Main Births etc
Wilmington, Delaware
none Downtown Wilmington and the Christina River
Downtown Wilmington and the Christina River
Name origin: named after Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington
Motto: A Place to Be Somebody
Nickname: Corporate Capital of the World
Chemical Capital of the World
Country United States
State Delaware
County New Castle
Elevation 92 ft (28 m)
Coordinates 39°44′45″N 75°32′48″W / 39.74583, -75.54667
Area 17.0 sq mi (44 km²)
 - land 10.9 sq mi (28 km²)
 - water 6.2 sq mi (16 km²), 36.47%
Population 71,292 (US: 464th) (2012)
Founded March 1638
 - Incorporated 1731
 - Borough Charter 1739
 - City Charter March 7, 1832
Government Council-mayor
Mayor Dennis P. Williams (D)
Timezone EST (UTC-5)
 - summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP Codes 19801-19810, 19850, 19880, 19884-19887, 19889-19899
Area code 302
Airport New Castle Airport (ILG)
Location of Wilmington in Delaware
Locator Red.svg
Location of Wilmington in Delaware

Location of Delaware in the United States
Location of Delaware in the United States


Wilmington (Lenape: Paxahakink, Pakehakink[1]) is the largest city in the state of Delaware, United States, and is located at the confluence of the Christina River and Brandywine Creek, near where the Christina flows into the Delaware River. It is the county seat of New Castle County and one of the major cities in the Delaware Valley metropolitan area. Wilmington was named by Proprietor Thomas Penn after his friend Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington, who was prime minister in the reign of George II of Great Britain.

According to the 2010 census, the population of the city is 70,851, a decrease of 2.4% from 2000.[2]


The area now known as Wilmington was settled by the Lenape (or Delaware Indian) band led by Sachem (Chief) Mattahorn just before Henry Hudson sailed up the Len-api Hanna ("People Like Me River," present Delaware River) in 1609. The area was called "Maax-waas Unk" or "Bear Place" after the Maax-waas Hanna (Bear River) that flowed by (present Christina River). It was called the Bear River because it flowed west to the "Bear People," who are now known as the People of Conestoga or the Susquehannocks). The Dutch heard and spelled the river and the place as "Minguannan." When settlers and traders from the '''New Sweden Company''' under Peter Minuit arrived in March 1638 on the Fogel Grip and Kalmar Nyckel, they purchased Maax-waas Unk from Chief Mattahorn and built Fort Christina at the mouth of the Maax-waas Hanna (which the Swedes renamed the Christina River after the Princess of Sweden). The area was also known as "The Rocks", and is located near the foot of present-day Seventh Street. Fort Christina served as the headquarters for the colony of New Sweden which consisted of, for the most part, the lower Delaware River region (parts of present day Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey), but few colonists settled there.[3][4] Dr. Timothy Stidham (Swedish:Timen Lulofsson Stiddem) was a prominent citizen and doctor in Wilmington. He was born in 1610, probably in Hammel, Denmark and raised in Gothenburg, Sweden. He arrived in New Sweden in 1654 and is recorded as the first physician in Delaware.[5][6]

The most important Swedish governor was Colonel Johan Printz, who ruled the colony under Swedish law from 1643 to 1653. He was succeeded by Johan Rising, who upon his arrival in 1654, seized the Dutch post Fort Casimir, located at the site of the present town of New Castle, which was built by the Dutch in 1651. Rising governed New Sweden until the autumn of 1655, when a Dutch fleet under the command of Peter Stuyvesant subjugated the Swedish forts and established the authority of the Colony of New Netherland throughout the area formerly controlled by the Swedes. This marked the end of Swedish rule in North America.

Beginning in 1664 British colonization began; after a series of wars between the Dutch and English, the area stabilized under British rule, with strong influences from the Quaker communities under the auspices of Proprietor William Penn. A borough charter was granted in 1739 by King George II, which changed the name of the settlement from Willington, after Thomas Willing the first developer of the land who organized the area in a grid pattern similar to that of its northern neighbor Philadelphia,[7][8][9] to Wilmington, presumably after Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington.

Although during the American Revolutionary War only one small battle was fought in Delaware, British troops occupied Wilmington shortly after the nearby Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777. The British remained in the town until they vacated Philadelphia in 1778.

In 1800, Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, a French Huguenot emigrated to the United States. Knowledgeable in the manufacture of gunpowder, by 1802 DuPont had begun making the explosive in Brandywine Village just outside of the town of Wilmington.[10] The DuPont company became a major supplier to the U.S. military.[11] Located on the banks of the Brandywine River, the village was eventually annexed by Wilmington city.

The greatest growth in the city occurred during the Civil War. Delaware, though officially remaining a member of the Union, was a border state and divided in its support of both the Confederate and the Union causes. The war created enormous demand for goods and materials supplied by Wilmington including ships, railroad cars, gunpowder, shoes, and other war-related goods.

By 1868, Wilmington was producing more iron ships than the rest of the country combined and it rated first in the production of gunpowder and second in carriages and leather. Due to the prosperity Wilmington enjoyed during the war, city merchants and manufacturers expanded Wilmington's residential boundaries westward in the form of large homes along tree-lined streets. This movement was spurred by the first horsecar line, which was initiated in 1864 along Delaware Avenue.

