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Wilmington (Lenape: Paxahakink, Pakehakink) is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Delaware. The city was built on the site of Fort Christina, the first Swedish settlement in North America. It is at the confluence of the Christina River and Brandywine River, near where the Christina flows into the Delaware River. It is the county seat of New Castle County and one of the major cities in the Delaware Valley metropolitan area. Wilmington was named by Proprietor Thomas Penn after his friend Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington, who was prime minister in the reign of George II of Great Britain.
As of the 2017 United States Census estimate, the city's population is 72,846. It is the fifth least populous city in the U.S. to be the most populous in its state. The Wilmington Metropolitan Division, comprising New Castle County, DE, Cecil County, MD and Salem County, NJ, had an estimated 2016 population of 719,876. The Delaware Valley metropolitan area, which includes the cities of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Camden, New Jersey, had a 2016 population of 6,070,500, and a combined statistical area of 7,179,357.
Wilmington is built on the site of Fort Christina and the settlement Kristinehamn, the first Swedish settlement in North America.
The area now known as Wilmington was settled by the Lenape (or Delaware Indian) band led by Sachem (Chief) Mattahorn just before Henry Hudson sailed up the Len-api Hanna ("People Like Me River", present Delaware River) in 1609. The area was called "Maax-waas Unk" or "Bear Place" after the Maax-waas Hanna (Bear River) that flowed by (present Christina River). It was called the Bear River because it flowed west to the "Bear People", who are now known as the People of Conestoga or the Susquehannocks.
The Dutch heard and spelled the river and the place as "Minguannan." When settlers and traders from the Swedish South Company under Peter Minuit arrived in March 1638 on the Fogel Grip and Kalmar Nyckel, they purchased Maax-waas Unk from Chief Mattahorn and built Fort Christina at the mouth of the Maax-waas Hanna (which the Swedes renamed the Christina River after Queen Christina of Sweden). The area was also known as "The Rocks", and is located near the foot of present-day Seventh Street. Fort Christina served as the headquarters for the colony of New Sweden which consisted of, for the most part, the lower Delaware River region (parts of present-day Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey), but few colonists settled there. Dr. Timothy Stidham (Swedish:Timen Lulofsson Stiddem) was a prominent citizen and doctor in Wilmington. He was born in 1610, probably in Hammel, Denmark and raised in Gothenburg, Sweden. He arrived in New Sweden in 1654 and is recorded as the first physician in Delaware.
The most important Swedish governor was Colonel Johan Printz, who ruled the colony under Swedish law from 1643 to 1653. He was succeeded by Johan Rising, who upon his arrival in 1654, seized the Dutch post Fort Casimir, located at the site of the present town of New Castle, which was built by the Dutch in 1651. Rising governed New Sweden until the autumn of 1655, when a Dutch fleet under the command of Peter Stuyvesant subjugated the Swedish forts and established the authority of the Colony of New Netherland throughout the area formerly controlled by the Swedes. This marked the end of Swedish rule in North America.
Beginning in 1664 British colonization began; after a series of wars between the Dutch and English, the area stabilized under British rule, with strong influences from the Quaker communities under the auspices of Proprietor William Penn. A borough charter was granted in 1739 by King George II, which changed the name of the settlement from Willington, after Thomas Willing (the first developer of the land, who organized the area in a grid pattern similar to that of its northern neighbor Philadelphia), to Wilmington, presumably after Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington.
Although during the American Revolutionary War only one small battle was fought in Delaware, British troops occupied Wilmington shortly after the nearby Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777. The British remained in the town until they vacated Philadelphia in 1778.
In 1800, Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, a French Huguenot, emigrated to the United States. Knowledgeable in the manufacture of gunpowder, by 1802 DuPont had begun making the explosive in a mill on the Brandywine River north of Brandywine Village and just outside the town of Wilmington. The DuPont company became a major supplier to the U.S. military. Located on the banks of the Brandywine River, the village was eventually annexed by Wilmington city.
