Even before I-95 severed it from center city Wilmington, the west side of the city had developed its own sense of identity. A richly diverse population migrated to this residential area including pockets of Italians, Greeks and Irish, many of whom found work in the flour and gunpowder mills a short distance away on the Brandywine River.
When the trolley lines extended out west of center city in the late 1800s it became more convenient for commuters to live away from the downtown offices and long-time farms were converted into tony developments clustered around such wide parkways as Bancroft and Kentmere.
This walking tour will begin at the gateway to Wilmington’s West Side, a small triangular park at the intersection of Delaware and Pennsylvania avenues...
Delaware and Pennsylvania avenues
This triangular plot at the intersection of two important entrance roads into Wilmington was once the site of the Kennett Apartments. Henry Belin duPont thought the tenement ugly so he bought them and tore them down to create this park. The sculpture of a boy and two dogs, American Youth, was done by Charles C. Parks in 1967. Charles Cropper Parks was born in Ocancock Virginia in 1922 but was raised in Talleyville, north of Wilmington, and educated in a one-room schoolhouse. After service in World War II he graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and evolved into Delaware’s most treasured public sculptors. In a 50-year career he created over 300 sculptures including many that grace the state’s parks and plazas. Parks died in 2012 at the age of 90.
WALK WEST ON PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE, AWAY FROM DOWNTOWN.
north side of Pennsylvania Avenue
Standing in his namesake square is a 1,600-pound bronze statue of Christopher Columbus by Italian sculptor Egidio Giaroli. Wilmington’s Sons of Italy and Knights of Columbus raised the $25,000 for the remembrance to the Genoan explorer that was cast by the Michelucci Foundry in 1957.
TURN RIGHT ON FRANKLIN STREET.
Howard Pyle Studios
1305 Franklin Street
Magazine and book illustrator Howard Pyle, a native Wilmingtonian, built this English cottage-like studio in 1883. He later added three attached studios for the Howard Pyle School of Art that he established in 1900. The Tudor-flavored buildings boast half-timbered gables, decorative chimneys and skylights that funneled light into the studios that Pyle requested be the “color of telephone poles” as was common in the Victorian age. There was no tuition for students who were only required to pay rent and buy art materials from the school at cost. More than 500 applications poured in the first year but only 12 were accepted. Pyle died in Italy in 1911 and most of his best work went on permanent display in the Delaware Museum of Art. Two of his students, Stanley Arthurs and Clifford Ashley, bought the studios and a century later still function as they were intended.
RETURN TO PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE AND TURN RIGHT.
1106 Pennsylvania Avenue
Established in 1893 by the Ursulines, the school is run independently within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington. Most of the current campus was started in 1926 and created in a Gothic Revival style by Philadelphia architect Paul Monaghan who was a go-to designer for the Catholic church. Elena Della Donne, WNBA star and fifth all-time leading scorer in NCAA history, led Ursuline to three consecutive state basketball titles while attending the girl’s school.
northeast corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Broom Street
High-rise luxury apartment buildings began populating Pennsylvania Avenue in the 1950s; this 16-story tower features 182 air-conditioned units.
Church of the Holy City
1118 N Broom Street at southeast corner of Pennsylvania Avenue
The church adheres to the spiritual vision of 18th century Swedish scientist and philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg. In Delaware the movement was pioneered by Margarita Lammot who married Alfred Victor du Pont, later to become head of the DuPont Company, in 1824. In 1855 her father, by then the national lay leader of the denomination, had also moved to Wilmington. The next year work was begun on the Gothic-flavored church on plans drawn by Baltimore architect Edmund Lind. But not here. The church was erected at Delaware Avenue and Washington Street. In 1916, with the considerable help of du Pont family money, the Brandywine blue granite of the church was taken apart stone by stone and moved to this site for reassembly.
TURN RIGHT ON BROOM STREET.
Soldiers and Sailors Monument
Broom Street and Delaware Avenue
You are looking at Wilmington’s first public monument and Delaware’s only Civil War Memorial. It was dedicated six years after Appomattox and the end of the fighting. Harry Lowe’s sculpture of a globe and eagle surmounts a column from one of America’s most historic buildings, the Bank of America in Philadelphia crafted by the country’s first professional architect, Benjamin Henry Latrobe. The classically-inspired bank was built in 1799 and when it was pulled down this column was salvaged.
TURN LEFT ON DELAWARE AVENUE AND RIGHT ON NORTH RODNEY STREET.