Wilmington skyline as seen from Northeast Blvd May 2007

The late 19th century saw the development of the city's first comprehensive park system. William Bancroft, a successful Wilmington businessman, led the effort to establish open parkland in Wilmington and was heavily influenced by the work of Frederick Law Olmsted. Rockford Park and Brandywine Park were created due to Bancroft's efforts.

Rodney Square in downtown Wilmington in 2006

Both World Wars stimulated the city's industries. Industries vital to the war effort – shipyards, steel foundries, machinery, and chemical producers – operated on a 24-hour basis. Other industries produced such goods as automobiles, leather products, and clothing.

The post war prosperity again pushed the residential development further out of the city. The 1950s saw a large increase in people living in the suburbs of North Wilmington and commuting into the city to work. This lifestyle was made possible by extensive upgrades to area roads and highways and through the construction of Interstate 95, which cut through several of Wilmington's neighborhoods and contributed to significant population losses in the city. Urban renewal projects in the 1950s and 1960s cleared entire blocks of housing in the Center City and East Side areas.

Riots and civil unrest in the city following the 1968 assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and in response, on April 9, 1968, Governor Charles L. Terry, Jr. deployed the National Guard and the Delaware State Police to the city at the request of Mayor John Babiarz. One week later, Mayor Babiarz requested the National Guard troops be withdrawn, but Governor Terry refused, and kept them in the city until his term ended in January 1969. This is reportedly the longest occupation of an American city by state forces in the nation's history.[12]

In the 1980s, job growth and office construction were spurred by the arrival of national banks and financial institutions in the wake of the 1981 Financial Center Development Act, which liberalized the laws governing banks operating within the state, and similar laws in 1986. Today, many national and international banks, including Bank of America, Chase, and Barclays, have operations in the city, typically credit card operations.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 17.0 square miles (44 km2). Of that, 10.9 square miles (28 km2) is land and 6.2 square miles (16 km2) is water. The total area is 36.25% water.

Aerial view of Wilmington

The city sits at the confluence of the Christina River and the Delaware River, about 25 miles (40 km) southwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Wilmington Train Station, one of the southernmost stops on Philadelphia's SEPTA rail transportation system, is also served by Northeast Corridor Amtrak passenger trains. Wilmington is served by I-95, although the twin-span Delaware Memorial Bridge, a few miles south of the city, provides direct highway access between Delaware and New Jersey, carrying the I-295 eastern bypass route around Wilmington and Philadelphia, as well as highway U.S. 40, which continues eastward to Atlantic City, New Jersey.

These transportation links and geographic proximity give Wilmington some of the characteristics of a satellite city to Philadelphia, but Wilmington's long history as Delaware's principal city, its urban core, and its independent value as a business destination makes it more properly considered a small but independent city in the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

Wilmington lies along the Fall Line geological transition from the Mid-Atlantic Piedmont Plateau to the Atlantic Coastal Plain. East of Market Street, and along both sides of the Christina River, the Coastal Plain land is flat, low-lying, and in places marshy. The Delaware River here is an estuary at sea level (with twice-daily high and low tides), providing sea-level access for ocean-going ships.

On the western side of Market Street, the Piedmont topography is rocky and hilly, rising to a point that marks the watershed between the Brandywine River and the Christina River. This watershed line runs along Delaware Avenue westward from 10th Street and Market Street.

These contrasting topography and soil conditions affected the industrial and residential development patterns within the city. The hilly west side was more attractive for the original residential areas, offering springs and sites for mills, better air quality, and fewer mosquitoes.

Surrounding municipalities[]


Wilmington is in the northern periphery of a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa), with cool to cold winters, hot, humid summers, and generous precipitation throughout the year. The January daily average is 32.4 °F (0.2 °C), although temperatures may occasionally reach 10 °F (−12 °C) or 50 °F (10 °C). In July, the daily average is 76.8 °F (24.9 °C), with highs reaching 90 °F (32 °C) on 21 days of the year. Snowfall is highly variable, with some years bringing very little of it and others witnessing several major snowstorms; the average seasonal total is 21.2 inches (54 cm). Extremes in temperature have ranged from −15 °F (−26 °C) on February 9, 1934, up to 107 °F (42 °C) on August 7, 1918, though 100 °F (38 °C)+ readings are not common and 0 °F (−18 °C) are even rarer.

Climate data for Wilmington, Delaware
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 75
Average high °F (°C) 40.3
Average low °F (°C) 24.5
Record low °F (°C) −14
Precipitation inches (mm) 3.05
Snowfall inches (cm) 7.0
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 10.5 9.4 10.7 11.3 11.2 10.3 9.9 8.1 8.5 8.3 9.2 10.3 117.6
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 4.3 3.6 1.3 .4 0 0 0 0 0 0 .2 2.0 11.8
Source: NOAA (normals 1981–2010, extremes 1894–present) [13]


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1840 8,367
1850 13,979 67.1%
1860 21,258 52.1%
1870 30,841 45.1%
1880 42,478 37.7%
1890 61,431 44.6%
1900 76,508 24.5%
1910 87,411 14.3%
1920 110,168 26.0%
1930 106,597 −3.2%
1940 112,504 5.5%
1950 110,356 −1.9%
1960 94,234 −14.6%
1970 80,386 −14.7%
1980 70,195 −12.7%
1990 71,529 1.9%
2000 72,664 1.6%
2010 70,851 −2.5%
Est. 2012 71,292 −1.9%
U.S. Decennial Census[14]
2012 Estimate[15]

