Wilmington buys Gibraltar mansion for $900K
WILMINGTON – The city of Wilmington purchased the Gibraltar mansion for $900,000 on Jan. 25 to preserve the historic 6-acre estate.
“For too long, well-intended neighbors and other interested parties have not been able to see eye-to-eye on what to do with this property, but everyone seems to agree on one thing—Gibraltar should not be allowed to further deteriorate,” Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki said in a press release.
The funding for the 19th-century estate was secured through the Delaware General Assembly after Purzycki negotiated the purchase amount with the former owners, Gibraltar Preservation Group. Prior to the purchase, Wilmington spent $250,146 to improve the grounds and trim overgrown vegetation in May.
“Consistent with our treatment and protection of other public places across the city, my administration is committed to seeing that this magnificent 19th century country estate is fully restored so that it can be enjoyed by future generations of city residents and visitors,” Purzycki said.
Purzycki said the preservation goal for the property is for public use, however, there are no specific plans at this time. He added that there will be opportunities in the future to discuss usage ideas with Council Members, neighbors, and other stakeholders.
The 2505 Pennsylvania Ave. property has been transferred to the Wilmington Neighborhood Conservancy Land Bank to restore the abandoned mansion. WNCLB was founded in 2016 and is Delaware’s first land bank. Since 2018, the WNCLB has repurposed a total of 128 properties. The estimated cost to restore the 18,000-square-foot property remains uncertain.
“Much as I’ve done throughout my career on the Christina Riverfront and as Mayor in preserving neighborhoods, this is about giving new beauty and purpose to part of our City and its history,” Purzycki said.
Constructed in the mid-1840s by John Rodney Brinckle, a Wilmington businessman and grandnephew of Caesar Rodney, the mansion was built on a rocky outcrop and named after the Rock of Gibraltar, a limestone ridge in Spain.
The Brinckle family sold the 80-acre estate in 1909 to Hugh Rodney and Isabella Mathieu du Pont Sharp. In 1916, the Sharp family expanded the grounds and commissioned prominent landscape designer Marian Cruger Coffin to create the garden, today known as the Marian Coffin Garden, open to the public.
After the death of Hugh Rodney Jr. in 1990, the property was left abandoned. Seven years later, Preservation Delaware Inc., a nonprofit conservation group, acquired the property. The original price listing by the Sharps, starting at $2 million, was reduced to $750,000, granted by the Delaware Open Land Program, according to Delaware Public Media.
The Gibraltar mansion was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998, making it eligible for historic preservation tax credits.
In 2010, PDI transferred the property to the Gibraltar Preservation Group, after the association deemed the maintenance costs were too substantial.