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Christina Riverfront and East Side

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The riverfront district was settled extremely early. Here the Swedes gained a foothold in the New World in 1638, just three decades after Jamestown; here Willingtown was founded; here the shipbuilding industry thrived. The bustling nineteenth-century riverfront was depicted minutely in the Edward Sachse bird's-eye view (1864–1865). As late as the mid-twentieth century, Front Street was dense with old buildings, but most have subsequently been destroyed, including the Thomas Mendenhall House (1790), documented by the Center for Historic Architecture and Design (CHAD) at the University of Delaware in 1980 before demolition. Recent decades have brought expensive efforts to revitalize the riverfront. A governor's task force that included fourteen architectural firms released a Vision for the Riversreport in 1994, and the Riverfront Development Corporation was established by the legislature a year later to begin the process of implementing improvements, including a river-walk. No such revitalization seems in store for the rundown East Side, however, between Old Swedes Church (WL3) and King Street, one of the poorest sections of the city. This area housed factory laborers and has been studied by CHAD for the evidence it provides of working-class life. The City Planning Department surveyed architectural resources throughout Wilmington in 1978–1985 and established three historic districts on the East Side, embracing those rowhouse blocks not scoured clean by urban renewal. The East Side includes some historic churches, including Asbury Methodist at 3rd and Walnut (1789, 1885) and St. Mary's at 6th and Pine (c. 1860) by a New York architect, Patrick Keely.

Writing Credits

W. Barksdale Maynard

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