As of the census of 2010, there were 70,851 people, 28,615 households, and 15,398 families residing in the city. The population density was 6,497.6 per square mile (2,508.8/km²). There were 32,820 housing units at an average density of 3,009.9 per square mile (1,162.1/km²) and with an occupancy rate of 87.2%. The racial makeup of the city was 58.0% African American, 32.6% White, 0.4% Native American, 1.0% Asian, <0.1% Pacific Islander, 5.4% from other races, and 2.6% from two or more races. 12.4% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. Non-Hispanic Whites were 27.9% of the population in 2010,[16] compared to 40.5% in 1990.[17] As of the census of 2000, the largest ancestries included: Irish (8.7%), Italian (5.7%), German (5.2%), English (4.4%), and Polish (3.6%).[18]

There were 28,615 households out of which 25.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 23.5% were married couples living together, 24.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 46.2% were non-families. 38.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 3.18.

In the city, the population was spread out with 24.4% under the age of 18, 10.0% from 18 to 24, 29.8% from 25 to 44, 24.2% from 45 to 64, and 11.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34.3 years. For every 100 females there were 90.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.4 males.

According to ACS 1-year estimates for 2010, the median income for a household in the city was $32,884, and the median income for a family was $37,352. Males working full-time had a median income of $41,878 versus $36,587 for females working full-time. The per capita income for the city was $24,861. 27.6% of the population and 24.9% of families were below the poverty line. 45.7% of those under the age of 18 and 16.5% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.[19]


The Wilmington City Council consists of thirteen members. The council consists of eight members who are elected from geographic districts, four elected at-large and the City Council President. The Council President is elected by the entire city. The Mayor of Wilmington is also elected by the entire city.

The current mayor of Wilmington is Dennis P. Williams (D). Williams held the First Representative District seat in the state House of Representatives before being elected Mayor in 2012. The City Council President is Theopalis K. Gregory, Sr. (D), a former City Councilman.[20] The City Council members are Nnamdi O. Chukwuocha (1st District), Ernest Congo II (2nd District), Darius J. Brown (3rd District), Hanifa G.N. Shabazz (4th District), Samuel Prado (5th District), Sherry Dorsey Walker (6th District), Robert A. Williams (7th District), Charles M. Freel (8th District), Michael A. Brown, Sr. (At-Large), Maria D. Cabrera (At-Large), Loretta Walsh (At-Large), and Justen A. Wright (At-Large).

The Delaware Department of Correction Howard R. Young Correctional Institution, renamed from Multi-Purpose Criminal Justice Facility in 2004 and housing both pretrial and posttrial male prisoners, is located in Wilmington. The prison is often referred to as the "Gander Hill Prison" after the neighborhood it is located in. The prison opened in 1982.[21]

Many Wilmington City workers belong to one of several Locals of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.[22]


Typical sign on major thoroughfares entering Wilmington

The city of Wilmington is made up of the following neighborhoods:[23]

North of the Brandywine River[]

  • Baynard Village
  • Brandywine Hills – This neighborhood of approximately 225 homes in northern Wilmington was started in 1930s. The streets in the neighborhood are named after famous American and English authors, including Byron, Emerson, Hawthorne and Milton. It is bounded by Lea Boulevard, Rockwood Road, Miller Road, and Market Street[24]
  • Brandywine Village[25]
  • Eastlawn
  • Eastlake
  • Gander Hill (Lower Brandywine Village)
  • Harlan
  • Ninth Ward – Originally a post-Civil War political creation, the city's Ninth Ward has long been an area with owner-occupied residences. The Ninth Ward was integrated as a result of population shifts in the 1960s and remains a stable, working-class neighborhood.
  • Prices Run
  • Riverside – Is a housing development in the northeastern corner of the city. It was built in 1959.
  • Triangle – a group of homes built in the 1920s whose corresponding streets along I-95 and Baynard Boulevard and 18th Street and Concord Avenue loosely form a triangle.[26]

East of I-95[]

  • Center City (Downtown)
  • East Side –
  • Justison Landing
  • LOMA
  • Midtown Brandywine – row homes near Brandywine Park[27]
  • Quaker Hill[28] – From a country hilltop in the 19th century to rows of city homes today, Quaker Hill (which surrounds the historical Quaker Friends Meeting House) has watched its neighborhood become much more modernized over the last three centuries. This city district was founded by Quakers William Shipley and Thomas West in the early 18th century. The nearby Meeting House keeps Quaker Hill closely tied to its rich history. The cemetery of the Wilmington Friends House is the burial site of the abolitionist Thomas Garrett and John Dickinson, signer of the U.S. Constitution.[29]
  • Riverfront[30] - Formerly a hub for manufacturing and the city's shipbuilding industry, which began to see a rapid series of state-sponsored urban renewal and gentrification projects beginning in the late 1990s. The neighborhood is currently home to landmarks such as the Wilmington Blue Rocks' Baseball Stadium and the Shipyard Shops.
  • Southbridge
  • Trinity Vicinity – This neighborhood is located in the center of Wilmington, next to the Trinity Church and Interstate 95. A collection of row homes and detached houses, many of which were originally built in the late 19th century. The revitalization of the neighborhood was aided by the Urban Homesteading Act in the 1970s. The neighborhood was designated as a historic district in the 1990s.[31]
  • Upper East Side (East Brandywine)
  • West Center City

