gone exposing the core.
Click on images to enlarge)