Wawaset Park records1658-2011
Wawaset Park was a planned community, commissioned by the DuPont Company for its company executives. The records describe the park, its residents, and history through corporate records, maps and deeds of the property, lists of corporate officers and residents, as well as histories of the park, the City of Wilmington, and the state of Delaware.
- Wawaset Park Maintenance Corporation (Organization)
27.15 Linear Feet
Wawaset Park was a planned residential community built by E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co. in 1918 and located in the city of Wilmington, Delaware. Bounded by Greenhill Avenue, Woodlawn Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue, and 7th Street on Wilmington’s western edge, the original property was on three trolley lines and included a horse track, and later a fair grounds and an auto park. When purchased by the DuPont Company in 1917, the company began construction on a wide array of “Period” housing to accommodate its expanding workforce following a dramatic increase in business during the First World War. The company planned to offer the houses for sale to the general public, but only on a secondary basis, as DuPont Company employees were experiencing a severe housing shortage. The homes were built for DuPont executive staff and scientists.
Wawaset Park was designed by Baltimore architect Edward L. Palmer (1877-1952) in the tradition of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead (1822-1903), thus encompassing a park-like setting with curving streets. DuPont Company hired Palmer to initially design and construct 100 homes on the property, including the street arrangement and the landscaping. Many of the homes are Tudor cottages, while others are brick Georgian mansions. Some of the smaller houses were built in the Gothic and the then out-of-vogue “Picturesque” style. Many of the homes initially sold for about $6,000 plus an additional $1,500 for the lots. The larger semi-detached and detached houses sold for $9,000 to $20,000. Most did not include garages, but they could be built later with the extra cost added to the existing payments.
Palmer’s attention to natural contours contrasted with that of Wilmington’s other developments in the early twentieth century. Palmer’s previous work in Baltimore, particularly at Roland Park, encompassed similar designs and styles. There, he designed several neighborhoods using a typical Olmstead influence, paying close attention to aesthetics and curvilinear streets that wound around hills. At Wawaset Park, Palmer paid special attention to planting various elm and oak trees, most of which provided shaded walkways. By 1930, the majority of new home construction had finished. Fulfilling Palmer’s vision, Wawaset Park offered residents the convenience of suburban living within the city, with the privacy of the countryside.
Wawaset Park has maintained its distinct style and character under the care of the Wawaset Park Maintenance Corporation, formed to approve any such additions, alterations, and plans for new structures, staying true to the original deed restrictions that established set backs, building codes, and limitations on street alterations to maintain Palmer’s original design. Any additions or alterations were decided by the Maintenance Corporation through a vote by its members. In 1986, the historic district of Wawaset Park and its 321 buildings were added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Series I: Wawaset Park Maintenance Corporation - Arrangement is chronological within each subseries and by first date of a multipart grouping, except for quarterly maintenance taxes reported in subseries D, Finances.
Series II: Real estate - Arrangement is chronological within each subseries.
Series III: National Register of Historic Places - Arrangement is chronological.
Series IV: Residents of Wawaset Park - Arrangement is chronological.
Series V: Other planned communities and highrises - Arrangement is alphabetical by name of community.
Series VI: History of Wilmington, New Castle County, Delaware - Arrangement is chronological within subseries.
Series VII: Rolled drawings and maps - Arrangement is chronological.
Series VIII: Oversize maps, drawings, and financial ledger sheets - Arrangement is chronological.
Scope and Content
The records document the founding of Wawaset Park and includes certificates of incorporation, bylaws, deeds to the properties within the park, lists of officers and trustees, board minutes, as well as lists of residents, maps and drawings of homes, services provided to residents by the corporation, and information about the inclusion of the park on the National Register of Historic Places. Most of the records were gathered by officers of the Wawaset Park Maintenance Corporation, especially Harry J. Haon III, park resident and President in the mid-1980s.
Documents - some original, some copies - are dated between 1658 and 2011, reflecting the work of officers who searched the historical background of the property, both prior to the founding of the community and long after its establishment. The deeds to properties of the first occupants in 1919 to 1920 contained property restrictions, challenges to which are well documented in the collection, including restrictions and regulations for existing and future homes, as well as for alterations. Every twenty years the deed and restrictions were subjected to a referendum for renewal. There is evidence that the restrictions were challenged from time to time; one challenge in particular led to litigation. Along with copies of deeds from then-current owners, there are also copies of deeds for changes of ownership prior to the formation of the park. Material documenting Wawaset Park’s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places includes correspondence regarding the nomination process, newspaper articles, statements of significance, and guidelines for application.
The collection also includes several histories of Wawaset, the city of Wilmington, the county of New Castle, and the state of Delaware, as well as descriptions and promotional materials of other similarly-planned communities in Maryland and neighboring states that reflected the influence of Frederick Law Olmstead. The latter comprise information on Roland Park in Baltimore, Fenwick, Alapocas Woods, and Cranehook, as well as biographical information on Olmstead himself. Also included are maps of twelve districts of the park, one of which depicts the placement of every tree in the community. Other drawings include various alterations to home interiors, as well as additions, elevations, sections, and floor plans.
Portions of the Wawaset Park records are subject to a 25 year time seal.
Language of Materials
- Wawaset Park Maintenance Corporation (Organization)
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Wawaset Park records
- Dave Burdash
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- 2018 February 15: Updated content.