West of I-95[]

  • Bayard Square
  • Browntown – areas in the city that were originally populated by Polish immigrants. Today, the Polish community maintains a strong presence, while other ethnicities have moved in the neighborhood's borders.[33]
  • Canby Park
  • Cool Spring & Tilton Park – bounded loosely by Pennsylvania Avenue on the north, West 7th Street on the south, North Jackson Street on the east and North Rodney Street on the west. The neighborhood is home to two Catholic schools, Ursuline Academy[34] and Padua Academy.[35] The neighborhood is also the location of the private University & Whist Club and the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, which hosts an annual Greek cultural festival.[36]
  • Delaware Avenue
  • The Flats - The Flats was founded by businessman William Bancroft who developed the neighborhood in 1901 under the Woodlawn Company, now known as the Woodlawn Trustees, with the intention of creating affordable homes for working class residents of Wilmington. The predominantly minority community is currently in the process of gaining authorization for a $100 million revitalization to be performed in seven phases over 12 years.[37]
  • Forty Acres – This historically Irish neighborhood, rural until the mid-19th century, developed from the farmland of Joshua T. Heald. One of the city's first suburbs, the neighborhood is centered on the St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church. The name Forty Acres is taken from the fertility of the farmland. One acre of the land was said to be worth 40 acres (160,000 m2) one might find someplace else. The neighborhood exists northeast of Delaware Avenue, southwest of Riddle Avenue, east of Union Street and west of DuPont Street, with Lovering Avenue as its eastern boundary of Lovering Avenue.[38]
  • Greenhill
  • Happy Valley – a small collection of late 19th-century row houses on the southeastern slope to Brandywine Park, between Adams Street, Jackson Street (I-95), Wawaset Street and Gilpin Avenue.
  • Hedgeville
  • The Highlands – located between Pennsylvania Avenue and Delaware Avenue, the Highlands neighborhood, centered on 18th Street southeast of Rockford Park, was developed by Joshua Heald in the 19th century for affluent, middle-class residents. It contains detached and semi-detached houses of exuberant architectural detailing, representing numerous popular styles of the time.
  • Hilltop – This area located along 4th Street and roughly bordered by Lancaster Avenue, Jackson Street, Clayton Street has remained one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city since the late 19th century. Today, this area is home to one of the city's fastest growing segments – the Hispanic community.[39]
  • Little Italy – this neighborhood consists of the area around Union Street and Lincoln streets, between Pennsylvania Avenue and Lancaster Avenue. Anchored by the immigration waves of the late 19th century and early 20th century, Little Italy has retained its roots, even as neighborhood remodeling projects update the scenery. A central feature of the neighborhood is the St. Anthony's of Padua Roman Catholic Church. The neighborhood hosts an annual Italian Festival in the summertime.[40]
  • St. Elizabeth Area – The St. Elizabeth area is anchored by the St. Elizabeth Parish at 809 S. Broom St., considered the heart of the Catholic community. This historic church, built on the grounds of the Banning Estate, dates back to 1908.
  • Trolley Square – settled in the 1860s after the city's trolley line had extended into farmland once owned by the Shallcross and Lovering families. The city's former trolley depot and bus barn was located on the spot where the Trolley Square shopping complex now sits. The neighborhood lies between Harrison Street, Pennsylvania Avenue, Lovering Avenue and the B&O Railroad track.[41]
  • Wawaset
  • Wawaset Heights
  • Wawaset Park – The neighborhood was constructed by the Dupont Company in 1918 to provide a residential community for their employees. Baltimore architect Edward L. Palmer, Jr. was chosen to design the community, which was to have a mix of single family homes and smaller attached Prior to the development of houses. The neighborhood was constructed on a 50-acre (200,000 m2) plot. Prior to its construction, the tract of land had been used as a horse racing track and a fairground. Wawaset Park was placed on the Register of Historic Places in 1986. The neighborhood is bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue, West 7th Street, Woodlawn Avenue and Greenhill Avenue.[42]
  • West Hill
  • Westmoreland – detached housing developed in the 1950s, as part of the suburban movement that followed the end of World War II. Its location is adjacent to the original Wilmington Country Club, bounded by Ogle Avenue, Dupont Road, the Wilmington High School property and the Ed "Porky" Oliver Golf Course.
  • Union Park Gardens[43]

Historic districts[]

The City of Wilmington designates nine areas as historic districts: the Baynard Boulevard, Kentmere Parkway, Rockford Park, Cool Spring/Tilton Park, the tri-part sections of the Eastside, St. Marys and Old Swedes Church, Quaker Hill, Delaware Avenue, Trinity Vicinity, and Upper/Lower Market Street.[44]


Crime rates (2012)
Crime type Rate*
Aggravated assault:694
Violent crime:1,228
Motor vehicle theft:365
Property crime:3,824
* Number of reported crimes per 100,000 population.
2012 population: 72,088
Source: 2012 FBI UCR Data

In 2002, Wilmington became what was thought to be the first city in the U.S. to have its entire downtown area under surveillance.[45]

