April 24, 2001

Du Pont Co. has put historic Walker's Mill up for sale, billing it as a prime site for potential office or apartment development. The company is seeking the best offer with $1 million set as the opening bid.

The one-time textile mill on the banks of the Brandywine opposite Henry Clay sits on a 10-acre track off Rising Sun Lane which also includes a two-story, four-unit building which once served as a residence for mill workers and a garage. The mill and residential building are described as abandoned; the garage is used to store equipment used  by a landscape contractor to

maintain the grounds of the Du Pont Experimental Station.

Although not open to the public as an historic or cultural attraction, the mill vies with Rockford Tower as the most often photographed and painted landmark in the Wilmington area. The usual view is from Breck's Mill across the creek.

Leigh Johnstone, vice president of C.B. Richard Ellis, the real estate firm which has the exclusive sales listing, did not return telephone calls from Delaforum seeking comment.

Presumably, the sale is part of Du Pont's current belt-tightening moves. The property is a half mile downstream from where the company was founded 199 years ago as a gunpowder

Walker's Mill as seen from across the Brandywine.


In the cover letter of a sales brochure which Delaforum has been able to obtain, Johnstone suggests that a prospective buyer "would utilize (sic) the enduring beauty and spectacular location of Walker's Mill ... perhaps as some of the area's most desirable Class A++ residential and/or office space."

Also contained in the brochure is a letter from Wilmington Mayor James Baker noting that the city would be interested in annexing the property, which lies just outside its western boundary. Both City Council and New Castle County Council approval would be required for that to occur.

The brochure said the site would support up to 38,000 square feet of office space and is properly zoned for that use. Rezoning would be necessary for residential development but, if obtained, the likely classification would allow for 14 upscale apartments.

Either scenario would have to involve renovation and retrofitting of the existing buildings. Historic and natural-resource preservation restrictions would preclude any new construction in the site. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to an historic sketch in the brochure, the original mill was built in 1815 by John Siddall & Co. It was rebuilt around 1848 after a fire and there apparently were several additions made in subsequent years. Du Pont acquired the property in the mid-1800s, donated it to the Eleutherian Mills-Hagley Foundation in 1955 and took it back in a property exchange in 1993.

The residential structure -- known as the Walker's Bank building -- also dates from about 1815 and evidently was originally four town- or rowhouse units occupied by supervisory workers and their families. There is a six-foot-wide porch running the length of both sides.

The garage was built by Hagley in the 1960s. It stands on a part of the property where photographs taken in the early years of the 20th Century show three houses standing. Those houses are not seen in a 1937 aerial photograph.

Except to note that there is no evidence of soil contamination on the site, the brochure sketch does not go into what, if any, role the mill or site played in connection with chemical research at the Du Pont Experimental Station.

2001. All rights reserved.





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