Quaker Hill and Downtown Historical Buildings, Wilmington

Quaker Hill and Downtown Historical Buildings (Self Guided), Wilmington

For many visitors to Delaware's Wilmington, the downtown district is the main area of interest.

Indeed, the majority of Wilmington's most distinguished attractions are found here. Steeped in history, this part of the city still carries legacy of its first Swedish settlers much as that of the du Pont family who left a great deal of mark on the town's history. Some of the key local landmarks are closely associated with the two, including the Hendrickson House Museum and the Old Swedes Episcopal Church, and the Wilmington Public Library, respectively.

The integral part of Downtown Wilmington is the Quaker Hill neighborhood. Established in the first half of the 18th century, this historic district encompasses over 150 contributing buildings whose historical character and architectural diversity vividly illustrate the heritage of Delaware’s Wilmington in three dimensions. Notable residential and religious structures here include St. Peter's Cathedral and Wilmington Friends Meeting, to mention but a few.

Spending a day exploring the local highlights can be an easy on-foot adventure if you have self-guiding GPSmyCity mobile app at your disposal. Just grab it and hit the streets of this charming city to enjoy the distinctive culture and history it has to offer like a local!
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Quaker Hill and Downtown Historical Buildings Map

Guide Name: Quaker Hill and Downtown Historical Buildings
Guide Location: USA » Wilmington (See other walking tours in Wilmington)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: Sandra
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Friends Meetinghouse
  • St. Peter's Cathedral
  • Woodward Houses
  • Grace United Methodist Church
  • Wilmington Public Library
  • Grand Opera House
  • Old Town Hall
  • St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church
  • Hendrickson House Museum
  • Holy Trinity Episcopal Church (Old Swedes)
Friends Meetinghouse

1) Friends Meetinghouse

Friends Meetinghouse is a historic Quaker meeting house in the Quaker Hill neighborhood. The meeting is still active with a membership of about 400 and is part of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. It was built in 1815–1817 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

The first Quaker meeting for worship in Delaware was held in New Castle at the house of Governor Lovelace in September 1672, when George Fox visited the town. After William Penn became proprietor of the "Three Lower Counties," as Delaware was then known, regular meetings were formed in Newark, Centre and New Castle. Regular meetings did not begin in Wilmington until 1735 when William and Elizabeth Shipley built a one-story brick house near Fourth and Shipley Streets that was used for worship as a Preparative Meeting, officially beginning in 1738. In 1750 the status of Monthly Meeting was granted by the Concord Quarterly Meeting.

The first dedicated meetinghouse was built across the street from the current site in 1738 and measured 25 feet (7.6 m) square. The second meetinghouse was built in 1748 on the current site and could hold 500 people. The present building was opened on September 25, 1817 and is said to hold 700 people. A school was founded here in 1748 in the meetinghouse built in 1738, which has evolved into the Wilmington Friends School. In 1937 the school moved from Quaker Hill to the Alapocas neighborhood of Wilmington.

John Dickinson, the "penman of the Revolution," is buried in the adjoining burial ground, as are abolitionist Thomas Garrett and Delaware Governor Caleb P. Bennett. Garrett, one of the best known conductors on the Underground Railroad, was a member of the meeting, and lived on Quaker Hill at 227 Shipley Street. He worked closely with Harriet Tubman and is said to have helped 2,700 slaves reach freedom. About 1,500 people came to his funeral at the meetinghouse in January, 1871 where Lucretia Mott spoke.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
St. Peter's Cathedral

2) St. Peter's Cathedral

St. Peter's Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral in the Quaker Hill Historic District of Wilmington. The cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese. It has held this distinction since the early 20th century.

The cathedral was designed by architect Pierre Bauduy in 1818. It was built in the Romanesque Revival architectural style. The church was extended and the bell tower added in 1829.

Much of the interior was added during a large remodeling project that was completed in 1905. The baptistry, altars and frescoes were added at that time. The stained glass, created by Franz Xavier Zettler, was added in 1900.

St. Peter Cathedral school is located behind the cathedral. It was previously attached to the cathedral. But in 1905, when the apostolic pro-nuncio arrived after the church's remodeling project, he noticed that the church was joined to a rectory and a school. Since a cathedral must be free-standing and debt free, he refused to approve the church as a cathedral. Changes were made over the following years and the church was was eventually designated the cathedral of the diocese.

All visitors are invited to attend mass or schedule a tour of the building. Tours must be planned in advance by contacting the cathedral. Mass takes place Monday through Friday at 12:10 PM, Saturday at 4 PM and Sunday at 9:30 AM.
Woodward Houses

3) Woodward Houses

Woodward Houses are two historic homes located at Wilmington, New Castle County, Delaware. The house at 701 West Street was built about 1745, and is a 3+1⁄2-story, three bay, quarried granite dwelling with a gable roof. It has an L-shaped, side-hall plan.

