Wilmington Delaware: Proud of their Hometown Joe

Wilmington Riverwalk
Wilmington’s Riverwalk is a centerpiece of the city, along the Christina River with passing scullers and kayakers. Max Hartshorne photos.

An Exciting Visit to Wilmington as Joe Biden Gets Ready to be President

By Max Hartshorne
GoNOMAD Editor

A gigantic flag over the part of Wilmington used for Joe Biden's nomination acceptance speech in early November, 2020.
A gigantic flag over the part of Wilmington used for Joe Biden’s nomination acceptance speech in early November 2020.

What more appropriate way to visit the largest city in the second smallest state in the U.S. than by rail?

Just like future president Joseph E. Biden Jr, we took  Amtrak, which was a short, pleasant excursion from Greenfield Massachusetts down to Wilmington.

Listen to Max talk about Wilmington on the radio.

There we disembarked in the city’s train station, named after the former senator, Vice President, and now, the future leader of the Free World.

It is always nice when the train lands you right in the thick of it and this station is very centrally located between the city and the river.

A Special Moment for Delaware

It was a special moment in the history of this relatively tiny major city in Delaware with a population of around 70,000, just a bit larger than Portland Maine.

Our hotel, the comfortable Westin, turned out to be right next to the giant parking area at the Chase Center on Wilmington’s riverfront, where Joe and Kamala would make their official acceptance speeches.

The Biden family lives just around this corner in rural Centerville, DE, far from the city center.
The Biden family lives just around this corner in rural Centerville, DE, far from the city center.

We were right in the thick of it, with journalists from around the world and a mass of Secret Service and Homeland Security officials keeping everyone out.

It turns out that Wilmington is a friendly, small-town type of place, where many people can tell tales about encounters with the altruistic Biden Family.

Biking Wilmington

We had planned to rent bikes from the Chase Center and ride the Jack Markell Trail for about 10 miles, it winds along the Cristina River.

The day was pleasant and the only thing that stopped us was the city’s most famous resident–the President-elect–whose big event put the kibosh on getting to the Chase. But it’s a pretty trail definitely worth a ride.

Constitution Yards with a 12-foot high chair, ax throwing and beer gardens in Wilmington Delaware.
Constitution Yards with a 12-foot high chair, ax throwing and beer gardens in Wilmington Delaware.

One of the first places we saw in the city was a place that would have been packed during the warmer months, Constitution Yards.

It’s one of those places that Millenials love, with beer gardens, ax throwing, food stalls and it’s all located right on the pretty Christina river, where scullers row by.

The city has a young feel to it, and we learned that there are many younger people moving here with a vibrant local economy and housing that’s not as expensive as NYC or Philly.

Leafy and Green

Although we were visiting the city of Wilmington, as we quickly learned, it takes just minutes to be driving along a road that feels more like a small town.  As we drove along, the scenery of rolling hills, large single-family homes with long driveways, and little town centers, we realized it doesn’t take long to get out of the metro area.

The Hagley Museum and Library

This humble stone structure was the first home of the DuPont company at the Hagley Estate.
This humble stone structure was the first home of the DuPont company at the Hagley Estate.

We were headed to  Hagley Museum and Library, the home of Wilmington’s original first family, the DuPonts, who emigrated in the mid-1800s from France.

This 235-acre estate tour starts with seeing the outside of the magnificent family mansion, and next door, a tiny stone structure that was the original location of the DuPont corporation.

Black Powder Legacy

Tours are not available on the inside this time, but the grounds are magnificent with the manicured gardens and many interesting leftover remnants of the company’s original product–black powder.

These giant wheels powered by water, ground up the three ingredients used to make black powder at Hagley.
These giant wheels powered by water, ground up the three ingredients used to make black powder at Hagley.

The first DuPonts emigrated from France to start manufacturing this important element of both warfare and blasting stone to build roads and buildings.

The nearby Brandywine creek played an essential role, providing the water power used to turn gigantic wheels that mixed ash, saltpeter, and sulfur to make black powder.

Seeing the underground tunnels that connected the diverted creek into sluices that powered turbines is fascinating. It’s a slice of our history that most of us have never heard of.

In addition, The Copeland Room of the Hagley Library has a room full of patent models, miniature working reproductions of real machines that were patented.

The Eleutherian Mills down by the river is where the black powder manufacturing was done, and our tour concluded with a demonstration of what happens when you light it with a match…BOOM!

One of the three covered bridges outside of Wilmington Delaware.
One of the three covered bridges outside of Wilmington Delaware.

Bucolic Wilmington

Part of the attraction of Wilmington for me was how rural it is, and a highlight was a road trip in the bright sunshine to view the three covered bridges that harken back to Delaware’s colonial days.

It was a road like this where we almost saw President-elect Biden’s family home, it’s on a country lane surrounded by sweeping views of farms and fields.  It’s a pretty place to be sure.

Why is Delaware So Attractive?

One of the things I have always wondered about is Delaware’s long history as a tax haven. Why do more than 60% of Fortune 500 companies choose to incorporate here?

What is it about the state that causes 75% of all IPOs to be done by companies based in Delaware?

Country roads outside of Wilmington.
Country roads outside of Wilmington.

It turns out to be rather hard to explain –it’s a combination of appointed versus elected judges in the bankruptcy court.

 
This building is home to more than 200,000 corporations in Wilmington.
This building is home to more than 200,000 corporations in Wilmington.