The greatest growth in the city occurred during the Civil War. Delaware, though officially remaining a member of the Union, was a border state and divided in its support of both the Confederate and the Union causes. The war created enormous demand for goods and materials supplied by Wilmington including ships, railroad cars, gunpowder, shoes, and other war-related goods.
By 1868, Wilmington was producing more iron ships than the rest of the country combined and it rated first in the production of gunpowder and second in carriages and leather. Due to the prosperity Wilmington enjoyed during the war, city merchants and manufacturers expanded Wilmington's residential boundaries westward in the form of large homes along tree-lined streets. This movement was spurred by the first horsecar line, which was initiated in 1864 along Delaware Avenue.
The late 19th century saw the development of the city's first comprehensive park system. William Poole Bancroft, a successful Wilmington businessman influenced by the work of Frederick Law Olmsted, led the effort to establish open parkland in Wilmington. Rockford Park and Brandywine Park were created due to Bancroft's efforts.
Both World Wars stimulated the city's industries. Industries vital to the war effort – shipyards, steel foundries, machinery, and chemical producers – operated around the clock. Other industries produced such goods as automobiles, leather products, and clothing.
The post-war prosperity again pushed residential development further out of the city. In the 1950s, more people began living in the suburbs of North Wilmington and commuting into the city to work. This was made possible by extensive upgrades to area roads and highways and through the construction of Interstate 95, which cut through several of Wilmington's neighborhoods and accelerated the city's population decline. Urban renewal projects in the 1950s and 1960s cleared entire blocks of housing in the Center City and East Side areas.
Riots and civil unrest in the city followed the 1968 assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. On April 9, 1968, Governor Charles L. Terry, Jr. deployed the National Guard and the Delaware State Police to the city at the request of Mayor John Babiarz. Babiarz asked Terry to withdraw the National Guard the following week, but the governor kept them in the city until his term ended in January 1969. This is reportedly the longest occupation of an American city by state forces in the nation's history.
In the 1980s, job growth and office construction were spurred by the arrival of national banks and financial institutions in the wake of the 1981 Financial Center Development Act, which liberalized the laws governing banks operating within the state, and similar laws in 1986. Today, many national and international banks, including Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, and Barclays, have operations in the city, typically credit card operations.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 17.0 square miles (44 km2). Of that, 10.9 square miles (28 km2) is land and 6.2 square miles (16 km2) is water. The total area is 36.25% water.
The city sits at the confluence of the Christina River and the Delaware River, about 33 miles (53 km) southwest of Philadelphia. Wilmington Train Station, one of the southernmost stops on Philadelphia's SEPTA rail transportation system, is also served by Northeast Corridor Amtrak passenger trains. Wilmington is served by I-95 and I-495 within city limits. In addition, the twin-span Delaware Memorial Bridge, a few miles south of the city, provides direct highway access between Delaware and New Jersey, carrying the I-295 eastern bypass route around Wilmington and Philadelphia, as well as US 40, which continues eastward to Atlantic City, New Jersey.
These transportation links and geographic proximity give Wilmington some of the characteristics of a satellite city to Philadelphia, but Wilmington's long history as Delaware's principal city, its urban core, and its independent value as a business destination makes it more properly considered a small but independent city in the Philadelphia metropolitan area.
Wilmington lies along the Fall Line geological transition from the Mid-Atlantic Piedmont Plateau to the Atlantic Coastal Plain. East of Market Street, and along both sides of the Christina River, the Coastal Plain land is flat, low-lying, and in places marshy. The Delaware River here is an estuary at sea level (with twice-daily high and low tides), providing sea-level access for ocean-going ships.
On the western side of Market Street, the Piedmont topography is rocky and hilly, rising to a point that marks the watershed between the Brandywine River and the Christina River. This watershed line runs along Delaware Avenue westward from 10th Street and Market Street.
These contrasting topography and soil conditions affected the industrial and residential development patterns within the city. The hilly west side was more attractive for the original residential areas, offering springs and sites for mills, better air quality, and fewer mosquitoes.
