The Mystery of the Garrett Snuff Fortune

A fortune built on Red Clay Creek went mostly to lawyers.


Published:


Haven’t written a will yet? Then, you should know about the Garrett Snuff fortune—$30 million, most of which went to lawyers.

The story begins in 1930 when Henrietta Schaeffer Garrett—a childless widow and heir to a fortune that took 150 years to build—died without heeding her long-dead husband’s request that she write a will. By the time it was over in the 1950s, more than 26,000 self-proclaimed heirs had come forward to claim the estate.

“Like ants frenzied by a blog of sticky honey, the alleged heirs…converged on Philadelphia by bus, train and automobile,” wrote historian Clifford Weslager. Dozens misrepresented their own ancestry, accused their dead parents of having affairs and falsified official and family documents to present themselves as Garrett heirs.

In Germany, a man who shared Henrietta’s maiden name shot his aunt and uncle after they refused to fund his trip to America to claim the Garrett fortune. (In remorse, he then committed suicide.) In Philadelphia, “someone” slipped an entire forged page into the bound files of death certificates in the vital records office. Even Henrietta’s trusted business manager made his play.

“One searches the voluminous records of the Garrett case in vain to find an unselfish character to contrast the godly with the unrighteous,” wrote Weslager. “There was one wholesome, fine, upright person, and that was Walter Garrett, whose money was the cause of it all.”

Garrett was the great-grandson of John Garrett, who began making snuff in 1782 at what had been a flour mill on Red Clay Creek near Yorklyn. Snuff is a form of powdered tobacco inhaled into the nose by users. Natives of Brazil are the first to have used snuff, which was introduced to Europe by a Franciscan monk after he noticed natives using it on Columbus’ second voyage in 1493. By the 18th century, snuff was the tobacco product of choice among elite Westerners.

Garrett Snuff was long a leading brand, mostly because the family got into the business early and built a lead over other producers. Folk tales in New Castle County asserted that the water of Red Clay Creek conveyed special properties to the Garrett products. But, according to Weslager, the tobacco was grown elsewhere and Garrett manufacturing processes were nothing unusual.

It was a hugely profitable business. In 1850, Walter’s father, William Garrett, built what Weslager called “one of the most pretentious mansions in Christiana Hundred”—three stories tall with 19 rooms, oak floors, paneled doors, wainscoting, fireplaces with marble mantles and balustrade stairs. Locals called it the “snuff mill mansion.” And it wasn’t even William Garrett’s full-time home; he had moved to Philadelphia. William Garrett bequeathed the snuff mill to his sons, Walter and William Jr., the latter of whom died childless, thus returning his share to his brother.

When Walter Garrett married Henrietta Schaeffer in 1871, he was a 40-year-old bachelor—tall and heavyset, with a flowing mustache, who wore a frock coat, starched collar and silk hat. She was 22, and blond and had left school in the eighth grade. As one of the richest men in Philadelphia, Garrett had a wide choice of potential wives. According to Weslager, however, he was “smitten” when he saw Henrietta scrubbing the stoop in front of her parents’ house on South 13th Street.

“A latter-day Cinderella story” is how the newspapers described it. Walter bought her a three-and-a-half-story house on South Ninth Street. Then he bought the house next door for her family and connected the two so Henrietta could visit her family at will. He also provided a coach and horses, a coachman, a cook, a personal maid and a downstairs maid.

“To say that Walter loved his pretty, young wife is an understatement,” wrote Weslager. “He adored her, he cherished her and he became so devoted to her that he didn’t want to leave her side.” Henrietta didn’t like highbrow amusements such as the opera, so Walter stopped going. She did like sentimental sheet music, so he bought her a rosewood piano on which to play it. She also liked Atlantic City, so he built her a 10-room “cottage.”

But Henrietta was not dumb. After Walter died in 1895, she did not blow the $6 million he left her. She lived modestly—more so than Walter—and kept careful track of her investments. Her physician would later testify that he often found her reading stock reports when he made house calls. In the 35 years before her own death, the estate grew to $17 million and to $30 million by the time it was distributed in 1951.

Settling the estate took years because every claim had to be investigated. In 1937, Henrietta’s body was exhumed to confirm that no will had been secreted in the coffin. Genealogists produced a three-volume report dismissing relationships to all but three cousins. These were people Henrietta had never met, but to whom she was related through her mother.

Afterward, workers went to Henrietta’s house on Ninth Street with orders to smash everything, including the rosewood piano. Administrators had decided that nothing could be sold, lest some buyer later use an item to claim a relationship to the family and make a new claim on the fortune. The fragments were loaded into seven wagons, transported to a lot outside the city and burned.

Now, call your lawyer and make that will.
 

