Main Streets 2016: Delaware
The more you look into the story of Newark, the more you see its historic connection to education. The city was founded by Scots-Irish and Welsh settlers in 1694. A grammar school that moved here from Pennsylvania in 1765 produced, among its earliest graduates, three signers of the Declaration of Independence — George Read, Thomas McKean and James Smith. In 1833, the state granted a charter to a new college that absorbed the grammar school and became Delaware College, then the University of Delaware. The university complex is right next to Newark’s downtown center, where South, East and West Main Streets come together.
On and around the one-mile core of Main Street that is the center of downtown are retail stores like the National 5 and 10, eateries and cafés like the Ali Baba Middle Eastern Restaurant and Bing’s Bakery, and specialty shops such as Aunt Margaret’s Antique Mall. In fact, more than 80 boutiques and 70 restaurants call the downtown home.
Working to keep the area dynamic is the Downtown Newark Partnership, an active private/public partnership. The New Castle County Chamber of Commerce also creates new business-development opportunities for its members, bringing together business and public officials and advocating for a strong and stable economic climate.
As you’d expect in an active university city, Newark’s downtown plays host to a number of lively public events, along with those on campus next door. Wine and Dine Downtown Newark is a food and wine extravaganza in April. In June, Newark’s premier street festival is A New Night, when Main Street closes to vehicles, live music is all over, and businesses join community organizations in offering booths, displays and food stalls. July brings the Downtown Newark Food & Brew Festival, which invites adults to wander among 18 restaurants, sampling dozens of craft beers together with creatively concocted edibles.
All this and more, plus Newark’s rich community heritage, adds up to the many good reasons why, in 2011, the National Trust for Historic Preservation honored Newark with one of just five Green American Main Street Awards. Previous decades of competition outside the center had brought a period of decline, the Trust said — but “through the efforts of dedicated stakeholders and partners, Newark now has a vibrant, thriving downtown.”
All photos courtesy of University of Delaware