Wilmington has a warm temperate climate or humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa), with hot and humid summers, cool to cold winters, and precipitation evenly spread throughout the year. In July, the daily average is 76.8 °F (24.9 °C), with an average 21 days of 90 °F (32 °C)+ highs annually. Summer thunderstorms are common in the hottest months. The January daily average is 32.4 °F (0.2 °C), although temperatures may occasionally reach 10 °F (−12 °C) or 55 °F (13 °C) as fronts move toward and past the area. Snowfall is light to moderate, and variable, with some winters bringing very little of it and others witnessing several major snowstorms; the average seasonal total is 20.2 inches (51 cm). Extremes in temperature have ranged from −15 °F (−26 °C) on February 9, 1934, up to 107 °F (42 °C) on August 7, 1918, though both 100 °F (38 °C)+ and 0 °F (−18 °C) readings are uncommon; the last occurrence of each was July 18, 2012 and February 5, 1996, respectively.
As of the census of 2010, there were 70,851 people, 28,615 households, and 15,398 families residing in the city. The population density was 6,497.6 per square mile (2,508.8/km²). There were 32,820 housing units at an average density of 3,009.9 per square mile (1,162.1/km²) and with an occupancy rate of 87.2%. The racial makeup of the city was 58.0% African American, 32.6% White, 0.4% Native American, 1.0% Asian, <0.1% Pacific Islander, 5.4% from other races, and 2.6% from two or more races. 12.4% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. Non-Hispanic Whites were 27.9% of the population in 2010, compared to 40.5% in 1990. As of the census of 2000, the largest ethnicities included: Irish (8.7%), Italian (5.7%), German (5.2%), English (4.4%), and Polish (3.6%).
There were 28,615 households out of which 25.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 23.5% were married couples living together, 24.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 46.2% were non-families. 38.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 3.18.
In the city, the age distribution of the population shows 24.4% under the age of 18, 10.0% from 18 to 24, 29.8% from 25 to 44, 24.2% from 45 to 64, and 11.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34.3 years. For every 100 females, there were 90.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.4 males.
According to ACS 1-year estimates for 2010, the median income for a household in the city was $32,884, and the median income for a family was $37,352. Males working full-time had a median income of $41,878 versus $36,587 for females working full-time. The per capita income for the city was $24,861. 27.6% of the population and 24.9% of families were below the poverty line. 45.7% of those under the age of 18 and 16.5% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
The Wilmington City Council consists of thirteen members. The council consists of eight members who are elected from geographic districts, four elected at-large and the City Council President. The Council President is elected by the entire city. The Mayor of Wilmington is also elected by the entire city.
The current mayor of Wilmington is Mike Purzycki (D).
The Delaware Department of Correction Howard R. Young Correctional Institution, renamed from Multi-Purpose Criminal Justice Facility in 2004 and housing both pretrial and posttrial male prisoners, is located in Wilmington. The prison is often referred to as the "Gander Hill Prison" after the neighborhood it is located in. The prison opened in 1982.
Many Wilmington City workers belong to one of several Locals of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.
The city of Wilmington is made up of the following neighborhoods:
The City of Wilmington designates nine areas as historic districts: the Baynard Boulevard, Kentmere Parkway, Rockford Park, Cool Spring/Tilton Park, the tri-part sections of the Eastside, St. Marys and Old Swedes Church, Quaker Hill, Delaware Avenue, Trinity Vicinity, and Upper/Lower Market Street.
