Wilmington, DE Halts Demolition of Historic Mansion

Last February city officials in Wilmington, Delaware sought approval from the Design Review and Preservation Commission to demolish a historic mansion in the city’s Browntown neighborhood. Following pressure from preservation advocates and community members, the city announced that it will no longer seek to demolish the property.

Officials had planned to demolish the historic John A. Brown Mansion in order to construct forty new townhouses. Following the February Design Review and Preservation Commission meeting, neighbors and preservationists formed the John A. Brown Mansion Task Force. Vince Watchorn, a member of the task force, told Delaware Public Media that members of the task force had distinct but interrelated priorities. Some wanted to preserve the history of the mansion, while others were concerned about the impact of the planned construction project.

In late March, the task force sent a letter to Mayor Mike Purzycki, members of City Council and an array of city, New Castle County, and state officials urging them to consider a design that included preserving the mansion. In its announcement that it would no longer seek demolition, the city indicated that it would work with the community on a new plan.

“We are interested in your ideas for adaptive reuse as well as housing ideas for the surrounding property, and of course, how this all could be funded,” wrote Herb M. Inden, the city’s director of planning and development, in an email sent to the task force.

The mansion was built nearly two hundred years ago. It is named for its fourth owner, Dr. John A. Brown, who occupied it 1848 to 1856. Dr. Brown established infirmaries in many New England states and was a promoter of medical tonics.