Sean “Sinatra” Reilly’s Quaker Hill Home in Wilmington, Delaware
(page 2 of 4)
Quaker Hill was established as an historic district by the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. It’s a tiny neighborhood, only 151 buildings on 250 acres, bordered by Tatnall and Jefferson streets, from Second through Eighth streets.
The neighborhood dates back to the early 18th century when Elizabeth Shipley, a Quaker from Philadelphia, persuaded her husband, William, to build a home in Wilmington. The first Friends Meeting House opened its doors in 1738.
George Washington spent time in the house across the street in the summer of 1780. The building was demolished long ago but Reilly can imagine the Revolutionary War general, tall and resplendent in his uniform, striding purposefully down Fourth Street toward Ships Tavern on Market Street.
“Lots of people were born in this house,” he says. “Lots of people died in this house.”
In 1987, when Reilly bought his home, many of the newcomers were losing their zeal for city life. The neighborhood was not becoming gentrified fast enough to suit investors. He paid $115,000 for the property, $45,000 less than the previous owner paid in 1981.
By the 1990s, most of the urban pioneers had moved out, discouraged by crime and stagnant property values. The gay community was decimated by AIDS.
Reilly and his partner stayed. They added a large wooden deck surrounded by trees, a leafy oasis amid the brick and concrete. They grew in tune with the hum of the city. And the location was close to Shipley Grill, the restaurant Reilly bought in 1989. “I would be miserable in the suburbs,” he says.
In fact, Reilly grew up happily in North Wilmington in a home his father built. Each night, his mother would put the kids to bed, singing the Sinatra classic, “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.”
That album is one of his many Sinatra albums and books, stacked neatly atop a sleek bar cabinet with a Rat Pack vibe.
continues on page 3...