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Wilmington is the largest city in Delaware and the county seat of New Castle County. During colonial times, it was known by the name Willington. This name was adopted in honor of Thomas Willing, the first developer of the land. The earliest colony was setup by Sweden and Finland in 1638. The colony then fell into the hands of the Dutch in 1655, and later the British. Under the British rule, the colony was granted a borough charter in 1739 by King George II. Under the new status, the name of the borough was changed from Willington to Wilmington, in honor of Spencer Compton, the Earl of Wilmington. The Old Town Hall, built between 1798 and 1800, is now owned and maintained by the Historical Society of Delaware. The society also operates the Delaware History Center nearby.
The borough of Wilmington was officially granted a city charter in 1832. The Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad arrived in 1837. Wilmington prospered with the establishment of new industries and the arrival of more people. The economy got a further boost during theCivil War, owing to the heavy demand of ships, railroad cars, gunpowder, shoes, tents, uniforms, blankets and other war materials. Around the year 1868, Wilmington became the largest producer of war ships in the country. The prosperity brought about by the war led to a housing boom in the western parts of the city. Delaware Avenue saw many mansions built during this period.
The late nineteenth century saw the establishment of an extensive park system, largely due to the efforts of William Bancroft, whose concern for the preservation of open green spaces inspired him to donate land and money for the development of parks. Rockford Park and Brandywine Park are among his contributions to the city.
Wilmington has benefited over the years from the laws of Delaware, which favor corporate management. It is the official headquarters of many corporations that otherwise do little or no business in the state.
Wilmington College has grown rapidly since its founding in 1968 and now has campuses throughout the state. Goldey-Beacom College, a private co-educational college founded in 1886, has its campus in a suburb of Wilmington. Wiedner University, based in Chester, Pennsylvania, has a branch campus in Wilmington.
Hagley Museum and Library preserves and collects information about American business and technology. The Delaware Art Museum is located in a residential area of fine homes. Collections at the Delaware Museum of Natural History have a strong emphasis on mollusks and birds. The collection at the Biggs Museum of American Artincludes pieces that are 200 years old and which clearly depict the evolution of American art from colonial portraiture to impressionism to 20th-century traditional realism.
Established in 1924 by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, St. Francis is Delaware's only Catholic hospital. The Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children is located on 300 acres of parkland outside of Wilmington.
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