Once you get past its size—the building alone covers five acres—you begin to notice details such as the Italian marble floor in the lobby, oak trim around windows, door frames and chalkboards, and the grand skylights that spill sunshine into Pierre S. du Pont School.
The Wilmington landmark, recognized immediately by its distinctive cupola, recently underwent a $44 million renovation to restore its previous glory. The result is a building that exhibits an old-school feel, but with all the modern amenities.
“Look at that stuff up there,” says John Skrobot, co-chair of the Brandywine School District’s renovation oversight committee. He points to the auditorium’s original chandeliers, decorative grates and brass rails, all installed before the building opened in 1935. “Where do you get that kind of stuff these days?”
You don’t. The school was renovated to last, since taxpayers footed the bill. “We’re using debt money,” says construction project manager John Read. “We have to take the school 40 to 50 years out.”
Asbestos and lead were removed. A sprinkler system was added. Slate from locker room showers was turned into window sills, and wooden shelves from closets were repurposed throughout.
The renovation cost $180 per square foot. Construction of a new school would have cost more than of $310 million—seven times more than renovating.
Students and teachers now enjoy modern comforts such as air quality monitoring, a telephone-intercom in classrooms, and a cheerful cafeteria with piped-in jazz music and booths instead of fold-up tables. The shiny technology is tempered by the warm feel that comes from the classrooms’ original oak floors and wooden desks.
Impressive features such as the original skylights, which had been covered by tar and plywood for years, are once again shining. A display case houses two shovels from the original groundbreaking and a portrait of Pierre S. du Pont, for whom the school was named.
An archive room is chocked with historical artifacts such as lettermen sweaters, yearbooks, trophies and an American flag that flew when the school opened.
But don’t get the wrong idea, Read says.
“We’re not Winterthur or Longwood Gardens,” he says. “Our mission is education first, history second.” —Drew Ostroski
Page 2: The Lincoln Log | This month marks Abe’s 200th birthday. Hence, local Lincoln lovers offer some very cool ways to celebrate. Honest.
This month marks Abe’s 200th birthday. Hence, local Lincoln lovers offer some very cool ways to celebrate. Honest.
David Swayze gets excited when he thinks about how Delaware will recognize the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial this year.
Swayze is a 30-year member and president of the Lincoln Club of Delaware. He also serves on the state commission formed to oversee Lincoln-related happenings.
Larger events include a major exhibition of Lincolniana at the University of Delaware’s Morris Library, a symposium at Delaware Law School, a dinner on February 10 at the Chase Center in Wilmington that features two Lincoln experts as speakers, and Law Day on May 1, when attorneys, including Swayze, visit schools to sing the praises of you-know-who.
Swayze’s love of Lincoln began when he first read about the War Between the States. “If you have an active interest in the Civil War, you cannot help but be led to the doorstep of Abraham Lincoln’s greatness,” he says.
Swayze says a visit to the UD exhibit or a smaller collection at the university’s Goodstay Center in Wilmington is a fine way to commemorate our 16th president. The UD exhibit contains more than 2,000 books, pamphlets, photos, artwork, artifacts and documents, including a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment.
For more information about the Lincoln Club, visit www.udel.edu/lincolnclub/index.html. To register for the dinner, visit www.delcf.org/events.php. —Drew Ostroski
Page 3: Biden Time | A monthly review of the veep.
A monthly review of the veep.
Marching bands from the Delaware Volunteer Fireman’s Association, University of Delaware, Delaware State University and Alexis I. du Pont High School will boogie in the 56th Presidential Inaugural Parade next week. Joe’s doing?
The Bidens picked out a puppy after the election, a German shepherd from a breeder in Chester County. Why not the SPCA or a shelter? Why not in Delaware (or at least Scranton)?
Before the inauguration, the Obamas stopped the party train in Wilmington to pick up the Bidens. News flash: Joe rides a train to D.C. Isn’t this administration about change? (Kidding, Joe. Keep on trackin’.)
Page 4: Wawa by the Numbers
In September, Wawa served its billionth cup of coffee of this century when CEO Howard Stoeckel handed Terrance Capers from Delaware County, Pennsylvania, a hot cup of joe.
That’s 1 billion. Nine zeros. Let’s say you wanted to buy 1 billion 16-ounce cups of Wawa’s Kona Blend. That’d run you roughly $1,050,000,000, or about a week’s worth of profits from ExxonMobil.
We asked Wawa for more interesting numbers. Here’s what they came up with:
Stores ———————————– 570
Stores with gas pumps — 250
Employees ————————————————- 16,000
Members of Wawa’s Facebook fan club —————————- 60,000
Customers per year ——————————————————————————————- 500 million
Cups of coffee sold each year ——————————————————————– 185 million
Hoagies made each year ————————————————————– 56 million
Quarts of Wawa Dairy milk sold each year ———————————————— 110 million
Page 5: Fields of Dreams
Wilmington’s historic Tower Hill School has gotten some state-of-the-art athletic fields, thanks in large part to one generous contributor.
Developer Frank Acierno, president of Allied Properties (which brought us Concord Mall, Christiana Town Center and Concord Gallery) donated $1 million to the school’s campaign, pushing it tantalizingly close to its $12 million goal. When construction is complete, Tower Hill fields will be some of the best around, with synthetic Field Turf, new bleachers, announcers’ booths and stadium lighting.
The 90-year-old school has been rehabbing its campus piece by piece over the past 15 years. It has added a new art room, music center and cafeteria, and it has upgraded classrooms. The athletics improvements are the capstone.
“It’s the feeling of completion, the last piece that’s important,” says school spokeswoman Nancy Schuckert. “We’ve been working the last 15 years to upgrade all the facilities, and this is the final piece of the puzzle.”
Acierno, the grandparent of a Tower Hill student, made the single largest contribution to the campaign. “I think the Acierno family has been very generous to the school,” Schuckert says. “And they recognized this was a great opportunity for the school.”
The improvements not only give Hillers athletes better soccer, football, field hockey and baseball fields, they give neighbors and passers-by a better view.
“For the community it’s a huge improvement,” Schuckert says. “Just the look of the surrounding area or for anyone driving down Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Look for Frank E. Acierno Fields, adjacent to Pennsylvania Avenue and Rising Sun Lane, this fall. —Matt Amis