The Renovation of Rodney Square
In 1989, Rodney Square, a historic park in the heart of Wilmington, had suffered from the changing demands on a central park in an urban setting. These were difficult economic times for the city; funds to maintain parks were limited. After a club meeting at Emily du Pont’s, the Community Projects Committee met to discuss what our Club might do with money we had raised from one of our successful house and garden tours. The possibility of contributing large containers of plants to beautify the square was discussed. That initial idea evolved into an eight-year, $2,000,000 undertaking.
At the recommendation of Bill Frederick, Rodney Robinson, of the landscape architectural firm, Coe, Lee, Robinson and Roesch, was hired to create a plan. It included raising the grass panel to protect it from vehicle and foot traffic, replanting the beds with trees, shrubs and flowers, resurfacing the entire Square with decorative pavers, installing attractive bus shelters, improving soil and drainage around the exterior trees, and removing unsightly barriers. During the years of the renovation, Wilmington underwent a renaissance with the arrival of MBNA as a major force in the city. Additional funds were raised from individuals, foundations, the city and state, and the business community.
It became evident that just completing the renovation would not be enough. Recognizing that the Department of Parks and Recreation could not be expected to maintain the plantings, a plan was worked out whereby the city agreed to take care of the central grass panel and trash removal and the GCW hired the services of the DCH to maintain the perimeter beds and street plantings that border the square. GCW members raised an endowment to support the maintenance done by the DCH and continue to monitor the condition of the plants and the overall condition of the square.
By 2015, the economic downturn in Wilmington had adversely affected the Square and a group called the Rodney Square Conservancy, made up of city officials and prominent business leaders, was formed in 2017 to plan for the future. Ann Wick, who chaired the club’s efforts in the ‘90s and spearheaded fundraising for the endowment continues her involvement as the club’s representative on the new Conservancy.