An oasis within the city limits of Wilmington? If you ask Adele Meehan, she’d say it’s her long-time neighborhood, Union Park Gardens.
Her collection of images detailing the 100-year history of the neighborhood, and its Massachusetts-based planner and landscape architect, John Nolen, will be on display at the Delaware History Museum at 504 North Market Street in Wilmington. Visit the special exhibit on Friday, May 4 starting at 11am (and open until 9pm for the Wilmington Art Loop), on Saturday, May 5 from 11am to 9pm or on Sunday, May 6, from 11am to 4pm. Admission is free. Refreshments will be served on Friday beginning at 5pm.
A Philadelphia orphan, Nolen’s hard work led him to the Wharton School of Finance and Economics at Penn. In 1903, the married Nolen sold his house and used the money to enroll in the newly established Harvard School of Landscape Architecture. He was famous as an innovative urban planner, and Union Park Gardens was an early entry in a long list of accomplishments.
Nolen is quoted as saying, "It has been said and with reason that man is the only animal who desecrates the surroundings of his own habitation." He was a proponent of clustering mixed-use neighborhood centers to prevent commercial sprawl and urban traffic problems, while establishing parkway systems to unite cities and provide pedestrian access.
Photos from the groundbreaking and construction and early snaps of the established neighborhood will give a glimpse into what life was like for World War I shipyard workers in 1917. The 58-acre parcel of land still shows much resemblance to the park-like community intended by developers.
Adele Meehan is president of the Union Park Gardens Neighborhood Association and a neighborhood historian, and has been developing this collection through many years of research.