A history of the property
On October 6, 2010 Susan Mulchahey Chase, Volunteer for TheDCH, and well-known consulting historian and author of numerous publications about the history of Wilmington and the state of Delaware presented her research into the history of TheDCH property at TheDCH Annual Meeting. Excerpts from this presentation, History Unfolds—1610 Shallcross Avenue to DCH, are summarized below.
The Delaware Center for Horticulture nestles in the midst of a large tract of land that, over a couple of decades, made its way from private ownership to public ownership as part of Brandywine Park.
According to records dating back to 1876, owners included Lewis Bartholomew, a quarryman who lived just across Dupont on Shallcross, William Poole Bancroft, member of the Board of Park Commissioners and one of the city’s most ardent and active park advocates, and the city of Wilmington's Board of Park Commissioners. In 1967, a new city Department of Parks and Recreation replaced the board.
The story of this building, as is often true of old buildings, is far from a simple timeline narrative. Although once a rental property that was home to laboring families of modest means, the structure and the land are also linked to the city’s history—first, William Poole Bancroft, a visionary leader in many aspects of park and city planning, next, the site of a WPA project, then the source of vast numbers of parks “furnishings,” and now home to an organization that serves the community in so many varied, creative, and valuable ways.
Early in 1935, as part of the Roosevelt administration's back to work programs that included the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the WPA city workers laid garage and storage shed foundations and graded the drive down to the basement. A crew of twenty-five WPA workers — bricklayers, carpenters, concrete workers, and laborers from local relief rolls — started work in August 1935 and finished in December 1935. The project, one of thirty-six the WPA undertook in the city, cost just under $13,000. Federal funds covered approximately $7,000 and the Board of Park Commissioners contributed the balance. As part of this project, the WPA crew erected the brick wall to create the courtyard and constructed the substantial addition at the southeast corner of the house.
Parks personnel knew the site as the “parks storehouse.” The property not only housed maintenance equipment and vehicles, but also provided space for mechanical repairs, welding, and, perhaps most surprising, space for casting concrete lampposts, bench ends, roadside bollards, drinking fountains, and birdbaths for use in the parks.
The trees are in at St. Patrick’s & St. Mary’s Church on King Street! Thanks so much for what you do for our community. You’re the best!
— Eleanor Riley