You are here
P. S. du Pont Elementary School (Pierre S. du Pont High School)
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.
If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.
SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.