The house at 703 West Street was built about 1760, and is a 3+1⁄2-story, three-bay, stuccoed stone dwelling with a gable roof. It is three feet shorter in both length and width than 701. Its interior was altered in the mid-19th century and then in the 1930s to accommodate apartment dwellings.

They are excellent examples of the Georgian style. The houses were probably built by Joseph Woodward, a Quaker ropemaker from West Chester, Pennsylvania. There is a legend that the house at 703 contains a hearthstone which was a section of the platform where Thomas Jefferson stood to read the Declaration of Independence to the people of Philadelphia.

The houses were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Grace United Methodist Church

4) Grace United Methodist Church

Grace United Methodist Church is a historic Methodist church located at the intersection of North Washington, 9th and West Streets in Wilmington, Delaware. The church was founded in 1865 and was built in 1868 being dedicated to the Union victory at Gettysburg, which saved the city from being ransacked by the advancing Confederates.

Designed by Wilmington architect Thomas Dixon, it includes several adjacent buildings featuring Victorian Gothic style, constructed of serpentine stone of a light pea green color. The church base measures approximately 166 feet (50 m) by 102 feet (31 m). It features two steeple towers topped by needle spires crowned with a Celtic cross rising to 186 feet (56.7 m) on the North Washington and 9th Street facades, a triple arch entrance, and large stained glass windows.

This historic church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Wilmington Public Library

5) Wilmington Public Library

The Wilmington Public Library was originally incorporated in 1754, attesting to which is a handwritten receipt for dues. However, due to the Revolutionary War and the ensued lack of funds, the library service was temporarily ceased until 1788 when the it was reinstated with the help of John Dickinson, Jacob Broom and Gunning Bedford, the three prominent Delawareans who were the original signers of the U.S. Constitution.

The early Library was located at the residence of the Librarian. As the size of the collections grew, the Library quarters likewise expanded. The Town Hall was its primary site until 1861 when the John Dickinson Mansion at 8th and Market was razed and a new building was constructed to meet the needs of the Library in 1899.

During the early 20th century, when the Library began to once again feel the need for more space, Pierre S. du Pont spearheaded a campaign to provide a larger building and improved services. He donated the property for the current building, chaired the art committee which supervised the architectural development of it and headed the campaign to raise funds for the new building. Mr. du Pont was also instrumental in attracting the support of public funds for the new Library.

The current location of the Wilmington Public Library was dedicated in 1922 and remained physically unchanged until 1970 when the interior was extensively renovated.

The fascinating Library building is a massive white-gray edifice designed in the Neoclassic style by renowned architects Alfred Githens and Edward Tilton. The symmetrical façade is decorated with prominent Ionic pilasters, garlands, a terra-cotta frieze with Egyptian motifs, and narrow grilled windows.
Grand Opera House

6) Grand Opera House (must see)

The Grand Opera House is a four-story theater built in 1871. It was designed by Thomas Dixon in the Second Empire architectural style for the Delaware Grand Lodge of Masons. Originally a theatre and Masonic Temple, the Grand Opera House famously uses Masonic imagery such as the Eye of Providence.

Patrons could see operas, symphonies, vaudeville acts and burlesque theatre through 1930. Warner Brothers ran the Grand Opera House as a movie theatre from 1930 through 1967. Once the movie theatre closed, it reopened to orchestral, opera and ballet performances.

Visitors to Wilmington can view a number of live performances at the Grand Opera House depending on when they are in the city. They can also take part in a group tour by calling ahead and making advanced arrangements. Most will simply enjoy a walking tour that allows them to admire the architecture of the building in a cozy, downtown environment.

The Grand Opera House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
Old Town Hall

7) Old Town Hall

Old Town Hall was built in 1798 as the center of the city's government. For almost a century, town meetings, elections and trials were held at the town hall. Likewise, the building was home to a library and jail cells. It held this role until 1916 when it was purchased by the Historical Society of Delaware.

Modeled after Philadelphia’s Congress Hall, the Old Town Hall is designed in the late-Georgian and early-Federal architectural styles. The brick building has a sloping roof with an octagonal cupola.

It originally held a bronze bell referred to as the Tatnall Bell. It was named after the Wilmington merchant who purchased the bell and the clock for the town hall. The bell was cast in England and worked with the clock to strike on the hour. It could not be rung manually to sound a fire alarm, call citizens to meetings, or perform special celebration or mourning. Today the Tatnall Bell can be found across the street from the Old Town Hall between the Simms House and the Library.

