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P. S. du Pont Elementary School (Pierre S. du Pont High School)

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Pierre S. du Pont High School
1932–1935, E. William Martin. 34th and Monroe sts.

The number of high school graduates in Wilmington jumped 265 percent during the 1920s. Continuing his extraordinary philanthropy towards Delaware education, Pierre S. du Pont funded the construction of this new institution. A committee spent more than a year studying modern educational needs. The Colonial Revival building needed to be massive (150,000 square feet, with forty-one classrooms) to serve a student body of 2,250. Du Pont chose Martin for his proven record on three Chester County, Pennsylvania, schools. Construction by a Trenton, New Jersey, contractor took 500 days, starting with the laying of the cornerstone in a Masonic ceremony in October 1934. The steel skeleton was clad with “Old Swedes” dark red face brick from Oberly Brick Yards, which also supplied 45,000 specially cut and shaped brick. Artificial cut stone trim was employed, in addition to Indiana limestone, with classical detailing provided by Martin's designer, Albert Kruse. Angled wings maximized sunlight. An expensive limestone Ionic portico on a rusticated, arched base defines the entrance, and a multitiered octagonal cupola with balustrades and urns makes a grand show against the sky. Inside, floors were covered with linoleum; gypsum-block partitions divided classrooms; ceilings were fire-resistant metal lath and plaster; a furnace was fueled with 400 tons of soft coal. Innovations included a telephone system with outlets in every classroom, fire alarm boxes, built-in vacuum cleaning, and automatic coal stokers. Outside there was parking for 400 cars, and 100 workers laid out the streets and grounds in the first WPA project in Delaware (fall 1935). Du Pont told the architect he was “lost in admiration of the beautiful simplicity of treatment, finding the perfect balance between aesthetics and function.” With the coming of court-ordered busing in 1978, the school ceased to be a high school, and it currently houses an elementary facility.

Writing Credits

Author: 
W. Barksdale Maynard
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Citation

W. Barksdale Maynard, "P. S. du Pont Elementary School (Pierre S. du Pont High School)", [Wilmington, Delaware], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/DE-01-WL65.

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Delaware

Buildings of Delaware, W. Barksdale Maynard. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008, 128-129.

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