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May 2019

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View map »

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Commemorate the prolific artistic achievements of two distinguished Delaware artists at the Historic Odessa Foundation’s exhibit, The Keepers of Color: Paintings by Marilyn Bauman and Edward...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Historic Houses of Odessa
201 Main Street
Odessa, DE  19730
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Sponsor: Historic Odessa Foundation
Telephone: 302-378-4119-
Contact Name: Jennifer Cabell Kostik
Website »

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From the dazzling gold of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation robe to the simple sophistication of Princess Margaret’s wedding dress, from the majesty of royal crowns and tiaras to the comfort...

Cost: $6-$20

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
5105 Kennett Pike
Winterthur, DE  19807
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Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information & Tours
Website »

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TACIT 2019 Friends' Juried Exhibition May 21 - September 26, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, June 7, 2019 5 - 9 PM during first Friday Art Loop Juried by Cynthia Hawkins...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

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NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

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UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition May 3 – May 26, 2019 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, May 3, 2019, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop In a...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

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Thursdays  Storytime at the Brandywine Zoo, 10:30 am. - 11:15 am Enjoy fun animal stories read by our own zoo story-telling team! Story Time may include a craft, activity, or live animal...

Cost: Adults $7, Seniors $5, Kids $5; free for under 3yrs and for Zoo members.

Where:
Brandywine Zoo
1001 North Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Telephone: 302-571-7747
Website »

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Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

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Start your Sunday on the water with our delicious brunch cruise. Enjoy a mouth-watering brunch buffet, then begin a two-hour cruise along the beautiful Christina River out to the Delaware, complete...

Cost: $45 for Adults, $22,50 for Children 15 and Under

Where:
Riverboat Queen
Riverwalk Public Dock, Behind Iron Hill
620 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-425-4890
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Relax and unwind after a long day with the Museum’s popular Happy Hour series. Mingle with friends and enjoy live music on the terrace or tour the galleries indoors. Special themed nights...

Cost: Museum Admission is Free

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

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Start your weekend early on the Queen! Enjoy all the sights of our River Cruise from the ship’s deck with a summer cocktail! Our Happy Hour Cruises take you down the Christina and provide weekly...

Cost: Adults: $24 Seniors: $20 Kids: $12

Where:
Riverboat Queen
Riverwalk Public Dock, Behind Iron Hill
620 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-425-4890

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Book your party of 10+ people on The Patio & receive 10% off for everyone in your group, in addition to a reserved table! Offer available only when prearranged. The Patio at Market Kitchen...

Cost: Free admission

Where:
Market Kitchen & Bar at the Hilton Christiana
100 Continental Dr.
Newark, DE  19713
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Laura Story is a GRAMMY award-winning singer/ songwriter and bestselling author who has received Billboard Music Awards, multiple GMA Dove Awards, and an RIAA Gold Certification for her massive No....

Cost: $26-$38

Where:
The Grand Opera House
818 N. Market Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: MARKINC.org
Telephone: 302-584-6461
Contact Name: Melissa Weisenfels
Website »

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The Lighthouse Inc. Church presenta el servicio de la iglesia en espanol.  El servicio de la iglesia en espanol comenzia 14 de merzo de 2019.  Hables espanol?  Entonces este es el...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 S Railroad Ave
Wyoming, DE  19934-1026
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Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc.Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore

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Plein Air, an exhibition of local landscape paintings by Jim Rehak, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from May 3-31, 2019. The artist will host a free opening reception on Friday, May 3 from...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
2nd Floor, Carvel Building
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

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Helena van Emmerik-Finn  “Anything Goes” ~ Pastels & Oil Paintings Opening Reception to Meet the Artist – Friday, May 3, 5 – 8 PM   Helena’s...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

TACIT 2019 Friends' Juried Exhibition May 21 - September 26, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, June 7, 2019 5 - 9 PM during first Friday Art Loop Juried by Cynthia Hawkins...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

March 23 – August 4, 2019 Edward Loper, Sr. is one of Delaware’s most celebrated artists, having lived his entire life in the state and taught generations of local artists. His son,...

Cost: Free with admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

Commemorate the prolific artistic achievements of two distinguished Delaware artists at the Historic Odessa Foundation’s exhibit, The Keepers of Color: Paintings by Marilyn Bauman and Edward...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Historic Houses of Odessa
201 Main Street
Odessa, DE  19730
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Odessa Foundation
Telephone: 302-378-4119-
Contact Name: Jennifer Cabell Kostik
Website »

More information

cusp The University of Delaware 2019 MFA Thesis Exhibition May 3 - May 30 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, May 3, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop In a joint venture with the...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

From the dazzling gold of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation robe to the simple sophistication of Princess Margaret’s wedding dress, from the majesty of royal crowns and tiaras to the comfort...

Cost: $6-$20

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
5105 Kennett Pike
Winterthur, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information & Tours
Website »

More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition May 3 – May 26, 2019 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, May 3, 2019, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop In a...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

Every Friday | 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.   Read a story fromFairy Tales to Nursery Rhymes, explore art, and create. Ages 2+. Family Friendly.  

