Wilmington Taking Major Step Towards Establishing African American Heritage Center

Mayor Purzycki signs the paperworkSubmitted Image

WILMINGTON, DE — On Friday, Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki’s Administration transferred ownership of five properties to the African American Heritage Center of Delaware, Inc. Among the notable donations are historic buildings that formerly housed the New Castle Leather Company and the Allied Kid Company. The group now aims to establish an African American Heritage Center on the East Side of the City.

“Today is a great day, and I hope this is the first day of something very special,” said Mayor Purzycki, before signing the agreement. “We are very happy about this arrangement, we think there are great possibilities ahead, and we have a good team to work with. This is going to be a wonderful project, and while the process took longer than we hoped it would, everyone wanted to make sure that we did this right. And I believe we did.”

“All of us are happy to be here,” said former mayor, James H. Sills, Jr., on behalf of the African American Heritage Center of Delaware. “We knew this day was coming, we just didn’t know when, but there’s every reason to believe the end results will be very positive.”

The properties included in the transfer this week during a signing ceremony in the Mayor’s Office are: 1039 Clifford Brown Walk; 1043 Clifford Brown Walk; 314 East 11th Street; 316 East 11th Street; and 318 East 11th Street.

The most recognizable property, at 1043 Clifford Brown Walk, formerly 11th and Poplar streets, has been referred to in recent history as the Allied Kid Building on East 11th Street. It served as the main office building for two world-renowned leather companies – New Castle Leather Company, founded in Wilmington in 1901, and later the Allied Kid Company – from the time it was constructed in 1917 up until 1977. The three-story stucco brick building in the Spanish colonial Mission Revival style, a unique style for Wilmington, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. It serves as one of the few reminders of Wilmington’s once thriving leather industry.

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Wilmington saw its leather industry grow considerably during the nineteenth and early twentieth century. At the turn of the twentieth century, Wilmington supported 40 plants that employed 3,000 leatherworkers. That number had doubled to 6,000 leather-industry workers by 1933 when the Allied Kid Company, incorporated in Massachusetts in 1929, purchased New Castle Leather. Allied Kid went on to become one of the most important specialty leather firms in Wilmington and a major employer in the City.

Additional history about the New Castle Leather Company and the Allied Kid Company can be found here and here.

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