Also in 2002, the Wilmington Police Department started a program known as jump-outs in which unmarked police vans would patrol crime-prone neighborhoods late at night, suddenly converge at street corners and temporarily detain loiterers; photographing and fingerprinting the detainees. Along with apprehending anyone with drugs or weapons, it was thought that this program would improve the police's database of fingerprints and eye-witnesses for use in future crime investigations. Some citizens protested that such a practice was a violation of civil rights.[46]

In 2010, Wilmington had 27 homicides, which exceeded the previous record of 26 set in 2008.[47] In 2011, community mobilization against crime was reported to be on the rise in the city.[48]

In 2012, Parenting magazine cited Wilmington as the nation's most dangerous city on a per capita basis.[49]

In 2013, Wilmington broke the previous record set in 2010 of 142 shootings with 150 shootings by December 12.[50]

Public safety[]

WPD van at Rodney Square

The Wilmington Police Department (WPD), which aims to "raise the level of public safety through law enforcement and thereby reduce the fear and incidence of crime", is authorized to deploy up to 289 officers in motor vehicles, on foot, and on bicycle. Its operations are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. As of 2013, its chief is Christine Dunning.[51]

The Wilmington Fire Department (WFD) is led by Chief Anthony S. Goode and maintains four engine companies, two squad companies, two ladder companies, and a marine fire fighting force. The department has a ridealong program to help recruit new firefighters. It requires firefighters to be regularly involved with community associations. Wilmington is the only municipality in Delaware with a career fire department.

The Fire Department provides basic EMS services and emergency transport through contract with the city's St. Francis Hospital, whose EMS division operates three to five BLS transport units, depending on time of day. Advanced Life Support services in the City of Wilmington are provided by New Castle County's EMS Division with two city-based medic units. All Wilmington firefighters are trained to the EMT-B level and serve as first responders for life-threatening emergencies.

On July 1, 2009, the national financial crisis and projected city budget shortfall led the department to lay off firefighters for the first time in city history. Eight of the department's 173 uniformed personnel were laid off, but returned to work within 13 months to replace retiring personnel. The department also launched began a rolling by-pass of three engine companies (Engine 5, Squrt 4, and Engine 6). Later, the city eliminated its only heavy rescue company, Rescue 1; its personnel were deployed to other companies. In order to provide technical rescue services, the department converted two engine companies into squad companies. Engine 1 was re-designated as Squad 1, Engine 3 re-designated as Squad 3. Rescue 1's heavy rescue vehicle remained equipped and held in reserve. Even with the elimination of Rescue 1, the Department continued the rolling by-pass of an engine company. The rolling by-pass now affected Squrt 4, Engine 5, and Engine 6. The Department found some financial relief in 2011 when it was awarded the federal SAFER grant. This enabled the department to fund 13 positions returning the department's staffing to 173 uniformed personnel. Even with the federal grant the department has stated that the need to continue the rolling by-pass should dramatically decrease however it would not eliminate the need.

Public health issues[]

The city has one of the highest per capita rates of HIV infection in the United States, with disproportionate rates of infection among African-American males.[52][53] Efforts by local advocates to implement needle exchange programs to combat the spread of infection were obstructed for several years by downstate and suburban state legislators but a program was finally approved in June 2006.[54]


Founding of Wilmington stamp.(See New Sweden.)

WSFS Bank's headquarters in downtown Wilmington

Much of Wilmington's economy is based on its status as the most populous and readily accessible city in Delaware, a state that made itself attractive to corporations with business-friendly financial laws and a longstanding reputation for a fair and effective judicial system. Contributing to the economic health of the downtown and Wilmington Riverfront regions has been the presence of Wilmington Station, through which 665,000 people passed in 2009.[55]

Wilmington has become a national financial center for the credit card industry, largely due to regulations enacted by former Governor Pierre S. du Pont, IV in 1981. The Financial Center Development Act of 1981, among other things, eliminated the usury laws enacted by most states, thereby removing the cap on interest rates that banks may legally charge customers. Many major credit card issuers, including Bank of America (formerly MBNA Corporation), Chase Card Services (part of JPMorgan Chase & Co., formerly Bank One/First USA), and Barclays Bank of Delaware (formerly Juniper Bank), are headquartered in Wilmington. The Dutch banking giant ING Groep N.V. headquartered its U.S. internet banking unit, ING Direct (now Capital One 360), in Wilmington. The United Kingdom's HSBC has their American operations headquartered in Wilmington. Wilmington Trust is headquartered in Wilmington at Rodney Square. Barclays and Capital One 360 have very large and prominent locations located along the waterfront of the Christina River. In 1988, the Delaware legislature enacted a law which required a would-be acquirer to capture 85 percent of a Delaware chartered corporation's stock in a single transaction or wait three years before proceeding. This law strengthened Delaware's position as a safe haven for corporate charters during an especially turbulent time filled with hostile takeovers.

Wilmington's other notable industries include insurance (American Life Insurance Company [ALICO], Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Delaware), retail banking (including the Delaware headquarters of: Wilmington Trust, PNC Bank, Wachovia Bank, JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, Citizens Bank, Wilmington Savings Fund Society, and Artisans' Bank), and legal services. A General Motors plant was closed in 2009.[56] Wilmington is home to one Fortune 500 company, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company.[57] In addition, the city is the corporate domicile of more than 50% of the publicly traded companies in the United States, and over 60% of the Fortune 500.