Wilmington has consistently ranked among the most dangerous cities in the United States, along with several other cities in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area, such as Camden, Chester, Trenton, and Atlantic City. In the 2000s, while most cities have seen a decrease in crime and murder, Wilmington has broken its record for homicides in a single year multiple times. In 2017, Wilmington saw an even steeper increase in crime. By August 2017, Wilmington had already eclipsed the homicide total of 2016 despite only being 2/3 through the year. In 2014, Wilmington recorded 28 homicides, making for a rate of 39.5 per 100,000 residents, which is ten times the national average. Wilmington frequently appears on NeighborhoodScout's "Top 100 Most Dangerous Cities in the United States" list. Most recently, in 2017, Wilmington was ranked as the 5th most dangerous city in the US. Nearby cities such as Camden, New Jersey and Chester, PA, also ranked in the top 15. In early 2017, the mayor's office as well as many public advocates called for comprehensive action to reduce astronomical crime rates in Wilmington, as the city saw a shooting almost every other day throughout the spring, and by May, the city had already seen 15 homicides. Since 2011, 80.5% of perpetrators in shooting incidents have not been arrested. Even in shooting deaths, only 39.5% of the perpetrators are arrested, leading to feelings of stress and lawlessness among the city's residents. An analysis of Gun Violence Archive data by the Associated Press and USA Today found that, for the 3 1/2 year period from January 2014 to June 2017, Wilmington led the nation in teens injured or killed by gun violence with a rate of 3.4 per 1000 teens, nearly double the rate of second-place Chicago's 1.8 per 1000 teens. Between January 2015 and September 4, 2017, sixty-four children were shot in Wilmington, five of which died, with only 16 arrests made in those cases.
The Wilmington Police Department (WPD), which aims to "raise the level of public safety through law enforcement and thereby reduce the fear and incidence of crime", is authorized to deploy up to 289 officers in motor vehicles, on foot, and on bicycle. Its operations are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. As of 2017, its chief is Robert Tracy.
In 2002, the Police Department started a program known as jump-outs in which unmarked police vans would patrol crime-prone neighborhoods late at night, suddenly converge at street corners and temporarily detain loiterers; photographing and fingerprinting the detainees. The program was touted as a good way to arrest people with drugs or weapons, fill out the police's database of fingerprints, and identify eyewitnesses for future crime investigations. Some citizens said the practice violated civil rights.
Also in 2002, Wilmington became perhaps the first U.S. city with surveillance cameras covering the downtown area.
The Wilmington Fire Department (WFD) is led by Chief Michael Donohue and maintains five engine companies, two ladder companies, a squad company, and a marine fire fighting force. The department has a ridealong program to help recruit new firefighters. It requires firefighters to be regularly involved with community associations. Wilmington is the only municipality in Delaware with an all-career fire department.
Emergency medical services are provided through contract with the city's St. Francis Hospital, whose EMS division operates a minimum five BLS transport units at all times of the day. Advanced Life Support services in the City of Wilmington are provided by New Castle County's EMS Division with two city-based medic units. All Wilmington firefighters since 2002 are trained to the EMT-B level and serve as first responders for life-threatening emergencies.
On July 1, 2009, the national financial crisis and projected city budget shortfall led the department to lay off firefighters for the first time in city history. Eight of the department's 173 uniformed personnel were laid off, but returned to work within 13 months to replace retiring personnel. The department also launched began a rolling by-pass of three engine companies (Engine 5, Squirt 4, and Engine 6). Later, the city eliminated its only heavy rescue company, Rescue 1; its personnel were deployed to other companies. In order to provide technical rescue services, the department converted two engine companies into squad companies. Engine 1 was re-designated as Squad 1, Engine 3 re-designated as Squad 3. Rescue 1's heavy rescue vehicle remained equipped and held in reserve. Even with the elimination of Rescue 1, the Department continued the rolling by-pass of an engine company. The rolling by-pass now affected Squirt 4, Engine 5, and Engine 6. The Department found some financial relief in 2011 when it was awarded the federal SAFER grant. This enabled the department to fund 13 positions returning the department's staffing to 173 uniformed personnel.
Much of Wilmington's economy is based on its status as the most populous and readily accessible city in Delaware, a state that made itself attractive to corporations with business-friendly financial laws and a longstanding reputation for a fair and effective judicial system. Contributing to the economic health of the downtown and Wilmington Riverfront regions has been the presence of Wilmington Station, through which 665,000 people passed in 2009.