Frank E. Schoonover Studios
1616 N Rodney Street
Joseph Bancroft was an English immigrant who in 1831 opened what would one day become the largest cotton finishing mill in the United States on the banks of the Brandywine River. By the 1880s the enterprise was in the hands of Samuel Bancroft who was also the publisher of the town’s leading newspaper, Every Evening. A great patron of the arts, Bancroft’s personal collection formed the backbone of the Delaware Art Museum. In 1905 he hired the city’s go-to architect, Edward Luff Rice, Jr., to construct this cluster of studios for students of Howard Pyle. Rice tapped the Tudor Revival style for the half-timbered buildings. The first four tenants included illustrators N.C. Wyeth and Frank Schoonover. The New Jersey-born Schoonover became referred to as the “Dean of Delaware Artists” and left behind a trove of over two thousand illustrations when he died in 1972 at the age of 94.
RETURN TO DELAWARE AVENUE AND TURN RIGHT, HEADING WEST.
Kelly’s Logan House
1701 Delaware Avenue, northwest corner of North DuPont Street
Built in 1864, the Logan House began life as as a resort hotel hard by the Wilmington City Horse Railway Terminal, which opened the same year across the street. The hostelry takes its name from John A. Logan, a Union Army General who among other things instituted Memorial Day. Travelers would frequently stop by for a meal or drink and then stay for the night. Among those signing the guestbook through the years were showman Buffalo Bill Cody, pugilist John L. Sullivan and income tax dodger Al Capone.
TURN RIGHT ON SCOTT STREET. TURN LEFT ON LOVERING AVENUE.
Delaware Academy of Medicine Building
1925 Lovering Avenue at the northeast corner of Union Street
The core of this brick building dates to 1816 when it was raised by the National Bank of Delaware. It stood at the corner of 6th and Market streets until 1931 when it faced an appointment with the demolition crews. It came down instead brick by brick and was reassembled here. For the better part of the next 70 years it housed the Delaware Academy of Medicine which expanded it considerably.
BEAR RIGHT AND WALK UP THE NORTH SIDE OF KENTMERE PARKWAY.
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
The death of artist Howard Pyle in 1911 triggered the founding of the Wilmington Society of Fine Arts by his legion of students and patrons. The collection bounced around town until 1931 when the estate of Samuel Bancroftoffered his collection of British Pre-Raphaelite paintings - the most important in America - and eleven acres of land to the Wilmington Society of Fine Arts. After scraping together donations through the Depression years the museum moved into its first and only permanent home in 1938. Architect Samuel Homsey delivered the Georgian Revival building that was expanded in 2005 to hold the museum’s collection of more than 12,000 objects.
entrances on Red Oak Road and West 19th Street
William Bancroft agitated for the creation of a parks department in Wilmington in the 1880s and donated 200 acres of his land for this park. In 1902 the trademark Norman-style water tower was built, partly from the boulders of old barns salvaged on the property. When the 115-foot tower opened, complete with observation deck, ten million gallons of water flowed through the tank each year. Today it is four million gallons every day.
FROM RED OAK ROAD, TURN LEFT ON WILLARD STREET.
Stirling H. Thomas House
2501 Willard Street
When William Bancroft donated land for Rockford Park he also had his Woodlawn Company buy up land around the park and plot out residential lots. The neighborhood instantly became the town’s most desirable, drawing the best Wilmington architects. Stirling H. Thomas, the president and general manager of the great Wilmington shipbuilding firm of Pusey & Jones Company was the first to move in, commissioning this sprawling Tudor Revival mansion.
TURN RIGHT ON GREENHILL AVENUE.
northwest corner of Greenhill and Pennsylvania avenues
Cotton merchant John R. Brinckle owned an extensive farm on what was the outskirts of the city here in the 1840s. He built a plain, square house on a rocky ledge - his “Gibraltar.” In 1909 H. Rodney Sharp, an ardent preservationist and horticulturist H. Rodney Sharp acquired the property. He made the house nearly three times as big and brought in Marian Cruger Coffin, one of America’s first female landscape artists, to help create more than six acres of gardens. Sharp enjoyed his garden rooms until 1968 when he died in his 88th year. After that the property deteriorated steadily, temporarily abated in the 1990s when Preservation Delaware took over stewardship of the property. Since 2010 Gibraltar Preservation Group has been responsible for one of the state’s most unique residences, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and an official Save Americas Treasures project.
TURN RIGHT ON PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.
