1971: The Society Purchases the Artisans Savings Bank Building

Artisans Savings Bank
The Artisans Savings Bank on Market Street, Wilmington (DHS Photo Collection)

In 1971, the Society’s search for more space finally came to an end with the purchase of the former Artisans Savings Bank building at 505 North Market Street. This purchase would be the successful conclusion to several years of searching. Other candidates included the Old Customs House on King Street and the Mullins Building on Market Street.

At the Executive Committee Meeting of May 19, 1971, the Society looked at the possibility of purchasing the building in conjunction with plans to create a “historical enclave” (later Willingtown Square) in the 500 block of Market Street to save several Colonial buildings slated for demolition as part of urban renewal, noting that “the Artisans Building would probably be useful to the Society if the enclave project did not materialize.” At this same meeting, the Society voted unanimously to obtain a 120-day option to purchase the building at a price of $190,000.

By July, the Society’s President, Charles Lee Reese, Jr., was able to announce that “the officers had executed the contract for the purchase of the Artisans Savings Bank at the price of $185,000.00 after receiving a grant from the Longwood Foundation of $150,000.00 with the additional grant of $70,000.00 for needed improvements.” With that, it was unanimously agreed to accept the grant, approve and ratify the purchase contract, and launch the Society into a new stage of development.

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