1872: The Historical Society of Delaware Finds a New Home

In 1871, the Grand Opera House opened up at 818 N. Market Street in Wilmington. Designed by Delaware architect Thomas Dixon in the Second Empire style, the building was originally constructed for the Grand Lodge of the Masons. The façade, with its cast iron images, makes it one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city.

Grand Opera House, 1893
Grand Opera House, 1893

Having outgrown their space at the Wilmington Institute, members of the Historical Society of Delaware decided to make the Grand their new headquarters. The first mention of the move is recorded in the Society minutes of January 11, 1872: “Mr. Hinkley reported that the committee on new room had visited the new Masonic Temple. In the 3rd story were two good rooms, the rent of the front $100, that of the back $75. That in front, it was suggested, should be for holding meetings of the Society; that in the rear for Library and Cabinet.” The first meeting in the new space took place on May 16th.

The Society remained headquartered at the Masonic Temple until 1878 when they moved to the First Presbyterian Church. Today, the Grand remains an important Wilmington institution and in the course of its 135-year history, has hosted thousands of artists and performers. Each year, 120,000 people flock to the Grand to see a wide range of programs including opera, jazz, comedy, rock, and orchestra.

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