2600 Pennsylvania Avenue
The land on Green Hill farm here was being tilled even before Thomas Willing started a town between the Christina and Brandywine rivers in the 1730s. The original stone farmhouse is a 1740 creation but the builder would not recognize it today for all the enlargements. Those included some by the Pyle family in the mid-1800s; this is where future illustrator Howard Pyle passed his youth. The last great build-out came in the 1920s when T. Coleman du Pont, one of the three cousins who built the modern DuPont Company, purchased the property for his daughter Ellen. She and her landscape architect husband, Robert Wheelwright, restored the early 19th century Tudor gardens on the property that is now owned by the University of Delaware.
TURN AROUND AND WALK EAST ON PENNSYLVANIA, TOWARDS DOWNTOWN.
Union Street to Clayton Street
The name “Automobile Row” was being applied to this stretch of Pennsylvania as early as 1912 - only five years after the first automobile appeared on Wilmington streets. In the 1930s and 1940s new car models were displayed in sleek Art Deco and International style showrooms but those buildings have gone the way of Detroit’s dominance in the auto industry.
TURN LEFT ON WEST STREET. TURN RIGHT ON 8TH STREET.
St. Anthony of Padua
9th and DuPont streets
The center of Wilmington’s Little Italy, this church was started in the 1920s after representatives of the congregation traveled to Italy to study churches. The Italian Renaissance design is dressed with gray Wissahickon schist shipped down from from Pennsylvania. The oversized entrance is fashioned with limestone columns and orange terra cotta accents. The bronze doors were crafted by local architect Leon N. Fagnani and Italian sculptor Egidio Giaroli who teamed up on the statue of Christopher Columbus earlier in the tour. St. Anthony’s is home base for the weeklong Italian Festival held in the city every June.
TURN LEFT ON 9TH STREET. TURN LEFT ON NORTH RODNEY STREET. TURN RIGHT ON 10TH STREET.
1401 10th Street
This transplant from the English countryside was constructed in 1917 for DuPont Company executive Frank G. Tallman. The grounds were designed by Elizabeth Bootes Clark to complement the Tudor Revival home spread between matching end gables and highlighted by rough-faced brick. Tallman was one of America’s most enthusiastic accumulators of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia which he eventually turned over to the University of Delaware.
TURN RIGHT ON BROOM STREET.
University and Whist Club
805 North Broom Street
The first to build on this land was James Tilton, a Revolutionary War hero who crossed the Delaware River with George Washington’s troops to ambush Trenton, New Jersey in 1776. Tilton began work on the stone structure in 1802. Its current appearance dates to th e1850s and a request by new owner Charles W. Howland, a Wilmington industrialist, of Philadelphia architect Robert Morris Smith for a home in what he called the “pure Italian style.” In 1937 the property was sold to one of Wilmington’s most venerable private clubs, the University Club. In 1958, it merged with another of the city’s oldest clubs, the Wilmington Whist Club to form the University and Whist Club.
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church
808 N Broom Street
A decentralized Greek community spread across four states has congregated here since 1952. The Byzantine-inspired building features a lead-covered dome and two spires above a slate roof.
WALK ONE BLOCK DOWN 8TH STREET TO FRANKLIN STREET AND TURN LEFT.
Frank Pyle House
southwest corner of 10th and Franklin streets
Dominated by a massive round corner tower, this 1891 house is one of the few by Frank Miles Day that stands 100 years later in virtually its original condition. Day blended elements of the Queen Anne and Shingle styles to create this showplace for Frank Pyle, a patent-leather manufacturer.
TURN RIGHT ON 10TH STREET.
Cool Spring Reservoir, Pumping Station and Park
northwest corner of 10th Street and Van Buren Street
Caesar Rodney, Jr. once owned a Wilmington country home on this site known for its natural springs. In 1877 a reservoir was installed here and a year later this pumping station, an eclectic Queen Anne composition, was put into service. On the other side of the pump house is parkland that hosted the traditional Wilmington Flower Market for many years.
TURN LEFT ON VAN BUREN STREET.
Ursuline Academy Performing Arts Center
southwest corner of Van Buren Street and Pennsylvania Avenue
This splash of classical Greek architecture dates to 1912 when it was built for the Church of Christ Scientist. The congregants have moved on and today students from Ursuline Academy march through the Ionic portico at the top of the commanding stairway.
TURN RIGHT ON PENNSYLVANIA/DELAWARE AVENUE.
New Century Club
1014 Delaware Avenue
This Colonial Revival clubhouse was designed in 1892 by Minerva Parker Nichols, an early American female architect. Notable features include twin Palladian windows flanking the raised entranceway, corner quoins and a curved gable. The building has gone through several histories and is currently home of the Delaware Children’s Theater.
TURN AROUND AND RETURN TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT A BLOCK AWAY AT THE INTERSECTION OF DELAWARE AVENUE AND PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.