New Castle, Delaware 
Community History and Archaeology Program 

Proposed location of a new dock between the town wharf and the ice pier from which this picture was taken. Click on image to enlarge

Save Our Historic Ice Piers   (So Hip)

There are currently 7 ice piers (circled in red).
The older ones are rectangular and closer to shore.

benchmark.jpg (198427 bytes)

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.

By the time of the 1893 Baist map, the harbor had four pull-in wharves along the shore for loading coal, all inside of the ice breakers.

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. 

A report from 1995 suggests that to repair them would involve moving the stone covering to shore, replacing the cribbing with a concrete/steel structure and then replacing the stone covering at a cost in 1995 of $1 million/ice pier! Click here for more information on the waterfront.

 Click on images to enlarge)

1982 National Register Nomination N-5930 (pdf 1 mb), Nomination photos (pdf 3 mb)