The funds derived from New Castle Common have, through the years,
been devoted to so many purposes that only the larger interests can be
PUBLIC EXPENSES, &c.
For many years the Trustees assumed all the expenses of Town Government,
and until after 1850 there was no town tax at all. As early as
1807 the Trustees defrayed the expenses of furnishing lights for the
Town, and enclosed the public square and planted trees. Trees have
been furnished a number of times and recently many have been planted
both on public property and throughout the Town. In 1822 the Town
Clock was purchased by the Trustees, and through all the years has been
maintained by the Trustees and has given remarkable satisfaction. The
Town Hall was built by the Trustees on public property, and for over a
century has furnished a meeting place for the people of the Town.
PREVENTION OF FIRE
As early as 1819 the Trustees purchased a fire engine for the Town.
Appropriations and assistance have been repeatedly and freely given to
the Volunteer fire companies who have served the Town so well. These
companies have been the Union, Penn, Delaware, Goodwill, Lenape and
the present excellent Goodwill Company. The Trustees originally built
the lower floor of the Town Hall for fire companies, and a few years
ago took title to the present fire hall, discharged the indebtedness, and
turned the property over to the city, free of debt. Since ambulances
have been adopted as part of the firemen's equipment, the Trustees have
gladly aided in their purchase and maintenance.
In the early days the Trustees paid all the costs of improving the
streets, first with gravel and then with cobble stones, which was then the
best known means of paving. As late as 1912 the Trustees spent $7000
in assisting the paving with more modern material.
At an early date the Trustees built the wharf at the foot of Harmony
Street, and in 1914 paid half the cost of the Delaware Street Wharf, of
The very first appropriation of funds in 1798 was for educational
purposes. For a time all the funds of the trust were devoted to the
erection and maintenance of the New Castle Academy. Later the Arsenal
Building on the Green (then a one-story building) was taken by the
Trustees and rebuilt, and here the Trustees established the New Castle
Institute. The Trustees then operated and entirely supported all the
public schools of the town until 1875, when the Board of Education was
created. The Trustees furnished the site for the District School on School
House Lane, recently demolished for the Airport. A large contribution
later made possible the erection of the school building at the West end
of the town at 11th and Gray Streets. About 1931, when William Penn
School was built, the State appropriation was not sufficient without serious
curtailment of the plans. The value of the building was secured by the
aid of the Trustees to the extent of $20,000.
As early as 1823 the Trustees expended a large sum in boring for
artesian wells for the use of the Town. When the first public water
system was suggested in 1869 the project could not be carried out unless
the Trustees guaranteed the interest on a large amount of bonds. This
was done, and the water works installed and the interest paid until about
1899. When the City of New Castle acquired its own Public Utilities
the management was entrusted to a commission appointed respectively by
the Mayor, City Council and Trustees of New Castle Common.
EMPLOYMENT OF CITIZENS
Between 1903 and 1915 the Trustees, at the earnest request of the
citizens, took steps to provide employment for the citizens of the town.
By providing sites and other material aid to the extent of upwards of
$26,000 the Brylgon, Baldt and Tropenas Steel Companies were located
in New Castle and for many years furnished employment to a large
number of inhabitants.
In times of financial stress the funds of the Board have been freely
devoted to purposes of the relief of the inhabitants who have been denied
all opportunity of employment. Calls of the Red Cross or more local
charities have been speedily and liberally answered.
In 1939 the Trustees, for the sum of $25,000, purchased the large
tract on the River front, known as the Battery, for a park and public
playground. It was subsequently deeded to the city. The inhabitants
are thus assured, for all time, that this splendidly located tract will always
be open for their enjoyment. It may be, that in the years to come, the
future of the Trustees of New Castle Common will be in the nature of
a Park Board. To this end the Legislature of the State in 1941 created
the Trustees of New Castle Common as the Park Board to have supervision
and charge of all parks acquired for the use of the City of New Castle.
In thus presenting some details of this unusual and unique institution
the limitation of space has necessarily required the elimination of many
events of more local color-those interesting items which constitute the
folk lore inevitably attaching to a continuous history from the earliest
We have attempted merely to present the outlines of this active,
living and useful trust which has continued to function in its full vigor
for a period of almost three centuries. We have viewed the preservation
of this material as important, not merely because of its value for the
proper administration of the trust itself, but because it typifies the survival
of a rare example of an ancient mode of life, now scarcely to be elsewhere
found, together with its adaptation to more modern conditions.
As we have herein shown, there is substantial evidence to the effect
that New Castle Common had its existence prior to 1664, when the
English first exercised any jurisdiction over Delaware soil. The first
recorded mention of the tract, of which we now have knowledge, was,
however, in the Minutes of Assembly of September 20, 1701. The date
of submission of this booklet of September 20, 1944, exactly two hundred
and forty-three years later, has, therefore, been advisedly chosen
and is deemed as not an inappropriate date.