Why Are So Many Corporations Based in Delaware?

Here is how financial writer Jan Ting explains it. “The major reason corporations choose to incorporate in Delaware is the quality of Delaware courts and judges. Delaware has a special court, the Court of Chancery, to rule on corporate law disputes without juries.

Corporate cases do not get stuck on dockets behind the multitude of non-corporate cases. Instead, Delaware corporations can expect their legal disputes to be addressed promptly and expertly by judges who specialize in corporate law.”

No Sales Tax or Real Estate Tax

With that out of the way, we learned the benefits of all of these incorporated businesses in Delaware: There are no sales or real estate taxes!

While this might be changing in the years ahead it sure has kept the housing prices low and continues to delight the residents who save so much every year.

Dining and Wining in Wilmington

The day was sunny and bright and we drove along the street filled with shoppers and flowers and had lunch at Buckley’s Tavern, a former taproom and ice cream store, built in 1817, with their big front porch full of Friday lunch customers.  Hearty portions, tasty food.

Strolling on Tenth Street

We were in for a few treats when we discovered our dinner itinerary in the city. Our evening in the compact city center began with Friday night cocktails at De-CO, Delaware Collective, a food court with a great big bar that’s a perfect place to chat up the locals.

We met Brad Owens, who like so many others, knows the Bidens personally and said they are warm and generous and regular guests at many city restaurants.

Chatting with Brad Owen at De.Co, in Wilmington DE.
Chatting with Brad Owens at De.Co, in Wilmington DE.

Owens is one of the owners of the Wilmington vegan restaurant,  Green Box Kitchen, and he said he was opening up a smaller outpost of his restaurant right here in De-Co.

Incubator for Food Start-Ups

The food court is an incubator for start-up restaurants and has food offerings from hoagies to sushi, and they even have a quiet game room.

We were glad to get there for Happy Hour, a tradition that’s long been abandoned in my state but the $4 wine tasted great!

Madai snapper tartare blood orange, fennel at Bardea Food and Drink Wilmington DE
Madai snapper tartare blood orange, fennel at Bardea Food and Drink.

Let The Server Decide

We decided that evening at Bardea, to let our server make the food decisions, and he brought out a wide array of small plates, each a mystery and all delicious.

Owner Scott Stein has made a great name for himself in the city and has a small more casual joint open at De.Co as well the 120-seat flagship on 10th St.

Stand-outs included avocado (preserved in yuzu butter, pineapple mostarda, chicharron), beet sashimi (ruby red beets, sunflower, bergamot zabaglione), fusilli lunghi (pistachio crem

Le Cavalier at the Green Room, Hotel DuPont Wilmington DE
Le Cavalier at the Green Room, Hotel DuPont Wilmington DE

 

a, miracolo di San Gennaro), oakwood tart (mushroom xo, whipped goat cheese).

This all made for one fine evening of dining in Wilmington.

We asked the chef about his own Biden sitings, and he said that Joe and Jill are regulars at Bardea and that they are widely loved here in the city. That extends to the Biden siblings, one of whom, daughter Ashley, is a doctor like her mother.

DuPont Legacy

A city that is as synonymous with one company as possible, the famous DuPonts also once owned a swank hotel in downtown Wilmington.

Lobster at Le Cavalier in Wilmington DE.
Lobster at Le Cavalier.

Today the Hotel DuPont is THE place to stay here, no longer owned by the company but the home of Le Cavalier, another stand-out dining experience that is best described by my traveling buddy and GoNOMAD contributor, Bruce Northam.

Le Cavalier is a modern French neo-brasserie influenced by the flavors of North Africa and Provençe. This place oozes grandeur. It’s a one-big-spherical ice “cube” fancy cocktail kind of place.

The meticulously sourced French classics and inventive riffs on French staples include Soupe A l’oignon (French onion soup, Gruyere, Compte) and Branzino (blistered herbs, Calabrian chile, pistachio dukkah).

Chef Tyler Akin, a Delaware native, reimagined the hotel’s Green Room into a place where foodies will be stopped in their tracks.”

Longwood Gardens

No visit to Wilmington is complete unless you visit this stunning conservatory and gardens, once owned by another famous DuPont family member, Pierre S.  Longwood Gardens isn’t in Wilmington, it’s right across the state line in Kennett Square Pennsylvania. But in a state this small, you cross the line a lot!

Longwood Garden's stunning conservatory in Kennett Square PA, near Wilmington.
Longwood Garden’s stunning conservatory in Kennett Square PA, near Wilmington.

This huge garden has a stunning glass conservatory that soars high and seems nearly endless. One thing though, during the COVID, you have to make an advance reservation and many times are already sold out.

American Helicopter Museum, West Chester PA.
An Osprey helicopter/plane at the American Helicopter Museum in West Chester PA.

Walking through this stunning indoor and outdoor garden is quite memorable, and they have seasonal programs like their Longwood Christmas with fire pits and adorned lighted trees all around.

Choppers on Display

Also nearby in PA is the American Helicopter Museum, in West Chester, where 35 choppers and years of aeronautical history comes alive with dozens of full-size helicopters and a wealth of details about the evolution of helicopters over the decades.

This visit was sponsored by Visit Wilmington, but the opinions are the author’s own.

Find out more about Wilmington at Visit WilmingtonDE.com  and  IT’S TIME, and WILMTODAY.

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