Wilmington has become a national financial center for the credit card industry, largely due to regulations enacted by former Governor Pierre S. du Pont, IV in 1981. The Financial Center Development Act of 1981, among other things, eliminated the usury laws enacted by most states, thereby removing the cap on interest rates that banks may legally charge customers. Many major credit card issuers, including Bank of America (formerly MBNA Corporation), Chase Card Services (part of JPMorgan Chase & Co., formerly Bank One/First USA), and Barclays Bank of Delaware (formerly Juniper Bank), are headquartered in Wilmington. The Dutch banking giant ING Groep N.V. headquartered its U.S. internet banking unit, ING Direct (now Capital One 360), in Wilmington. The United Kingdom's HSBC has their American operations headquartered in Wilmington. Wilmington Trust is headquartered in Wilmington at Rodney Square. Barclays and Capital One 360 have very large and prominent locations located along the waterfront of the Christina River. In 1988, the Delaware legislature enacted a law which required a would-be acquirer to capture 85 percent of a Delaware chartered corporation's stock in a single transaction or wait three years before proceeding. This law strengthened Delaware's position as a safe haven for corporate charters during an especially turbulent time filled with hostile takeovers.
Wilmington's other notable industries include insurance (American Life Insurance Company [ALICO], Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Delaware), retail banking (including the Delaware headquarters of: Wilmington Trust (Now a branch of M&T Bank, after Wilmington Trust merged with M&T in 2011), PNC Bank, Wachovia Bank, JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, Citizens Bank, Wilmington Savings Fund Society, and Artisans' Bank), and legal services. A General Motors plant was closed in 2009. Wilmington is home to one Fortune 500 company, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. In addition, the city is the corporate domicile of more than 50% of the publicly traded companies in the United States, and over 60% of the Fortune 500.
Delaware chartered corporations rely on the state's Court of Chancery to decide legal disputes, which places legal decisions with a judge instead of a jury. The Court of Chancery, known both nationally and internationally for its speed, competence, and knowledgeable judiciary as a court of equity, is empowered to grant broad relief in the form of injunctions and restraining orders, which is of particular importance when shareholders seek to block or enjoin corporate actions such as mergers or acquisitions. The Court of Chancery, as a statewide court, may hear cases in any of the state's three counties. A dedicated-use Chancery courthouse was constructed in 2003 in Georgetown, Sussex County. It has hosted high-profile complex corporate trials such as the Disney shareholder litigation.
Because Delaware is the official state of incorporation for so many American companies, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, located in Wilmington, is one of the busiest of the 94 federal bankruptcy courts located around the United States.
Delaware has among the strictest rules in the U.S. regarding out-of-state legal practice, allowing no reciprocity to lawyers who passed the bar in other states.
According to Wilmington's 2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
Departing from earlier practices, the 2014 Comprehensive Annual Report that is currently available declined to identify the city's top employers. It is possible this information will be included, consistent with past reports, when a final version of the report is publicized as mandated by City Charter.
Wilmington has many museums, galleries, and gardens to enjoy (see Points of Interest below), as well as many ethnic festivals and other events throughout the year. Notable among its museums is the Delaware Art Museum whose collection focuses on American art and illustration from the 19th to the 21st century, and on the English Pre-Raphaelite movement of the mid-19th century.
Wilmington has an active and diverse ethnic population, which contributes to several ethnic festivals held every spring and summer in Wilmington, the most popular of which is the Italian Festival. This event, run by St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, closes down six blocks in the west side of the city the second week of June for traditional Italian music, food, and activities, along with carnival rides and games. Another, somewhat smaller festival that draws large crowds is the Greek Festival, which is organized by Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. The event features traditional Greek (Hellenic) crafts, food, drink, and music. Another notable annual festival is the Polish festival organized by St. Hedwig's Catholic Church, which features Polish cuisine with carnival rides and entertainment. Haneef's African Festival celebrates the heritage of the African American majority in the city. Wilmington is also home to the annual Big August Quarterly, which since 1814 has celebrated African American religious freedom. IndiaFest, another cultural festival, is hosted by the Indo American Association of Delaware. Wilmington also celebrates Hispanic Week, which coincides with National Hispanic Month festivities, September 15 – October 15. The festival culminates with a pageant and desfile (parade) along 4th Street. Concerts featuring Latin music acts, Latin cuisine and a carnival are held on the Riverfront on the last weekend. Activities are also held at St. Paul's Catholic Church.
