It’s no secret that the City has a LOT of stories to tell, and there are so many places that tell them quite well! We’ve put together a list of our favorite historical sites in Wilmington (in no particular order!) Read below:
1. Friends Meetinghouse – Built in 1817, the iconic Meetinghouse has seen (and been a part of) much of Wilmington’s history. Notably, celebrated abolitionist Thomas Garrett was a regular attendee, and the Meetinghouse was the site of his historic funeral that drew the eyes and hearts of the city.
2. Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park – Wilmingtonian Thomas Garrett collaborated with abolitionist icon Harriet Tubman to help free thousands of slaves. Their legacy is honored by this beautiful park that overlooks the route taken by hopeful freedom-seekers. It was dedicated in 1997, and its centerpiece is the commemorative statue, “Unwavering Courage in the Pursuit of Freedom.”
3. Kelly’s Logan House – One of the city’s favorite pubs is housed in one of the city’s most historic buildings! The Logan House was built in 1864 and is the oldest continuous family-owned Irish bar in the country.
4. Fort Christina – Built in 1638, this is where the first Swedish and Finnish settlers lived upon their arrival to America. It’s open from Memorial Day until Labor Day, so we’re looking forward to seeing it soon!
5. Lower Market Street Historic District – Because this is one of the busiest parts of town, so it’s easy to miss the scenery! However, the architecture of Lower Market Street is fascinating. It’s like looking back in time to see all the different building styles over the years. Notable buildings include the Farmers Bank (1912), Jake’s Market (c. 1870), J.T. Montgomery Jewelry Store, and Wilmington Publishing Company Building.
6. Grand Opera House – The Opera House on Market was built in 1871 as the Grand Lodge of the Masons, and has been home to thousands of performances ever since. In recent years, acts like Chicago, the Beach Boys, and Kevin Hart have played The Grand. It’s truly a sight to behold, with a unique design that has rich history written in all of its little details.
7. Old Swedes Church – Established in 1638, this historic site was a burial ground for Fort Christina, but was originally occupied by the Lenape tribe. Along with the Fort, it is one of the remaining artifacts of the original settlement of what would become Wilmington.
8. Wilmington Public Library – Built in 1922 and recently reopened, the gorgeous building located right downtown is chock full of history (literally and figuratively). One of the epicenters for the city’s intellectual scene, it’s been supported by names such as Bancroft, Tatnall, and du Pont since its incorporation in the mid-19th century.
9. Wilmington Riverfront – One of the city’s hottest shopping and tourism spots is also one of its most history-laden areas. Once an industrial hub, the Riverfront has been made beautiful with the help of the city and its community. It was a powerhouse of industry during World War II, producing over 700 ships and at one point employing 10,000 people. The cranes from its shipbuildings days still stand there today!
10. Delaware Historical Society – So much of what we know of the City’s history can be attributed to this 157-year old organization. Check out their site to find details on visiting any one of their number of historic landmarks, like the Delaware History Museum and Mitchell Center for African American Heritage.
11. Hotel du Pont – It’s hard to miss the Hotel’s iconically beautiful architecture and timelessly impressive design; one section of the building dates back to 1908. It is a member of the prestigious Historic Hotels Worldwide, having earned its title and reputation over its more than a century in service. The list of the hotel’s previous guests includes Amelia Earhart, Duke Ellington, and John F. Kennedy!
12. Southbridge Neighborhood – Southbridge is nearly synonymous with Wilmington’s Black history. Its earliest significance was as a route taken by runaway slaves (including Frederick Douglass), and it stands as a testament to Delaware’s Black political movement as the home for a number of important leaders over the years, like Herman Holloway Sr.
13. Howard Pyle Studio – Howard Pyle, the father of the Brandywine tradition of art, painted, wrote, and taught in these sets of studios that opened in 1900. Upon his death, it was taken over by the Studio Group, a “women only” art club. Today, members continue their love of art and donate scholarships to art students at local colleges.
14. Nemours Estate – The once-home of Alfred I. duPont, this 3,000 acre estate contains an architecturally-marvelous mansion, the largest French gardens in North America, and a collection of vintage automobiles in the Chauffeur’s Garage. Having finished construction in 1910, it’s as laden with Wilmington history as it is sheer classiness.
15. Rockwood Museum and Park – This Rural Gothic mansion, completed in 1854, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was once home to Quaker aristocrat Joseph Shipley. Not only is it visually stunning and the source for so much of the city’s history, but there are always events happening here!