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Brandywine Village and Park

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Brandywine Village Historic District, north of Brandywine Creek, preserves the flavor of early-nineteenth-century Wilmington, when the city was famed for its many mills. A dynasty of millers established itself downstream from North Market Street Bridge (WL51): Oliver Canby, Thomas Lea, James Price, and Joseph Tatnall. Artist Charles Willson Peale sketched their lofty mill buildings in 1789. Disappointingly, almost nothing survives of these nationally renowned structures, although brick arches on the north bank, incorporated into a residential highrise (1979–1983, first section, Richard D. Chalfant), mark the foundations of Lea Mills (1880s, burned 1933).

Brandywine Village existed as a separate town until 1869, when it became part of Wilmington's Ninth Ward. As an expanding city lost most of the colonial buildings along its outskirts, those in slow-growth Brandywine Village survived. In 1928, architect Edward Canby May lauded “their beautiful doorways, cornices and dormer windows,” noting that such antiquities were “fast disappearing and giving way to the ‘store front,’ ‘apartment house,’ and ‘gasoline stations.’” By 1960, Ninth Ward was suffering white flight and its old buildings faced demolition. Robert L. Raley and Albert Kruse, of AIA Delaware, championed the formation of Old Brandywine Village Inc. to buy the historic Lea House (WL52) in 1962–1963, the first of a series of preservation purchases. “It would be a crime to tear these buildings down,” said Kruse. These successes promised a bright future for the neighborhood, but this was never quite fulfilled. In the latest attempt, a Baltimore urban design firm prepared a revitalization plan (2001, Allison Platt and Associates), and a large Federal Job Corps Center got underway (2002–2004, Tevebaugh Associates). AIA Delaware remains active in the vicinity, occupying Brandywine Academy (WL55) and, in 2003, having renovated the Art Deco Wilmington Trust Building (Brandywine Trust and Savings Bank) at 2120 Market Street (1929–1930, L. Waring Wilson).

Writing Credits

Author: 
W. Barksdale Maynard

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