the power of cooperation
laced with a generous portion of cooperation finally came to
fruition as public officials and folks from the surrounding
west Wilmington neighborhood gathered to open the new
Woodlawn branch of the county library system.
It was one of those
only-in-Delaware things as County Executive Christopher
Coons cut the ceremonial ribbon on Nov. 11 while flanked by
the state's congressional delegation, the lieutenant
governor, Wilmington's mayor and City Council president.
Coons said the new library
came about only because of a "remarkable multi-year
cooperative effort by a lot of people of different
backgrounds." Federal, state, city and county governments
all participated in the $8.5 million project along with
Woodlawn Trustees, a nonprofit housing and conservation
organization, and the volunteer Friends of Woodlawn Library.
The county Department of Community Services will operate the
U.S. Senator Joseph Biden
told a large group of residents of the area and others who
turned out for the occasion that the facility and the effort
which brought it into reality demonstrated that "as
maligned as government is,
Meehan (left) checks out the first book to be
borrowed from the new branch library -- a
paperback edition of a mystery novel. Zlva
Devine handles the transaction.
there's a role for it." As a result
in this instance, he
said, people will be able to obtain facts and share opinions --
two vital elements of a free society.
Senator Thomas Carper noted
that conveying title to the site of the former state
Department of Motor Vehicles office and inspection lanes to
Woodlawn Trustees was the last legislation he signed into
law as governor. He was glad to do so, he quipped, because
one of his first
coming to Delaware was "going to the place where nobody
liked you" to obtain a driver's license. The motor vehicle
facility long had a widespread reputation for offering the
public a decidedly unfriendly reception.
Newlin Wood, president of Woodlawn Trustees, which owns the property on which
the library stands and is leasing it to the county for $1 a
year, said he first broached the idea of replacing the
library at Sixth Street and Bancroft Parkway at a meeting of
the neighborhood association in nearby Wawaset Park in 1986.
The long-outmoded former
library, a branch of the Wilmington Institute Public
Library, had served the area since 1920. It originally
occupied the upper two floors of a building which housed
Woodlawn Trustees' office. It later was expanded to include
the entire building. Closed last summer so the library's
collection could be moved to the new facility, the building
will be refitted to house Woodlawn's maintenance operation
and two upstairs apartments.
Replacing the library became
than just talk when the motor vehicles department, now a division of Delaware Department of
Transportation, proposed replacing its vehicle inspection
and licensing office two city blocks away. A volunteer
support organization, Friends of Woodlawn Library, was
formed and retiring state Representative Joseph DiPinto took
up the cause. He sponsored the legislation which enabled
Woodlawn Trustees to acquire the site.
Wood said the original intent
was to remodel the motor vehicles building, but the
Wilmington Institute library did not have the resources to
do that. So Woodlawn Trustees and the Friends organization
turned to New Castle County. Former County Executive Thomas
Gordon was receptive to the idea of a new library, he said.
County government took it on as a capital project. Instead
of remodeling, however, it was decided that the more
cost-effective route was to construct a new building. It
also was agreed that the branch would be operated by the
county rather than the Wilmington Institute library.
The Friends raised $1.7
million toward the cost.
Related to the library
project was completion of a plan to connect the southern
section of Bancroft Parkway with the northern section. It
originally was proposed in 1940 to build a connector street
with a bridge over the then Baltimore & Ohio Railroad
tracks. World War II intervened and the motor vehicle
building was erected where the street would have been. With
the way cleared by demolition of that building, Woodlawn
Trustees provided the money to build a pedestrian bridge
over what is now the C.S.X. railroad track. It will be
turned over to the city.
Concurrently the deteriorated
Ninth Street bridge over the railroad was replaced with a
Wood said involvement with
the library project continues a tradition which dates back
to William Bancroft, son of Joseph Bancroft, who founded the
Bancroft textile business. William paid off the Wilmington
Institute's debt so what originally was a subscription
library could become a free library around the beginning of
the 20th Century. William also founded Woodlawn Trustees.
U.S. Representative Michael
Castle coincidentally continued the tradition in a similar
vein. He donated a large carton of books he had received as
"one of the [kind of] gifts Congressmen are allowed to
accept" to the new library and promised that there most
likely will be more books coming in the future.
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Woodlawn library nears completion