Who Says Millennials Don’t Care About History? Local Group Champions Civic Revival

Downtown Wilmington: long a destination for Presidential hopefuls.

Did you know that virtually every single US President has visited Wilmington? If you’re interested in hearing the fascinating backstory, come join us at the next meeting of the Wilmington History Society (WHS), Wednesday, September 19 at the Chelsea Tavern. 

Wilmington Historical Society furthers our civic identity

Nathan Field and I recently launched the Wilmington History Society to promote a stronger sense of local community and civic identity in Wilmington. We believe that cultivating a community that understands its own geographic history will help the city redefine itself in the post-Dupont era. We will continue growing our community by promoting fun and interesting Happy Hour talks and group discussions about local city history.

This group has fun talking history! The Wilmington Historical Society meets monthly at Chelsea Tavern. Next mtng: Wed., 9/19.

Gatherings are held in the basement bar of the Chelsea Tavern, on the third Wednesday of each month. Each meeting features a different Wilmingtonian who presents for 20 minutes on some topic of Wilmington history that ties into an issue on people’s minds today. The presentations are preceded and followed by group discussion, eating, drinking and networking.

Nathan and I founded the WHS in April of 2018 after both moving back from larger cities; myself from Brooklyn, and Nathan from Washington DC.

Widespread apathy amongst local Wilmingtonians about their city caused us frustration. Too many of the local best and brightest feel the need to leave the Wilmington area to “make it.”

Moreover, the constant partisanship and tension over national-level politics was worrisome. We live in an age when cable and social media force sensationalist headlines and oversimplified stories into peoples’ minds nonstop.

So Nathan and I said to each other: “Don’t we have our own issues here in Wilmington to worry about? We have the ability do something about problems in our own community.”

Our mission to grow excitement and interest in Wilmington

With the growing sense of political apathy among the younger generation, The Wilmington History Society aims to achieve two core goals:

First, to revitalize a sense of organic, in-person community in the Wilmington metro area. Ironically, the very technology claiming to connect us has destroyed the traditional face-to-face community.

By hosting in-person events and making community interaction a core part of our mission, we hope to change the status quo.

Second, we want to generate more excitement and interest in Wilmington. Seems like the internet has all but destroyed the old business model of local newspapers. And national cable shows have to aim for a national audience. As a result, there is a giant gap in knowledge, discussion and information about anything local.

The talks are casual but informative. The Wilmington Historical Society welcomes anyone who might want to join.

Our monthly discussions shed light specifically on Wilmington history and issues. We hope our efforts fill the gap and to raise the level civic discourse related to Wilmington. 

Wilmington is not New York or Philly, nor should it be, but it does have a long and interesting history in its own right.  It is a shame how many of Wilmington’s best and brightest people leave!

Interesting discussion topics

Our meeting topics so far have covered Wilmington’s crime in a historical context, looking at the question, “Is it really worse today?” Town Square Delaware contributor Kevin McGonegal made an excellent presentation on the evolution of Wilmington’s role in promoting economic development.

The following month I shared how other classic company towns around the US have reinvented themselves after their companies relocated. In July, Wilmington resident, Jason Lombardo, gave a thought-provoking talk on how the history of the train network in the city influences what is possible for Wilmington commuters today.

Nathan’s talk on “US Presidential visits to Wilmington” will reveal remarkable bits of Wilmington and its national role in politics. Come join us on 9/19 to get a taste of the Wilmington Historical Society.

The Wilmington Historical Society is building a community that is meant to serve as the foundation for the future of Wilmington. There are no shortcuts to building a proud and flourishing community in our city. The group welcomes anyone new to come and join. We hope to see you there.

To see more details and to RSVP, visit the Wilmington Historical Society website.

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About the Contributor

Benjamin Rapkin

Benjamin Rapkin

Benjamin Rapkin is a city researcher who focuses on foundational community building and economic development, with a special interest in avoiding the displacement of incumbent residents.