WILMINGTON -- The University and Whist Club will open its Valentine’s Day dinner to the public for the first time since the club’s 1958 opening in order to build membership.
“Inviting the public in to experience the Whist is the key to our growth," Managing Director Jacques Macq said. “Our membership cannot expand if we do not expand our efforts beyond our traditions.”
The club, which changed hands last year, is housed in a building dubbed the Tilton Mansion. The original house on the land was once owned by Dover Dr. James Tilton, who fought in the First Delaware Regiment in the American Revolution and crossed the Delaware with Gen. George Washington. Tilton later served in the Continental Congress and as the first surgeon general. He unsuccessfully pitched his home as a national capitol building.
Tilton built a larger home dubbed Federal Hill on the land. In 1852, a local industrialist bought it and rebuilt the mansion. In the early 20th Century, Delaware Lt. Gov. J. Danforth Bush bought the property and remodeled the house asan English manor house. Francis V. duPont Jr. eventually bought the property to save it from destruction. He sold it to a university club . When two private clubs merged in 1958, the University and Whist Club began. Whist was a popular card game.
The club became a popular spot for private business meetings, including the one where the Financial Center Development Act was first pitched in 1981.
The club will open some previously private events to the public, beginning with the event on Feb. 14.
Previously, only weddings and booked events were open to non-members.