Residents of Wawaset Park gathered at a Centennial celebration of the founding of the westside Wilmington neighborhood Feb. 28 to view old photographs and blueprints, share stories and toast one of the oldest planned communities on the eastern seaboard.
Some 215 neighbors, former residents and friends attended the 100th anniversary event at the Ed Oliver Golf Club clubhouse which featured a slideshow, live music and historical displays.
The neighborhood was built on the site of Schuetzen Park, a horse racing track and small fairground where in 1920 the Delaplane became the first airplane to fly in Delaware. A plaque on W. 11th Street commemorates the flight.
The planned community was designed by Edward L. Palmer, Jr. of Baltimore and influenced by the work of landscape architect Frederic Law Olmstead, who designed New York’s Central Park. Palmer Square in Wawaset Park is named for the architect.
The construction of the Park was originally supported by the DuPont Company, which purchased the land in 1917, as a way to provide needed housing for company professionals at all levels of management. The business saw tremendous growth during and after World War I. Row homes, two-family attached and fully-detached homes are found together throughout the 46-square acre district. DuPont Company maintained the right to enforce deed restrictions in Wawaset Park until 1944.
DuPont Company originally planned for 100 residences. The first owners moved in during December 1918. Today, about 210 homes are included in Wawaset Park.
Wawaset Park homes were typically designed in the Tudor Revival, Gothic Revival and Georgian Revival style. Construction materials included brick, stucco, stone and slate. An architectural committee and motivated residents work to ensure the neighborhood maintains it original look and feel.
Wawaset Park’s eight streets were intentionally designed to be narrow and modest to promote walking as the way to get around. Garages are typically tucked away in the back or side yard. Site views were created to maximize privacy though the structures are close together – and accent delightful gardens, walkways, patios and lawns. Residents enjoy easy access to Woodlawn Park, Union Street, Rockford Park and Trolley Square. In the early years, residents could walk to a trolley line to get downtown and back. These days, residents gather regularly – at annual spring and summer picnics and a December tree lighting event.
The community was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.