The Clifford Brown Jazz Festival is a week-long outdoor music festival held each summer in Wilmington's Rodney Square.
The Peoples' Festival is an annual tribute to Bob Marley, who once lived in Wilmington trying to earn money enough to establish his Tuff Gong music studio in Kingston, Jamaica. His son Stephen Marley is born in Wilmington 1972. Started in 1994, the Peoples' Festival features reggae and world beat musicians playing original music and Bob Marley and the Wailers songs. The festival is held on the Wilmington riverfront each summer.
The Riverfront Blues Festival, a 3-day music festival held each August in the Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park, features prominent blues acts as well as artists from the local area.
In the 1990s, the city launched a campaign to revitalize the former shipyard area known as the Wilmington Riverfront. Delaware Theatre Company was at the forefront of this movement, opening its current space on Water Street in 1985. The efforts were bolstered early by The Big Kahuna also known as Kahunaville (a restaurant, bar and arcade which has also since closed and been rebuilt in 2010 as the Delaware Children's Museum) and the Wilmington Blue Rocks minor league baseball stadium. The Wilmington Rowing Center boathouse is located along the Christina River on the Riverfront. Development continues as the Wilmington Riverfront tries to establish its cultural, economical, and residential importance. Recent high-rise luxury apartment buildings along the Christina River have been cited as evidence of the Riverfront's continued revival. On June 7, 2006, the groundbreaking of Justison Landing signaled the beginning of Wilmington's largest residential project since Bancroft Park was built after World War II. Outlets shops, restaurants and a Riverfront Market have also opened along the 1.2-mile (1.9 km) Riverwalk.
The Wilmington area is home to five FM radio stations and four AM radio stations. A sixth FM radio station is located in Southern New Jersey and is included in the Wilmington radio market surveys:
Interstate 95, which splits Wilmington roughly into eastern and western halves, provides access to major markets in the Northeast and nationwide. Interstate 495 is a bypass just east of the city, and Interstate 295 is south of the city, crossing the Delaware River into New Jersey on the Delaware Memorial Bridge. U.S. Route 13 passes north-south through the eastern part of Wilmington, entering the city from the south along Dupont Highway before following Heald Street, the one-way pair of Church Street northbound and Spruce Street southbound, and Governor Printz Boulevard. U.S. Route 13 Business passes north-south through the center of Wilmington, entering the city from the south on Market Street before splitting into Walnut Street northbound and Market Street southbound, following Walnut Street northbound and King Street southbound in the downtown area, and following Market Street northeast out of the city to Philadelphia Pike. U.S. Route 202 follows I-95 through Wilmington before heading north onto Concord Pike through a business area to the north of the city. State routes serving Wilmington include Delaware Route 2, which follows the one-way pair of Lincoln Street eastbound and Union Street westbound in the western part of the city before heading west out of the city along Kirkwood Highway; Delaware Route 4, which heads southwest from the downtown area along Maryland Avenue; Delaware Route 9, which enters the city from the south along New Castle Avenue before crossing the Christina River and heading west through the center of the city along 4th Street; Delaware Route 9A, which provides access to the Port of Wilmington; Delaware Route 48, which heads west from the downtown area along Lancaster Avenue; Delaware Route 52, which follows Delaware Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue northwest out of the city to Kennett Pike; and Delaware Route 202, which follows Concord Avenue through the northern part of the city to connect to US 202 at Concord Pike.
In Wilmington, streets are laid out in a grid, with north-south streets named and east-west streets north of Lancaster Avenue/Front Street numbered from 2nd Street and increasing to the north, while east-west streets south of Lancaster Avenue/Front Street are named. Lancaster Avenue/Front Street serves as the divider between north and south while Market Street serves as the divider between east and west. There are 34 red light cameras in the city of Wilmington situated at 31 intersections. Parking in downtown Wilmington is regulated by on-street parking meters along with commercial parking lots and parking garages operated by the Wilmington Parking Authority, Colonial Parking, and SP Plus Corporation.
