History Matters digs into the Delaware Historical Society’s archives each month to explore connections between key people, places, and events in history and present-day news.
June’s History Matters explores the history of the Wilmington's Old Town Hall and its role within the city.
"Town hall meetings are really an opportunity to engage in two-way dialogue with people, and they've been very helpful." - Governor Jack Markell
History Matters: Wilmington's Old Town Hall
Delaware Public Media visits Wilmington's Old Town Hall to explore the building's history with Former Director of Development for the Delaware Historical Society Annette Woolard-Provine. (Producer/Videographer/Editor: Ben Szmidt):
Wilmington’s Old Town Hall was built in 1798, providing the city with both a social and political center. The building hosted everything from public court proceedings and closed door city council meetings to famous orators and state dinners for notables like Andrew Jackson and Marquis de Lafayette.
Over the next century, the town hall changed to meet the city’s needs, eventually holding fewer public events and converting portions of the building into office space. By the First World War, Old Town Hall could no longer handle the workload - even with a wing added to the back. The city planned to knock Old Town Hall down and sell the prime Market Street property until the Delaware Historical Society with the support of generous Delawareans bought the building in 1916.
Former Director of Development for the Delaware Historical Society Annette Woolard-Provine says that during its heyday old Town Hall really belonged to everyone.
“This was the heart of Wilmington, said Woolard-Provine. "This was not just a government building. It was a civic building and this is where people gathered when something big happened. They celebrated it, mourned it, or argued about it together.”
This piece is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.