Delaware chartered corporations rely on the state's Court of Chancery to decide legal disputes, which places legal decisions with a judge instead of a jury. The Court of Chancery, known both nationally and internationally for its speed, competence, and knowledgeable judiciary as a court of equity,[58] is empowered to grant broad relief in the form of injunctions and restraining orders, which is of particular importance when shareholders seek to block or enjoin corporate actions such as mergers or acquisitions. The Court of Chancery, as a statewide court, may hear cases in any of the state's three counties. A dedicated-use Chancery courthouse was recently constructed in Georgetown, Sussex County, which has hosted high-profile complex corporate trials such as the Disney shareholder litigation.

Delaware has among the strictest rules in America regarding out-of-state legal practice, allowing no reciprocity to lawyers who passed the bar in other states.[59]

Top employers[]

According to Wilmington's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[60] the top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 State of Delaware 13,980
2 Christiana Care Health System 10,800
3 Bank of America 10,000
4 DuPont 8,100
5 AstraZeneca 4,800
6 University of Delaware 4,004
7 Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children 3,200
8 Christina School District 2,300
9 Wilmington Trust 2,284
10 Red Clay Consolidated School District 1,750
11 Walgreens 1,700
12 Brandywine School District 1,482
13 Colonial School District 1,271
14 Capital One 1,122
15 PNC Financial Services 1,100

Arts and culture[]

Ethnic festivals[]

Wilmington has a very active and diverse ethnic population, which contributes to several very popular ethnic festivals held every spring and summer in Wilmington, the most popular of which is the Italian Festival. This event, run by St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, closes down six blocks in the west side of the city the second week of June every year for traditional Italian music, food, and activities, along with carnival rides and games. Another festival that draws large crowds is the Greek Festival, which is organized by Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. This festival is on a smaller scale than the Italian festival but features traditional Greek (Hellenic) crafts, food, drink, and music. Another notable annual festival in Wilmington, the Polish festival, is organized by St. Hedwig's Catholic Church and features Polish cuisine with carnival rides and entertainment. Haneef's African Festival celebrates the heritage of the African American majority in the city.[61] Wilmington is also home to the annual Big August Quarterly, a historic event since 1814 celebrating African American religious freedom. IndiaFest is another cultural festival held in the city and is hosted by the Indo American Association of Delaware.[62] Wilmington also celebtrates Hispanic week, which coincides with National Hispanic Month festivities, September 15 – October 15. The festival culminates with a pageant and desfile (parade) along 4th street. Concerts featuring top rate Latin music acts, Latin cuisine and a carnival are held at the riverfront on the last weekend. Activities are also held at St. Paul's Catholic Church.

Music festivals[]

The Clifford Brown Jazz Festival is an week-long outdoor music festival held each summer in Wilmington's Rodney Square.

The Peoples' Festival is an annual tribute to Bob Marley, a one-time Wilmington resident. Started in 1994 to honor Marley, the event brings together Reggae and World Beat music artists, playing both original music as well as Bob Marley and the Wailers songs. The festival is held on the Wilmington riverfront each summer.

The Riverfront Blues Festival is a 3-day music festival in the Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park in Wilmington. The festival, which features prominent blues acts as well as artists from the local area, takes place each August.

Holiday events[]

  • Annual tree-lighting ceremony related to the Christmas holiday at Rockwood Museum and Park[63]

Wilmington Riverfront[]

The Kalmar Nyckel with the Wilmington Skyline in the background

Beginning in the 1990s, the city launched a campaign to revitalize the former shipyard area known as the Wilmington Riverfront. Delaware Theatre Company was at the forefront of this movement, opening its current space on Water Street in 1985."History of the Delaware Theatre Company". Delaware Theatre Company. Retrieved January 2, 2013.  The efforts were bolstered early by The Big Kahuna also known as Kahunaville (a restaurant, bar and arcade which has also since closed and rebuilt in 2010 as the Delaware Children's Museum) and the Wilmington Blue Rocks minor league baseball stadium. The Wilmington Rowing Center boathouse is located along the Christina River on the Riverfront. Development continues as the Wilmington Riverfront tries to establish its cultural, economical, and residential importance. Recent high-rise luxury apartment buildings along the Christina River have been cited as evidence of the Riverfront's continued revival. On June 7, 2006, the groundbreaking of Justison Landing signaled the beginning of Wilmington's largest residential project since Bancroft Park was built after World War II. Outlets shops, restaurants and a Riverfront Market have also opened along the 1.2-mile (1.9 km) Riverwalk.