Those who wish to tour the building may take a self-guided tour from noon to 5 PM on Wednesdays through Sundays. These tours need to be scheduled in advance by contacting the historical society. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church

8) St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church

St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception is a historic Roman Catholic church in Wilmington. St. Mary's is the only active church in Delaware founded by Saint John Neumann, Bishop of Philadelphia 1852–1860, who consecrated it on October 31, 1858. The church and adjacent St. Mary's school were the principal institutions for worship and the education and integration of thousands of Irish immigrants in Wilmington, most of whom lived in the parish upon first arriving. The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

The church is a brick building trimmed in limestone and measuring about 100 feet long and 60 feet wide. The front facade features three brick towers; two corner ones are set diagonally, with onion-shaped domes topped with crosses and the center square tower (built 1881), now used as a belfry, has arched louvered openings. The dome on the center tower replaced an original wooden belfry and smaller dome destroyed by fire in March 1966. The parochial Catholic school, St. Mary's, was built on the adjacent property in 1866. St. Mary's parish became part of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington at its inception in 1868.

Originally incorporated as "St. Mary’s Catholic Church" in 1877, the name of the church was changed when it was reincorporated in 1894 and became incorporated as "Church of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception."

Bishop Neumann was beatified during the Second Vatican Council on October 13, 1963, and was canonized on June 19, 1977 by Blessed Pope Paul VI. In commemoration of his canonization, the parish secured a life-sized image of the new saint from the well-known local sculptor Charles Parks. The small, close-knit, racially mixed parish continues to be an oasis of faith on the East Side of the city.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Hendrickson House Museum

9) Hendrickson House Museum

Hendrickson House is one of the oldest houses in the state of Delaware and one of the oldest surviving Swedish-American homes in the United States. It forms part of Old Swedes Historic Site, a National Historic Landmark, which includes Holy Trinity Church (Old Swedes) (1698–99) and burial ground (1638) with gravestones dating back more than 400 years.

The house was originally built in 1690 in Ridley Township near Chester, Pennsylvania as the home of Swedish farmer Andrew Hendrickson and his wife, Brigitta Morton, both native of the New Sweden colony. Overall, three generations of Hendricksons had lived here. Enlarged in the 1790s, the property consists of one large room on the first floor for all the family's daily activities and a large bedroom on the second floor.

The family sold it in 1788, upon which the house was used for accommodating tenant farmers. A fire in the early 1900s destroyed many wooden parts thereof. Still a fine example of a typical farmhouse, this historic home provides insight into late 17th-century life in America. In 1958 the house was moved to its current location in Wilmington, Delaware, to prevent it from being torn down, where it then underwent a restoration process.

The pine mantel and woodwork around the large fireplace are original, but the floorboards were taken from a Massachusetts farmhouse of the same period. The pine ceiling beams were made by hand as part of the restoration. Existing doors and windows were used as patterns for new ones, and the curved staircase was reconstructed in accordance with marks on the walls. The straight staircase is new; it was added for safety reasons. The house is now used as the church offices and a small museum.

The latter is open Wednesday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Holy Trinity Episcopal Church (Old Swedes)

10) Holy Trinity Episcopal Church (Old Swedes)

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, also known as Old Swedes, is a historic temple and the second church in Wilmington's Trinity Parish. Built in 1698–99 in the territory formerly known the colony of New Sweden, it is considered to be the city's oldest religious site. The church was consecrated on Trinity Sunday, June 4, 1699.

The building is constructed from local blue granite, with the entrance tower made of Swedish bricks that had been used as ship's ballast.

The church is located on the site of the Fort Christina's burial ground, which dates to 1638, and as such claims to be "the nation's oldest church building still used for worship as originally built". There are reportedly over 15,000 burials in the churchyard. Lutheran church services were held in the Swedish language here well into the 18th century.

Holy Trinity in Wilmington has housed an Episcopal parish since 1791 and is now part of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware.

Being a fine example of Swedish-American architecture, it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961. The church is currently among the few surviving public buildings in Wilmington that reflect the Swedish colonial effort. It is considered part of First State National Historical Park, and is often visited by tourists, remaining open for both tours and religious activities.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

Walking Tours in Wilmington, Delaware

Create Your Own Walk in Wilmington

Create Your Own Walk in Wilmington

Creating your own self-guided walk in Wilmington is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Wilmington Introduction Walking Tour

Wilmington Introduction Walking Tour

Wilmington is the largest city in Delaware. It lies at the confluence of the Brandywine and Christina Rivers. Wilmington was originally home to the Lenape people. However, the land was purchased from Chief Mattahorn by the Swedish South Company in 1638. They built Fort Christina at the mouth of what would later be called the Christina River.

The Swedish lost control of the Fort Christina...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles