Wilmington, Delaware is in the middle of it all.
Geographically, culturally, and certainly politically with favorite son Joe Biden currently serving as president of the United States.
Our city sits strategically in the middle of the Northeast Corridor, the most populous megalopolis in the country. One in three Americans live within a 350-mile radius of Wilmington. That is more than 110 million people.
Yet, Wilmington remains a fascinating enclave amidst all that humanity. With a population of just under 70,000 in a state with less than one million residents, our city is a cultural mecca, rich in arts and history. In fact, within a 20-minute drive of Downtown Wilmington there are more than 45 venues dedicated to arts and culture.
That’s an astonishing number for an area our size. Furthermore, more than a half-dozen of those attractions are considered world-class, including Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library; Nemours Mansion; Hagley Museum & Gardens; The Grand Opera House; Mt. Cuba Center; Longwood Gardens.
Claims to fame?
Wilmington has many. Following are a few notable nuggets:
- Wilmington was the home to Thomas Garrett, who teamed with Harriet Tubman to help hundreds escape slavery. Stops of the Underground Railroad are easily found in our city and our Tubman-Garrett Park was built on a key crossing point of the Railroad into Wilmington. Our critical role in the Underground Railroad has been widely recognized, most recently in the hit movie Harriet.
- The Hotel DuPont enjoys a worldwide reputation. By playing host to the annual Commonwealth Awards — not to mention sharing a building with The Playhouse on Rodney Square – it has hosted hundreds of internationally known celebrities as disparate as Morgan Freeman to Mr. Rogers.
- Though he was just 25 at the time of his death in a car accident, Wilmington’s CliffordBrown is a jazz legend and considered one of the greatest trumpeters of all time. Brown is in the Downbeat Jazz Hall of Fame and each year Wilmington keeps his name alive by hosting the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, one of the country’s largest free jazz events.
- Five-time Tony Award-winner Susan Strohman is from here. She actually attended the University of Delaware, just like President Joe Biden.
- George “Bad to the Bone” Thorogood was born in Wilmington. He spent much of his early years here, played all our clubs, then formed the Delaware Destroyers in the mid-1970s and became an international blues-rock sensation. He regularly returns to perform at our community treasure, The Grand Opera House.
- Judge Collins Seitz and attorney Louis Redding were both from Wilmington. Each played pivotal roles in the desegregation of U.S. schools as well as the Supreme Court decision many studied in history class: Brown v. Board of Education
- Judy Johnson, one of the greatest players of Negro Leagues Baseball, is from here. He’s also in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and his statue greets visitors entering our own Frawley Stadium. His Wilmington home is on the National Register of Historic Places.
- One of the biggest names in professional women’s basketball, Elena Delle Donne, is from Wilmington. She starred at our Ursuline Academy, then University of Delaware, and is the only player in WNBA history to win its MVP award twice.
- Actors Aubrey Plaza, Elisabeth Shue, Judge Reinhold, Valerie Bertinelli, John Gallagher, Jr., Keith Powell, Sean Patrick Thomas, and Teri Polo as well as Academy Award-winning actor/director Luke Matheny are from Wilmington. (And we’re sure we missed a few.)