Radio and television[]

The Wilmington area is home to five FM radio stations and four AM radio stations. A sixth FM radio station is located in Southern New Jersey and is included in the Wilmington radio market surveys:

  • 91.3-FM WVUD—Non-commercial radio (University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware)
  • 91.7-FM WMPH—Non-commercial high school radio
  • 93.7-FM WSTW-- Pop Contemporary Hits
  • 99.5-FM WJBR-FM-- Adult Contemporary
  • 101.7-FM WJKS- Urban contemporary (Canton, New Jersey)
  • 103.7-FM WXCY - Country
  • 1150-AM WDEL-- News Talk Information
  • 1290-AM WWTX-- Sports talk
  • 1380-AM WTMC—Travel Information
  • 1450-AM WILM—News Talk Information


  • The News Journal, founded as the Delaware Gazette in 1785. Daily circulation as of 2004 and 2007 exceeded 100,000, placing the newspaper among the top 100 in the United States based on circulation.[64][65]
  • 'Wilmington Sunday Star' (between 1881 - 1954)[66]

Portrayal of Wilmington in popular culture[]

  • Wilmington's skyline and other aerial shots of the city were featured as the stand-in for the fictional town of Arcadia in the television program Joan of Arcadia.[67]
  • Wilmington is portrayed as the fictional location of the 1999 film Fight Club (adapted from Chuck Palahniuk's novel of the same title), as evidenced in the narrator's business card including the suburban Wilmington ZIP code 19808 and his apartment building having as its motto "A Place to Be Somebody". Other references include Delaware state flags, Delaware license plates, new fight clubs in New Castle, Delaware City, and Penns Grove (NJ), and the presence of credit card companies. However, city officials rejected the filmmakers' request to film in Delaware. The movie's exteriors were filmed around Los Angeles.
  • In the movie The Wrestler, the character portrayed by Mickey Rourke has his final match in Wilmington.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Simpsons Tall Tales", the family wins a trip to Delaware and Lisa exclaims "I want to see Wilmington!"
  • In the James Patterson novel Cat and Mouse, Wilmington appears as one of the crime scenes.
  • In the Criminal Minds episode "What Fresh Hell", the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) comes to Wilmington to search for a missing child.
  • The 1970s TV series The Incredible Hulk Season 1 Episode 4 "The Final Round" took place in Wilmington. David Banner (played by Bill Bixby) comes to Wilmington and befriends a boxer after being mugged immediately after getting off the train. His new friend is unknowingly running heroin for a mob boss. The scenes do not appear to be shot in Wilmington but the city's name is said several times.
  • Saturday Night Live (SNL) skits featuring a portrayal of Vice President Joe Biden often reference his past residency in Wilmington. One of the most notable examples appears in the cold opening of the May 12, 2012, episode, in which SNL's Biden pouts in his Washington, D.C. bedroom that comically mirrors an adolescent's. One of the several posters taped to the background wall is an aerial picture of the downtown Wilmington skyline with "DELAWARE" printed along the bottom.[68]
  • In The Bourne Legacy, Wilmington, Delaware was one of the locations that Aaron Cross flees to. CIA headquarters tracks him to that location.


Wilmington Station

Wilmington is served by the Joseph R. Biden Jr. Wilmington Rail Station, with frequent service between Boston, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., via Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. SEPTA Regional (commuter) Rail provides frequent additional local service to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Amtrak has a major maintenance shop and yard in northeast Wilmington that maintains and rebuilds the agency's Northeast Corridor electric locomotive fleet. The Amtrak Training Facility is also located in Wilmington, as well as Amtrak's Consolidated National Operations Center (CNOC).

Two freight railroads, CSX and Norfolk Southern, also serve Wilmington. Each has a major freight-yard in the area; CSX operates the Wilsmere Yard to the west of the city and Norfolk Southern operates the Edgemoor Yard to the northeast of the city.

DART First State (Delaware Authority for Regional Transit) operates public bus service with approximately 40 bus lines serving the city and the surrounding suburbs as well as inter-county service to Dover, the state capital, and seasonal service to Rehoboth Beach on the Atlantic Ocean. They also offer RideShare Delaware, a program which links commuters looking for carpools or vanpools. In addition, the site offers transit riders, walkers or bikers a Guaranteed Ride Home in the event of a work emergency. Greyhound operates interstate bus service out of the downtown bus terminal at the rail station.

Interstate 95, which splits Wilmington roughly into eastern and western halves, provides access to major markets in the Northeast and nationwide. Interstate 495 is a bypass just east of the city, and Interstate 295 is south of the city, crossing the Delaware River into New Jersey.

The closest major airport is Philadelphia International Airport. A few miles south of Wilmington is New Castle County Airport, which is a focus city for Frontier Airlines and also serves as a base for both the Delaware Army National Guard and Delaware Air National Guard.

Port of Wilmington[]

Wilmington is also served by the Port of Wilmington, a modern full-service deepwater port and marine terminal handling over 400 vessels per year with an annual import/export cargo tonnage of 5 million tons. The Port of Wilmington handles mostly international imports of fruits and vegetables, automobiles, steel, and bulk products.


Club League Sport Venue
Wilmington Blue Rocks Carolina League Minor League Baseball (Advanced-A) Daniel S. Frawley Stadium
  • The Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame is located in Frawley Stadium.
  • In 2010, Sporting News ranked Wilmington 351st on its list of the 400 Best Sports Towns, behind both Newark (218) and Dover (208), two much smaller cities in Delaware.[69]

Running events[]

The Delaware Distance Classic is a 15K Road Race held in October. It is the event of the year for the Pike Creek Valley Running Club (PCVRC). The course has rotated every few years based on sponsorship. The event began in 1983 as a fundraiser for the PCVRC, but the Special Olympics has been the beneficiary for the last few years.

