Area Facts

Facts and other notable information about Greater Wilmington, Delaware
and the Brandywine Valley 

  • Wilmington was founded in 1638 as the Colony of New Sweden by Peter Minuit, former Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam - and is the first permanent Old World settlement in the Delaware Valley.
     
  • The settlers sailed from Goteburg, on the west coast of Sweden, late in November 1637 and established Fort Christina on March 29, 1638. That settlement eventually became Wilmington and the State of Delaware.
     
  • Swedes and Finns built America's first log cabins here in 1638 as part of Fort Christina.
     
  • Multi-ethnic and multi-racial from the beginning, Wilmington's 26 original settlers of 1638 included Swedes, Finns, Dutch, and Germans, plus Anthoni, "the Black Swede" - a freeman from the Caribbean.
     
  • All 26 original settlers left behind in 1638 were alive and well when the tall ship Kalmar Nyckel returned from Sweden two years later with women and children.
     
  • Granted to William Penn by King Charles in 1682, Delaware came to be known as the "Lower Three Counties of Pennsylvania." Penn allowed Delaware to separate from Pennsylvania in 1704. The Colony continued sharing the same crown-appointed governor until separation from England in 1776.
     
  • William Penn first set foot in the New World at New Castle, Delaware, on October 27, 1682.
     
  • Old Swedes Church, constructed in 1698, is the nation's oldest in regular use for worship as originally built. Its graveyard (1638) holds the remains of over 15,000 men, women and children, who come from a variety of religious traditions.
     
  • Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon surveyed the state's southern and western borders from 1763-68, establishing the famous Mason-Dixon line that is the southern border of Pennsylvania, north of which slavery was illegal.
     
  • The northern border of Delaware is a 12-mile arc centered on the cupola of the old state capital building in New Castle.
     
  • Delaware was the first state to ratify the new U.S. Constitution (December 7, 1787) and, thus, earned its title, the "First State."
     
  • Inventor Oliver Evans of Newport revolutionized the four-milling industry in 1785 by automating the process, greatly reducing the cost of turning grain into flour.
     
  • Wilmington was known as the "last stop on the Underground Railroad." Local residents Harriett Tubman and Thomas Garrett worked together to bring several thousand slaves to freedom. The park along the Christina River in Downtown Wilmington honors them.
     
  • Some of the first ironclad and all-iron ships in the U.S. were built here - and Wilmington led the country in shipbuilding during the 1870s. Shipbuilding continued as a major industry through the end of World War II.
     
  • Beautiful railroad coaches made from precious woods, such as mahogany and teak and referred to as "varnish" by railroad workers, were manufactured here in the 1870s, ‘80s and ‘90s.
     
  • The passenger coaches tourists ride today on Colorado's popular Durango & Silverton Railroad were built in Wilmington in 1880.
     
  • The Grand Opera House, built by the Masonic Order in 1871 and restored in the 1970s, has one of the nation's finest examples of a cast-iron façade.
     
  • The state bird - the Blue Hen, a renowned type of fighting gamecock - accompanied Delaware troops in the Revolutionary War and loaned its name to the soldiers.
     
  • The state bug is the Lady Bug - chosen because of its beauty and benefits to agriculture.
     
  • The nation's first state-long concrete highway (finished in 1923 and now part of U.S. 13) was the project of T. Coleman du Pont, chairman of the DuPont Company who designed, paid for, and supervised its construction.
     
  • Wilmington is the homeport of the Tall Ship Kalmar Nyckel, Delaware's sea-going Ambassador of Good Will, the full-size re-creation of the ornate ship that brought the first settlers from Sweden in 1638 and made three more roundtrip Atlantic crossings.
     
  • In the 1920s, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., approached the citizens of Historic New Castle (founded by the Dutch as Fort Casimir in 1651) about turning the city into a living history museum. They turned him down and he went on to create Historic Williamsburg, VA.
     
  • Wilmington's Amtrak station is the nation's ninth busiest and handles approximately 90 trains daily.
     
  • Wilmington - a railroad center since the 1840s - is the home of Amtrak's National Operations Center and National Training Center as well as its major east coast repair shops for locomotives and coaches.
     
  • The Port of Wilmington is the nation's busiest importer of fruit, bananas, and concentrated juice. It has the largest refrigerated warehouse facility at dockside - and the only controlled-atmosphere room at dockside - in North America. Food imported to Wilmington goes to Canada to Richmond, VA, to Chicago and to Texas.
     
  • Notables from Delaware:  
     
    • Valerie Bertinelli, Actress
    • Clifford Brown, Musician
    • Bob Marley, Musician
    • Robert Mitchum, Actor
    • Ryan Phillippe, Actor
    • Judge Reinhold, Actor
    • Elisabeth Shue, Actress
    • George Thorogood, Musician
    • Ken Burns, Filmmaker / Documentarian
    • Luke Matheny, Director, Academy Award Winner