In 1869, Joseph and Allen Speakman opened a modest workshop in Wilmington, and for the next 150 years that business – the Speakman Company – thrived and grew to become an international brand, trusted employer and committed community force. Today, Speakman’s iconic brass showerheads and brass plumbing fittings are known worldwide.
The Speakman Company was sold in 2018 after a century and a half of local family ownership. To honor that extraordinary local heritage, the new Riverview Works Fund has been created at the Delaware Community Foundation (DCF).
The fund is the brainchild of Rod Ward, Speakman’s Chairman and a fifth-generation family member and his wife, Gina, who wanted to find a way to help the people of Delaware while honoring Speakman’s legacy. The Wards worked with the DCF to establish the donor-advised fund, created through a gift of Speakman Company stock.
The Wards will work with the DCF to develop a process to make grants from the Riverview Works Fund to organizations primarily in the education and wellness sectors.
Gina, who serves on the board of managers at Nemours Children’s Health System is passionate about both health care. Rod, who was a longtime board member at the Eastside Charter School in the Speakman neighborhood, is deeply interested in education. They both also serve on other not-for-profit boards ranging from education advocacy to positive youth development.
“We wanted to make an investment in the state’s future, to propel positive change and enhance opportunity for many well-deserving Delaware organizations,” Gina said.
Serving the community, as well as customers, always has been part of the culture at The Speakman Company. Establishing the fund also honors Bill Speakman, who led the company as a fourth-generation family member for four decades until his death in 2006, when Rod assumed that position.
“Bill was a wonderful and beloved individual known throughout Delaware,” Rod said.
In 1906, the company moved to its Riverview Plant, which was on 30th and Spruce Street in Wilmington and named for its scenic view of the Delaware River. When the company relocated to New Castle in 2003, Speakman worked with the Ingerman Group and the West End Neighborhood House to replace the Riverview Plant with Speakman Place, a community of much-needed affordable townhomes for neighborhood homeownership.
Speakman Place is across the street from Speakman Park. One of the neighborhood streets, Stoddard Place, honors Tom Stoddard, who worked at Speakman from 1928 until his retirement in 2003 at age 93. The Guinness Book of World Records says that’s the longest tenure by an employee at a single company.
“Tom was one of the great ones,” Rod said.
“Speakman Place was a fitting ending to the Riverview Plant, and a wonderful beginning for new homeowners,” Rod said.
The Wards said DCF was the right partner for their efforts.
“There are a lot of proven, well-run organizations in Delaware that need support,” Rod said. “We truly appreciate the knowledge and expertise the DCF provides us in deciding where the funds are most needed and will do the most good. Working with them made a lot of sense to create a Delaware-focused donor-advised fund.”
The new Riverview Works Fund is one of more than 1,300 charitable funds at the DCF. From these funds, the DCF awards an average of $20 million each year in grants and scholarships to charitable causes and organizations.
“The Riverview Works Fund is a model of how the DCF partners with generous people to help empower their charitable giving,” Comstock-Gay said. “The Wards are passionate about making a difference, and so are we at the DCF. We will look forward to learning from them. And as the community foundation, our role is to use our community knowledge and relationships to help the Wards determine how they can make the greatest impact on the causes they care about most.”