Wilmington is served by the Joseph R. Biden Jr. Wilmington Rail Station, with frequent service between Boston, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., via Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. SEPTA Regional Rail provides frequent additional local commuter rail service to Philadelphia along the Wilmington/Newark Line. Amtrak has a major maintenance shop and yard in northeast Wilmington that maintains and rebuilds the agency's Northeast Corridor electric locomotive fleet. The Amtrak Training Facility is also located in Wilmington, as well as Amtrak's Consolidated National Operations Center (CNOC).
Two freight railroads, CSX and Norfolk Southern, also serve Wilmington. Norfolk Southern serves Wilmington along trackage rights on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, the Shellpot Secondary line heading through the eastern part of Wilmington as a bypass of the Northeast Corridor, and the New Castle Secondary line heading south to New Castle and Porter. CSX serves Wilmington along its Philadelphia Subdivision line running between Philadelphia and Baltimore. Both CSX and Norfolk Southern have a major freight-yard in the area; CSX operates the Wilsmere Yard to the west of the city in Elsmere and Norfolk Southern operates the Edgemoor Yard to the northeast of the city in Edgemoor.
DART First State (Delaware Authority for Regional Transit) operates public bus service with approximately 40 bus lines serving the city and the surrounding suburbs as well as inter-county service to Dover, the state capital, and seasonal service to Lewes and Rehoboth Beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Most DART First State bus routes operating in Wilmington either terminate at Wilmington Station or Rodney Square, the main bus transit hubs in the city. DART First State also offers RideShare Delaware, a program which links commuters looking for carpools or vanpools. In addition, the site offers transit riders, walkers or bikers a Guaranteed Ride Home in the event of a work emergency. Greyhound operates interstate bus service out of the downtown bus terminal at the rail station.
The closest major airport is Philadelphia International Airport. A few miles south of Wilmington is Wilmington Airport, which serves as a base for both the Delaware Army National Guard and Delaware Air National Guard.
Wilmington is also served by the Port of Wilmington, a modern full-service deepwater port and marine terminal handling over 400 vessels per year with an annual import/export cargo tonnage of 5 million tons. The Port of Wilmington handles mostly international imports of fruits and vegetables, automobiles, steel, and bulk products.
Delmarva Power, a subsidiary of Exelon, provides electricity and natural gas to Wilmington. The city's Department of Public Works provides water and sewer service to Wilmington and some surrounding unincorporated areas. The city's water supply comes from the Hoopes Reservoir to the northwest of the city and from a dam along the Brandywine Creek in the city, with water mains pumping the water from these sources to facilities in the city, where the water is treated and stored or distributed to customers. The city's Department of Public Works also provides trash collection and recycling to Wilmington.
Christiana Care Health System, a health network headquartered in Wilmington, runs Wilmington Hospital on the edge of downtown Wilmington and Christiana Hospital in suburban Christiana, as well as various satellite health centers throughout the area. St. Francis Hospital, a member of CHE Trinity Health, is located in the west end of Wilmington. The Nemours Foundation runs the A.I. duPont Hospital for Children in North Wilmington, just outside the city proper.
The city has one of the highest per capita rates of HIV infection in the United States, with disproportionate rates of infection among African-American males. Efforts by local advocates to create needle exchange programs to reduce the spread of infection were obstructed for several years by downstate and suburban state legislators but a program was finally approved in June 2006.
The Wilmington Blue Rocks, a Minor League Baseball team in the Northern Division of the Carolina League, plays at Daniel S. Frawley Stadium.
The stadium is also the home of the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame.
Since their founding in 2015, the USA Rugby League expansion club Delaware Black Foxes have been based in the city at Eden Park Stadium.
In 2013, Bearfight FC of Wilmington was founded as the only United States Adult Soccer Association hailing from Delaware, qualifying them as the sole representative of The First State in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
In 2010, Sporting News ranked Wilmington 351st on its list of the 400 Best Sports Towns, behind two smaller Delaware cities, Newark (218) and Dover (208).