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentemere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

The Milton Farmers’ Market is held each Friday from April 19th until October 4th  (except September 27th) from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm at 6 Village Center Boulevard, Milton, DE  19968.

Cost: Free

Where:
Grounds of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
6 Village Center Boulevard
Milton, DE  19968
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Sponsor: Milton Farmers' Market
Contact Name: KA Jordan
Website »

More information

Join us for a 1.5 hour sightseeing tour along the historic Christiana River. View the city from this unique vantage point, and enjoy picturesque scenes crossing over the Brandywine River out to the...

Cost: Adults: $24 Seniors: $20 Kids:12

Where:
Riverboat Queen
Riverwalk Public Dock, Behind Iron Hill
620 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-425-4890

More information

The Overfalls Foundation Benefit and Auctions will be held on Friday, May 24, 6-9PM, at the Virden Center in Lewes. There will be great food and drink and also live music by local band 33-1/3...

Cost: $50-$55

Where:
Virden Center
1155 College Drive
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: The Overfalls Foundation
Telephone: 412-384-0600
Contact Name: Victoria Kosko
Website »

More information

The Lighthouse Inc. Church presenta el servicio de la iglesia en espanol.  El servicio de la iglesia en espanol comenzia 14 de merzo de 2019.  Hables espanol?  Entonces este es el...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 S Railroad Ave
Wyoming, DE  19934-1026
View map »


Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc.Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore

More information

Experience the city like never before on this special evening version of our tour! The city's lights make this a romantic evening along the water. Enjoy a full-bar and delicious snacks while you...

Cost: Adults: $24 Seniors: $20 Kids: $12

Where:
Riverboat Queen
Riverwalk Public Dock, Behind Iron Hill
620 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-425-4890

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Helena van Emmerik-Finn  “Anything Goes” ~ Pastels & Oil Paintings Opening Reception to Meet the Artist – Friday, May 3, 5 – 8 PM   Helena’s...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The 12th annual Artisans Fair will feature unique handcrafted art objects. Artisans will exhibit both inside and outside, showing textiles, fine art, glass, jewelry, photography, woodworking,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lord Baltimore Elementary School
120 Atlantic Ave.
Route 26
Ocean View, DE  19970
View map »


Sponsor: South Coastal DE AARP
Telephone: 302-732-6336
Contact Name: Ida Crist
Website »

More information

UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition May 3 – May 26, 2019 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, May 3, 2019, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop In a...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

TACIT 2019 Friends' Juried Exhibition May 21 - September 26, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, June 7, 2019 5 - 9 PM during first Friday Art Loop Juried by Cynthia Hawkins...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

From the dazzling gold of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation robe to the simple sophistication of Princess Margaret’s wedding dress, from the majesty of royal crowns and tiaras to the comfort...

Cost: $6-$20

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
5105 Kennett Pike
Winterthur, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information & Tours
Website »

More information

cusp The University of Delaware 2019 MFA Thesis Exhibition May 3 - May 30 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, May 3, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop In a joint venture with the...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

March 23 – August 4, 2019 Edward Loper, Sr. is one of Delaware’s most celebrated artists, having lived his entire life in the state and taught generations of local artists. His son,...

Cost: Free with admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

Commemorate the prolific artistic achievements of two distinguished Delaware artists at the Historic Odessa Foundation’s exhibit, The Keepers of Color: Paintings by Marilyn Bauman and Edward...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Historic Houses of Odessa
201 Main Street
Odessa, DE  19730
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Odessa Foundation
Telephone: 302-378-4119-
Contact Name: Jennifer Cabell Kostik
Website »

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

Every Sat. & Sun.: Creature Features, Noon- 12:30pm, www.brandywinezoo.org (302) 571-7747 Stop by our Creature Feature for a close encounter with one of our zoo education animals. Meet a scaled,...

Cost: Adults $ 5, Seniors $4, Kids $3; free for under 3yrs and for members.

Where:
Brandywine Zoo
1001 North Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for a 1.5 hour sightseeing tour along the historic Christiana River. View the city from this unique vantage point, and enjoy picturesque scenes crossing over the Brandywine River out to the...

Cost: Adults: $24 Seniors: $20 Kids:12

Where:
Riverboat Queen
Riverwalk Public Dock, Behind Iron Hill
620 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-425-4890

More information

The Lighthouse Inc. Church presenta el servicio de la iglesia en espanol.  El servicio de la iglesia en espanol comenzia 14 de merzo de 2019.  Hables espanol?  Entonces este es el...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 S Railroad Ave
Wyoming, DE  19934-1026
View map »


Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc.Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore

More information

Experience the city like never before on this special evening version of our tour! The city's lights make this a romantic evening along the water. Enjoy a full-bar and delicious snacks while you...

Cost: Adults: $24 Seniors: $20 Kids: $12

Where:
Riverboat Queen
Riverwalk Public Dock, Behind Iron Hill
620 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-425-4890

More information

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