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Most of the 2,000-plus people who pass through the Wilmington Train Station each day likely don’t realize they’ve stopped inside an architectural gem.

Like a powerful locomotive, Jim Tevebaugh is working to change that.

“We want to leave a legacy to all of this,” he says. “According to historians and scholars, it’s a national treasure.”

The red brick and terra cotta structure, now owned by Amtrak, was the last station designed by famed Philadelphia architect Frank Furness. The nearby B&O Water Street Station and the Pennsylvania Building (both renovated by ING Direct) complete the only remaining campus of
Furness-designed structures in the United States.

Tevebaugh, founder of a local architectural firm, and the non-profit Friends of the Furness Railroad District have spent the past year and a half celebrating the station’s 100th anniversary as a way of raising money and awareness. The fanfare culminates July 12 with a fundraising dinner. Groundbreaking of a $30 million renovation will be held later in the year.

Furness designed more than 200 railroad buildings during and after the industrial revolution, but most of his work has been destroyed. The three buildings near Wilmington’s riverfront represent the city’s important role in railway activity, as well as Furness’ unique style.

“Frank Furness was the grandfather of American railroading on the East Coast,” says Tevebaugh, a self-described ferroequinologist (an enthusiast of the iron horse). “He invented his own dynamic form of architecture.”

Other Furness-designed buildings that still stand in Delaware include the Newark train station, the former Central National Bank at Sixth and Market in Wilmington and the octagonal library building, now the Old Library Museum, in New Castle.

The Friends view the railroad district primarily as an opportunity to educate, but also recognize it as an obvious tourist attraction. The group will continue its mission by publishing commemorative and children’s activity books, developing curriculum for local elementary students and producing a historical display.

The Friends offer a limited edition painting of the first steam locomotive arriving at the station in 1907 for $150. Tevebaugh says about 20 of the 100 prints remain. For more information, contact the Friends at 425-5500 or friendsoffurness.com.

—Drew Ostroski

 

Bob Aerenson putts during the Jewish Community Center Sports Classic.photograph by Elisa Komins Morris, www.elisamorrisphotography.com From left: Caryl Marcus-Stape, Annette Aerenson, Ann Marie Rattigan and Willa Jones
opt for croquet. 


Chipping In For Charity

 

Golfers pay serious green to benefit the Jewish Community Center.

In Delaware, charity golf tournaments are as popular as Tiger Woods in a pro shop. Organizers, therefore, strive to make their tournaments more exclusive and unique than the next. After all, events such as this month’s Jewish Community Center Sports Classic command $10,000 sponsorships for a foursome.

“When you are competing for sponsor dollars, you outdo yourself,” says Dan Kline, a co-founder and chair of the annual Sports Classic.

The results have been stellar. During its first year in 1993, the tournament raised $20,000 for the Bernard and Ruth Siegel Jewish Community Center in Wilmington. Last year the event brought in $200,000, raising its 15-year total to $2.5 million. Kline says the classic is the most successful tournament in the United States among Jewish community centers.

The reason, in part, is exclusivity. The field is limited to 105 golfers who pay $850 each ($10,000 for a foursome, eight dinners and other bells and whistles) for an opportunity to play at the prestigious Wilmington Country Club North Course. In addition to greens fees, sponsors get lunch, a golf clinic, hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, dinner, auctions and awards. Non-golfers compete in tennis and croquet.

“It’s a great opportunity to network with the who’s who of Delaware,” says Donna Schwartz, the JCC’s assistant executive director.

It doesn’t hurt that the day of fun is for a great cause. JCC programs benefit folks of all ages, including a pre-school, summer camps and a hot lunch service for seniors. “The tournament touches everything we do,” Schwartz says.

The 16th annual Classic is set for July 28. To become a sponsor, contact Schwartz at 478-5660 or at donnaschwartz@siegeljcc.org.

—Drew Ostroski            


Built to Last
 

Ernesto DiSabatino and his sons laid the foundation of EDiS 100 years ago. The fourth and fifth generations continue to build upon the company’s legacy.

Andy DiSabatino thinks about his great-grandfather often. The CEO and chairman of EDiS, the state’s oldest family-run construction firm, would love to drive Ernesto DiSabatino around Delaware and point out the company’s handiwork.

Ernesto, a bricklayer from Italy, and two of his sons started the business in 1908. Now operated by its fourth and fifth generation of DiSabatinos, EDiS has built some of the state’s most recognizable buildings, including St. Anthony of Padua Church, Hercules Plaza and the New Castle County Courthouse.

If only Ernesto were back for a day.

“We could show him jobs that he and his sons completed, then show him his grandsons’ jobs and his great-grandsons’,” DiSabatino says. “What he would be most proud of is the tradition of quality and reputation has stayed the same.”

EDiS has expanded to 86 employees and five divisions that span the construction business. The company completed $180 million worth of construction last year and has 30 projects currently underway in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The industry has changed dramatically over the years, but DiSabatino says the basics have remained the same. “You still build buildings one brick at a time,” he says, “but the process of getting that brick ordered and at the job on time has changed.”

The company introduced the construction management project delivery method to Delaware when it built Delaware Tech’s Stanton campus in 1972. The approach features one company managing all aspects of construction.

After 35 years in the business, DiSabatino can’t help himself. Just as Ernesto and his sons would have done after a long day of bricklaying, DiSabatino stands back and admires his company’s work.

“You don’t just build a building,” he says. “You build a memory.”                                      

—Drew Ostroski

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