The Woodlawn Trustees Preserve is a large area of open space located in North Wilmington, Delaware, that lies along the west side of Route 202. It’s somewhat difficult to determine when you are on Woodlawn land, since signage is minimal, but most of the fields are lined with large boulders. I mostly hike the area along Ramsay Road, Woodlawn Road, and Thompson’s Bridge Road. The Woodlawn acreage is bordered by the Brandywine Creek State Park and the First State National Park, so any hikes usually cross over into these two parks.
Brandywine Creek State Park Map. You can see the Woodlawn property at the upper right area on the map. Download here.
Woodlawn Trustees Trails Map. This one is hard to read. You could maybe print it out and get some glasses to see the trails. Download it here.
In 1901, Industrialist William Poole Bancroft established Woodlawn Company. Starting around 1885, he used funds generated by Bancroft Mills, a successful Wilmington cotton mill, to give back to the community through the donation of landscaped parks to the city of Wilmington, Delaware.
Known today as Woodlawn Trustees, Inc., the organization is a non-profit (but tax-paying) real estate company managed by a board of directors that channels earnings back into the company. “Carefully planned development generates the funds to further Woodlawn activities which include preservation of open space and affordable rental housing to persons of modest means.”
Over the years, the group has given away and sold off some of their holdings, with some going to form part of the Brandywine Creek State Park and, more recently, a large tract going to form the new First State National Park.
A sign at Brandywine Creek State Park gives some details about the Thompson’s Bridge area:
In 1981, Woodlawn Trustees, Inc., helped the State of Delaware to add the land you see around you to Brandywine Creek State Park. Woodlawn owned 350 acres of this land, which at the time was worth almost $3 million. Woodlawn gave half the land as a gift to the people of Delaware. Federal funds bought the other half.
This area, known as the Woodlawn Tract, lies along Brandywine Creek on both sides of Thompson’s Bridge. Beginning in 1907, William Poole Bancroft and later Woodlawn Company and the Woodlawn Trustees bought the land to save it. They protected a wonderful landscape of old mills, dams, houses, and barns, as well as rare wildflowers and some of the oldest woodlands in Delaware.
When the Woodlawn Tract was added to Brandywine Creek State Park, a large part of William Bancroft’s dream of saving the beauty of this region came true. Those dreams are still the goal of the Woodlawn Trustees and Delaware State Parks.
In 2012, Woodlawn Trustees sold 1,100 acres of land in the Brandywine Valley to the Rockford Woodlawn Fund. In 2013, this land became part of the First State National Monument.
More About Woodlawn Trustees
At Woodlawn Trustees, we are stewards of the land. It is our mission to:
– Ensure that persons of modest means have an affordable place to call home
– Find the balance between development and preservation of our land’s natural beauty
A visionary city planner, William Bancroft founded Woodlawn Company—now Woodlawn Trustees, Inc.—in 1901. He was passionate about serving his community. Mr. Bancroft focused on providing affordable housing for people of modest means and providing open space and developed areas for the community.
In 1902, recognizing the need for workers’ housing, Woodlawn began developing The Flats, a community of rental units in Wilmington. At a time when most construction was oriented to owner-occupied houses, this neighborhood-based rental community was an innovation in housing. Today, there is even a greater need for affordable housing. The Flats are being redeveloped while capturing the historic spirit of the original community.
PRESERVATION OF OPEN SPACE AND PARK LAND
Known as the Father of the City Park System, William Bancroft had a genuine concern for open space and park land. Through funding from carefully planned development of portions of its lands, Woodlawn has preserved a large portion of land for hiking, walking, and horseback riding—free for public use. Much of Brandywine State Park and the First State National Historical Park are the former lands of Woodlawn. Throughout the early 1900s, Mr. Bancroft also purchased and donated lands to the Wilmington Park System.
ORDERLY PLANNED DEVELOPMENT
Long before there were planning and zoning codes, Woodlawn established development and building standards to serve our community. Today, our activities include land exchanges and the sale and long-term leasing of lands.
Woodlawn’s design standards for leased lands include attractive landscaping and high-quality material selection. These standards are a signature of Woodlawn development.
“Woodlawn Trustees’ involvement in the Brandywine Valley began over 100 years ago when Wilmington Quaker industrialist William P. Bancroft established the not-for-profit corporation. His vision for the Trustees emphasized preservation of open space, affordable worker housing, and planned community development. Both William Bancroft and Woodlawn Trustees have been heavily involved in the growth of the Wilmington park system and the preservation of open space in the Brandywine Valley since the late 1800s. Over the years, Woodlawn has made major contributions to the national, state, county and municipal parks in Wilmington and the eastern portion of the Brandywine Valley.” (Source)
And for another perspective on Woodlawn Trustees and their activities, please read
You’ll Never Guess Why Woodlawn Wants to Sell its Wildlife Refuge…To Developers and Not Conservancies
I’ll post more as I take them!