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Market Street Corridor

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Nearly a century passed between the landing of the Swedes at the Rocks (see Fort Christina Park, WL2) and the founding of Wilmington (1731). The latter settlement was located on the Christina, too, but farther west along today's Market Street. Emulating that of Philadelphia, Wilmington's grid plan began along the waterfront, then marched up the hillside. From the start, there were two rival markets, at 2nd and 4th streets (the latter in the middle of the street). These were repeatedly enlarged and rebuilt, as, for example, the reconstruction in 1846 of the one at 4th (George Read Biddle), which included a public room where Abraham Lincoln addressed a Whig rally in June 1848. Fourth Street Market was removed in 1875 as the one at 2nd Street was rebuilt (1876, Jacob Jefferis). Market Street in the early twentieth century was a thriving retail district with fashionable storefronts designed by Wilmington's leading architects. But by the 1920s, lower Market was failing, and a Wilmington Civic Association was formed to deal with the problem. They demolished the rat-infested market at 2nd, but Market Street continued to decline. The historic Bringhurst Drugstore at numbers 317–319 (1793) closed in 1939 and was eventually moved to Mystic, Connecticut, as a museum display. Turning the street into a pedestrian mall was proposed by the Wilmington Planning Commission in a report in 1955 and carried out in 1974, but this hurt businesses, and in 2002–2006, it was redesigned and reopened to traffic. At that time, redevelopment of buildings at both ends of the thorough-fare was aimed at luring renters and creating a safe residential and commercial district. Much of Market Street below 10th Street is included in a historic overlay zoning district, the first in the city (1975).

Writing Credits

W. Barksdale Maynard

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