The Wilmington State Parks are a group of four parks in Wilmington operated by the Delaware State Park system. The four parks are Brandywine Park, including the Brandywine Zoo and Baynard Stadium, Alapocas Woods Natural Area, H. Fletcher Brown Park and Rockford Park. Admission to the parks is free, but a fee is charged for admittance to the zoo. The parks, within minutes of each other, are open year-round from sunrise to sunset. The zoo is open daily from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm, May through November. Rockford Tower and Rockford Park is open from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, from May 1 until October 31. The parks are patrolled by Delaware State Park Rangers whose headquarters office is in Brandywine Park.
The City of Wilmington also operates 55 parks and recreational facilities across the city.
The Delaware Distance Classic is a 15K road race held in October by the Pike Creek Valley Running Club (PCVRC). The course has rotated every few years based on sponsorship and is currently located in nearby Delaware City. The event began in 1983 as a fundraiser for the PCVRC, and the Mike Clark Legacy Foundation has been the beneficiary for the last few years.
The Caesar Rodney Half Marathon is a 21.0975-kilometre (13.1094 mi) road race held annually since 1964 on the second Sunday in March. Billed by race organizers as the "granddaddy of Delaware road races," it generally draws more than 1,000 runners from 20 states and several countries. From the starting line at Wilmington's Rodney Square, runners flow past the scenic revitalized riverfront, through Rockford Park and back to Rodney Square at the Caesar Rodney statue. Proceeds benefit the American Lung Association of Delaware.
The Run for the Buds 1/2 Marathon, 1/2 Marathon Relay, and 5K Run/Walk is held annually at Rockford Park in mid-October. Proceeds benefit people with intellectual disabilities through the Down Syndrome Association of Delaware.
The Wilmington Grand Prix is held annually and is considered one of the premier criterium-style bike races in the country. Now in its 11th year, it is part of USA Cycling's National Race Calendar, a collection of only the most elite races. Weekend festivities include a street festival, a time trial on Monkey Hill, criterium races in downtown Wilmington at both the amateur and pro level, a 50 km (31 mi) Media Fondo, a 100 km (62 mi) Gran Fondo, and a leisurely Governor's Ride.
Additionally, the East Coast Greenway passes through Wilmington and its immediate suburbs for 10.4 miles as part of the scenic Northern Delaware Greenway, which includes steep hills, heavily forested sections and paved portions that lead through downtown.
Wilmington is served by the Brandywine, Christina, and Red Clay school districts for elementary, junior high, and high school public education. The New Castle County Vocational-Technical School District operates Howard High School of Technology in the city of Wilmington.
In 1954, the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court forced the then segregated schools of New Castle County to desegregate. However, the subsequent eleven school districts that were created in the county, including the Wilmington School District, soon became de facto segregated, as the Wilmington School District became predominately black, and the districts outside the city remained overwhelmingly white. In response, the 1976 U.S. District Court decision Evans v. Buchanan implemented a plan by which students in Wilmington would be bused to attend school in the suburbs for certain grades, while suburban students would be bused into the City of Wilmington for other grades. By 1981, the four current districts in northern New Castle County, Brandywine, Christina, Colonial, and Red Clay, each composed of city and suburban areas, were established. However, Colonial School District no longer serves any portion of the city of Wilmington.
There are many private elementary and secondary schools in Wilmington: Salesianum School, Serviam Girls Academy, Nativity Preparatory of Wilmington, Ursuline Academy, Wilmington Friends School, The Tatnall School, Tower Hill School, St. Elizabeth High School, and Padua Academy. With 17.6% of its students enrolled in private schools, Wilmington ranks as one of the top ten cities in the country.
Wilmington also hosts several charter schools, including the Charter School of Wilmington, Great Oaks Charter School, Kuumba Academy Charter School, East Side Charter School, and a magnet school, Cab Calloway School of the Arts which focuses on the performing arts. The Charter School of Wilmington and Cab Calloway School of the Arts are housed in the building of the former Wilmington High School. Great Oaks Charter School and Kuumba Academy are housed in the Community Education Building (a/k/a "C.E.B"), formerly known as Bracebridge IV, acquired by Bank of America from MBNA Corp. in 1997 and donated to The Longwood Foundation in 2012.
There are several colleges operating in the city of Wilmington:
Wilmington has six sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International:
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