City of Architecture
Look around. See that old Queen Anne? That English Tudor? That Georgian manse? Great home design is what makes the city so beautiful.
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Frank Lloyd Wright (perhaps you’ve heard of him) once said, “The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own, we have no soul of our own civilization.”
The truth of this, it would seem, is self-evident. Why else does one find such architectural variety across the globe? Why else has the course of human history been marked by an undying desire to create not only practical buildings, but beautiful ones as well? Perhaps then architecture really is the mother art, for it fuses form and function like no other discipline. One can’t find shelter in a book or protection in a painting. Instead we have architecture, the only art in which we can live.
Enter the city of Wilmington, whose myriad neighborhoods are not only diverse enclaves of assorted cultures and traditions, but also surviving testaments to the importance of unique architecture.
“Wilmington is blessed with a variety of architecture, from modern designs to structures that date back to the beginning of this nation,” says Mayor James Baker. “Unfortunately, they tore down a lot of the historically significant structures over time, but we’re still one of the few cities where you can walk down Market Street and still see how most of the original street looked back in the 1800s. That, to me, is significant. Overall there is a very nice collection of architectural periods and styles in Wilmington, which makes it a very unique city.”
What follows is a look at some of Wilmington’s most remarkable and architecturally distinct neighborhoods. Whether you’ve lived here your entire life or you are visiting, take a moment to explore some of these communities.
You don’t need an architecture expert to tell you that Quaker Hill is a portrait of quaintness. Just kissing the edge of Center City, this tight-knit neighborhood is as steeped in history as any other on the East Coast. The architecture is a very visible reflection of that fact.
The neighborhood’s aesthetic centers on a Quaker meetinghouse that was erected in 1816. Here you will find plenty of red brick masonry and three-story row homes with elaborate cornice brackets. According to the Quaker Hill Historic Preservation Foundation, the architecture spans three centuries and many styles, including Colonial, Federal, Georgian, Georgian Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Neo-Gothic and Victorian Styles.
If you find yourself in Quaker Hill, make sure to check out notable structures, including the Cathedral of St. Peter, the city’s first Catholic church, which was built in 1818; West Presbyterian Church, a brick and brownstone treasure built in 1871; and several homes along West Street, including numbers 507 through 515, gorgeous Neo-Gothic and Italianate homes that retain their original wrought iron porch supports. Number 301, built in 1750, is one of the oldest structures in the city.
“Quaker Hill is one of the earliest and most historically rich neighborhoods in the city,” says city planner John Kurth, an authority on local architecture. “It can sometimes be hard to tell from just looking at the facades of these buildings what period they are from, since so many of them have been added on to and changed. But when you really get inside, you can see the history there.”
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