Original College Gateway Endures as Nod to WC’s Past

August 3, 2021

This is the latest in a series of “Sesquicentennial Moments.” These monthly stories, presented since January 2020, have delved into the history of Wilmington College during its 150th anniversary celebration, which lasts through September.

Those traveling by Wilmington College this summer will notice construction of the new College Gateway at the corner of Main and College streets. It replaces WC’s understated formal entrance to campus that was situated in the same spot for the past six decades.

That popular intersection hasn’t always been the primary entrance to WC’s campus.

PICTURED: The original College Gateway is pictured circa the late 1940s featuring the intra-campus street, Whittier Court Place. The road closed to vehicular traffic in 1958 yet the Gateway remains as a remnant of the College’s middle 20th century era. (BELOW) Students in 2009, Zach Owsley, Abbie Camp and Alex Geier, are pictured walking near the Gateway.

One needs to continue driving only 100 feet, shortly after Main St. turns into Fife Ave., to see the well-preserved College Gateway installed more than 100 years ago as a gift from the 1919 graduating class. It features a series of brick walls and pillars connected by wrought iron fencing.

For many years, traveling from Fife Ave. through the Gateway led one to an intra-campus street known as Whittier Court Place, which traversed the present northern section of campus to the former Whittier Court. That structure built in 1896 as the Wilmington Yearly Meeting tabernacle became the College’s gymnasium/auditorium in 1921. The facility served in that capacity until Boyd Auditorium went online in 1953 and Hermann Court became the center for athletics in 1966.

Prior to the opening of Whittier Court, the street was known as Franklin St. after the ill-fated attempt in the 1860s to start Franklin College. Quakers purchased at an auction in 1870 Franklin College’s unfinished building and adjacent land. This became Wilmington College and College Hall, WC’s iconic structure, remains in full use today.

Students at GateWhittier Court Place terminated at Douglas St., which used to traverse the College mall before that campus section of the street was removed in the 1980s. One could turn east and connect with Ludovic St. (known as Quaker Way since 2006) and Linton Ave. or turn west and continue toward College St. or turn north from Douglas onto Mitchell Drive, another inner-campus street. Named in 1953 in honor of long-time librarian Marguerite Mitchell, Mitchell Drive ran just east of Boyd Auditorium and Watson Library and ended alongside College Hall.

The College closed Whittier Court Place to vehicular traffic in 1958, later turning Mitchell Drive into a pedestrian sidewalk as part of its 1989 renovation of Collett Mall. The remaining campus section of Douglas St., between College St. and Boyd Cultural Arts Center (formerly Boyd Auditorium/Fine Arts Building) became known as Withrow Circle in 2006 in recognition of generous 1958 alumnus Andrew Withrow and his wife, Catherine.

The original Gateway stands as a reminder of the College’s middle 20th century years.

The new College Gateway pays homage to the original Gateway, as it will incorporate several key elements from its predecessor. Indeed, it will feature seven brick pillars connected by wrought iron fencing — four on the Main St. side and three on the Fife Ave. section of the new Gateway. Those columns represent the College’s seven core values: community, excellence, integrity, respect for all persons, diversity, peace/social justice and service/civic engagement.