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Wilmington looks to preserve Gibraltar after $900,000 purchase

by Staff

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The city of Wilmington is looking to preserve the once-abandoned historic Gibraltar property after years of neglect and deterioration.

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki recently negotiated the purchase of the 6-acre estate for $900,000. The purchase came after opposition that made developers scrap plans for the property, which included turning the mansion into a boutique hotel and wedding venue while adding housing to the adjacent land.

The Gibraltar mansion, located at 2505 Pennsylvania Ave. at the edge of the city, was once under the threat of demolition due to lack of care and was saved by efforts from local residents and Preservation Delaware.

The property is noted as one of the most historic in Wilmington and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which features national locations that are deemed by the U.S. government to be worth preservation.

Gibraltar has now been transferred to the Wilmington Neighborhood Conservancy Landbank, which, along with the city, plans to give the property new life and meaning.

PAST REPORTING: Wilmington looks to take over Gibraltar mansion as developers abandon plans for reuse

Before the city’s purchase, the property belonged to Gibraltar Preservation Group, a limited liability company under principals Drake Cattermole and David Carpenter.

For years, there has been not only confusion but opposition to what was next for the property.

The Delaware General Assembly agreed to pay for the property to preserve the estate. Before the settlement, Wilmington was allowed access to preserve the grounds by trimming trees and overgrown vegetation, implementing physical improvements to the mansion and more.

According to Purzycki, no plans are definite for the property — ensuring that in time, ideas will be explored with council members, neighbors and other parties interested.

The mansion, which dates back to the mid-1840s, was constructed by John Rodney Brinckle, a Wilmington businessman.

The house, which sits on top of a rocky outcrop, was named after the famous Rock of Gibraltar, a Jurassic-age limestone promontory in Spain.

Other residents of the house included Isabella Mathieu du Pont Sharp, a member of the Du Pont family, and her husband, Hugh Rodney Sharp.

The areas surrounding the mansion, now known as the Marian Coffin Gardens, were added sometime in the early 1900s by pioneering landscape architect Marian Cruger Coffin.

The property, which was inherited by son Hugh Rodney Sharp Jr., became unmaintained, and was vastly overgrown by the time of his death in 1990.

COMMUNITY OPPOSITION: As Gibraltar decays, Delaware says it’s ‘never had to enforce’ conservation easements

PREVIOUSLY: Mayor proposes new idea to save, renovate historic Gibraltar mansion. Would it work?

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