Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley share a remarkable history. Shaped by both Swedish and English influence, the area was also a major stop on the Underground Railroad and a place where American ingenuity flourished.
No survey of northern Delaware history is complete without a visit to Historic New Castle, whose colonial architecture is remarkably well-preserved. In fact, New Castle is second only to Williamsburg, Virginia in the number and authenticity of its historic structures. The Amstel House Museum, Dutch House, Read House & Gardens, and New Castle Court House Museum are among the most notable stops.
The Court House is also a significant site for Underground Railroad history, as it was here that local abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor Thomas Garrett was tried for the aid he’d rendered to enslaved persons trying to reach the north.
At Wilmington’s Riverfront, the Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park commemorates both Garrett and legendary abolitionist Harriett Tubman. Look for the striking statue depicting them. Downtown, trace the history of slavery and the Underground Railroad at the Delaware History Museum and its affiliated Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage.
Also in Wilmington, trace the footsteps of Delaware’s earliest European settlers at the Old Swedes Historic Site or with a trip aboard the Kalmar Nyckel, a replica of the ship that brought those first settlers to the Wilmington area.
In Historic Odessa, the Corbit-Sharp House was the home of a noted Underground Railroad sympathizer and provided refuge to at least one escaping enslaved person. Odessa’s other historic properties provide some of the finest examples of 18th- and 19th-century architecture in the region.
Finally, trace the origins of American entrepreneurship with a visit to Hagley Museum and Library, where the original du Pont gunpowder factory has been preserved and thousands of patent models are permanently on display. The Marshall Steam Museum at Auburn Heights boasts the world’s largest collection of operating steam cars, along with antique autos and 1/8 size locomotive reproductions. Greenbank Mills & Philips Farm is a living history museum with tours and programs that introduce you to staple industries of the early republic, including farming, milling and textile production.