The Caesar Rodney Half Marathon is a 21.0975-kilometre (13.1094 mi) road race held each year on the second Sunday in March, starting in 1964.[70] Billed by race organizers as the "granddaddy of Delaware road races," the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon and the city that hosts it welcomes more than 1,000 runners from 20 states and several countries around the world. The out-and-back race takes participants from the starting line at Wilmington's Rodney Square through the streets of Wilmington, past the scenic revitalized riverfront, through Rockford Park and back to Rodney Square at the Caesar Rodney statue. Proceeds benefit the American Lung Association of Delaware.[71]

The Run for the Buds 1/2 Marathon, 1/2 Marathon Relay, and 5K Run/Walk is held annually at Rockford Park, Wilmington in middle October. Proceeds benefit individuals with intellectual disabilities through the Down Syndrome Association of Delaware.[72]

Outdoor recreation[]

The Wilmington State Parks are a group of four parks in Wilmington operated by the Delaware State Park system. The four parks are Brandywine Park, including the Brandywine Zoo and Baynard Stadium, Alapocas Woods Natural Area, H. Fletcher Brown Park and Rockford Park. Admission to the parks is free, but a fee is charged for admittance to the zoo. The parks, within minutes of each other, are open year round from sunrise to sunset. The zoo is open daily from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm, May through November. Rockford Tower and Rockford Park is open from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, from May 1 until October 31. The parks are patrolled by Delaware State Park Rangers whose headquarters office is in Brandywine Park.[73]

The City of Wilmington also operates 55 parks and recreational facilities across the city.


Wilmington Public Library on Rodney Square

Wilmington is served by the Brandywine, Colonial, Christina, and Red Clay school districts for elementary, junior high, and high school public education. The New Castle County Vocational-Technical School District operates Howard High School of Technology in the city of Wilmington.

In 1954, the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court forced the then segregated schools of New Castle County to desegregate. However, the subsequent eleven school districts that were created in the county, including the Wilmington School District, soon became de facto segregated, as the Wilmington School District became predominately black, and the districts outside the city remained overwhelmingly white. In response, the 1976 U.S. District Court decision Evans v. Buchanan implemented a plan by which students in Wilmington would be bused to attend school in the suburbs for certain grades, while suburban students would be bused into the City of Wilmington for other grades. By 1981, the four current districts in northern New Castle County, Brandywine, Christina, Colonial, and Red Clay, each composed of city and suburban areas, were established.

There are several private elementary and secondary schools in Wilmington: Salesianum School, Serviam Girls Academy, Nativity Preparatory of Wilmington [1], Ursuline Academy, Wilmington Friends School, The Tatnall School, Tower Hill School, St. Elizabeth High School, and Padua Academy.

Wilmington also hosts two charter schools, including the Charter School of Wilmington, and East Side Charter School, and a magnet school, Cab Calloway School of the Arts which focuses on the performing arts. The Charter School of Wilmington and Cab Calloway School of the Arts are housed in the building of the former Wilmington High School.

Universities and colleges[]

There are several colleges operating in the city of Wilmington:

  • Delaware College of Art & Design
  • Delaware State University – Wilmington Campus
  • Delaware Technical & Community College – Wilmington Campus
  • Dawn Career Institute
  • Drexel University – Wilmington Campus
  • Goldey-Beacom College
  • Springfield College – Wilmington Campus
  • University of Delaware – Wilmington Campus and Downtown Building
  • Widener University – Wilmington Campus, Widener University School of Law and University College
  • Wilmington University – formerly had graduate center in city

Points of interest[]

Delaware Art Museum

  • Brandywine Zoo[74]
  • Delaware Art Museum
  • Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts[75]
  • Delaware Center for Horticulture
  • Delaware Children's Museum
  • Delaware Children's Theatre
  • Delaware Historical Society
  • Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame
  • Delaware Theatre Company[76]
  • DuPont Playhouse
  • Fort Christina State Park
  • Grand Opera House
  • Kalmar Nyckel Foundation & Tall Ship
  • Holy Trinity (Old Swedes') Church
  • Riverfront Market
  • Rockford Tower
  • Rodney Square
  • Wilmington Blue Rocks, Carolina League baseball
  • Wilmington Drama League Wilmington, Delaware[77]
  • The Wilmington Library[78]
  • Wilmington Riverfront
  • Wilmington State Parks which includes Brandywine Park[79]

Near the city[]

  • Brandywine Battlefield
  • Cooch's Bridge
  • Mount Cuba Center
  • Hagley Museum and Library
  • Nemours Mansion and Gardens
  • Winterthur Museum and Country Estate

Sister cities[]

Wilmington has seven sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International: [80]

  • Israel Arad, Israel
  • Germany Fulda, Germany
  • Sweden Kalmar, Sweden
  • People's Republic of China Ningbo, China
  • Italy Olevano sul Tusciano, Italy
  • Nigeria Osogbo, Nigeria
  • United Kingdom Watford, England, UK

See also[]

  • List of notable people from Wilmington, Delaware
  • List of Wilmington Mayors
  • National Register of Historic Places listings in Wilmington, Delaware
  • Sunday Breakfast Mission


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Further reading[]

Published in the 18th and 19th centuries
Published in the 20th century
  • Carol Hoffecker: Corporate Capital: Wilmington in the Twentieth Century, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1983

External links[]

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