At the end of our street, lies a local treasure behind a stone wall. Gibraltar Gardens is an urban oasis featuring landscaped walkways that wind through Italian statues, stone archways, rambling gardens, wrought iron gates, a curved staircase, a water garden and a dilapidated mansion. Very often I stroll through these gardens or just sit on a bench and meditate. Being right in the city, it is hard to imagine how much peace and tranquility exists behind these stone walls. In 1998, Gibraltar was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Sadly, the mansion is now in disrepair, but the gardens have been maintained by volunteers. It is open to the public, but a lot of people are not aware of this precious gem that exists right in our city. So for now, I’m keeping the secret to myself
There’s just an aura about this place, that takes you back in time. It was built in the mid 1840’s naming it after The Rock of Gibraltar as the mansion was built on a high rocky outcrop on which it stands. The mansion belonged to John Brinckle, a prominent Wilmington businessman. Members of the Brinckle family lived there till 1909 when Hugh Rodney Sharp and his wife Isabelle Mathieu du Pont, of the du Pont family, purchased the property. They hired Marian Coffin, the then renowned landscape architect to design the formal gardens. Marian Coffin created and designed landscapes up and down the East Coast, in addition to many of the fine du Pont gardens in the area. The Sharp family owned Gibraltar till 1990. When Rodney died in 1968, the estate was passed onto his son. Unfortunately he did not share the same love of horticulture, and when he died in 1990, the estate was put up for sale. At this time, Preservation Delaware saved Gibraltar and its gardens from demolition.
Take a virtual tour with me as we stroll through the gardens and the dilapidated mansion.
There are times when I sit all alone in my thoughts, I imagine what it would have been like during the summer parties the family hosted. Women in their finest, coming down the sweeping curved marble staircase into the garden. This impressive staircase is also a favorite spot for prom pictures and graduations.
Here’s a picture of me taken a few years ago visiting the gardens in the spring when the white azaleas and the bluebells were at their finest. Little did I know at the time, that we would be living just a stones throw from Gibraltar Gardens. Goodstay Gardens is right across the street from Gibraltar gardens, and is where I volunteer once a week. I feel so fortunate to be able to stroll to these two historical gardens so close to home.