Walnut Street Honored As ‘Great U.S. Street’

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Walnut Street during DMI's Eat In The Street event.
Walnut Street during DMI’s Eat In The Street event.

The American Planning Association (APA) has chosen Walnut Street in downtown Delaware as one of their Great Places in America for 2013. Named as one of the top 10 Great Streets in the United States, North and South Walnut Street is celebrated by APA as offering exemplary character, quality and planning.Places are selected annually and represent the gold standard in terms of “having a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement, and a vision for tomorrow.”

On the APA website the organization highlights Milford’s history and the shift in the economy from its original shipbuilding community to agriculture, dental supplies, materials and innovations through the pioneering work of L.D. Caulk. More recently through tourism Milford “capitalized on its history and unique character, the town renamed its revitalization committee Downtown Milford Inc., (DMI) in 1995 and made $2.2 million in public and private investments during the next five years, including sidewalk and street improvements, erosion control, and the Mispillion River walkway.” In additional the APA report highlights improvements along Walnut Street including removal of utility poles, burying power lines, adding benches and sidewalk planters, and adding historic lighting.

APA describes Walnut Street as home to the downtown Milford business district including unique, upmarket boutiques and services for Milford residents and visitors. In the last two months alone, three new business have opened on Walnut Street with three additional businesses opening on streets connecting to Walnut Street over the past several months. With retail space still available close to the Mispillion River, there is room to expand the street’s business district in the future.

Recently the street has seen a revival of an arts community including visual, theatrical and culinary arts. The Mispillion Art League, Studios Upstairs and Gallery 37 all offer art galleries and studios open to the public. Each also proactively reaches out to the community and younger generations continually through education to inspire  future artists. Rounding out the Culinary arts are several businesses that focus on local, organic and handmade baked goods, cuisine and beverages. Dolce Bakery & Coffee Shop was specifically named in the report stating that owners Chuck Stanko and George Caroll chose Milford for a small town with a homey feel.

Owners of residential properties along the street have taken great pride in restoring a variety of Federal, Greek revival and Victorian architectural style homes, including the Causey Mansion which has been home to two Delaware Governors and placed on the The National Register by the U.S. Department of Interior.

Connecting North and South Walnut Street is the Mispillion River which also divides Kent and Sussex Counties. Located on the banks of the Mispillion River on Walnut Street is the marker for the Delaware History Trail. The trail highlights details of the downtown area including the three National Register of Historic Places Historic Districts, an outstanding local museum located in a former Post Office, the landmark Parson Thorne Mansion and the recently restored Vinyard Shipyard.

Annually North and South Walnut Street are home to several downtown festivals including the Riverwalk Freedom Festival, Bug & Bud Festival, Holiday Stroll and weekly Riverwalk Farmers’ Market. Each public event invites Milford residents and visitors to discover the businesses, arts and social life on Walnut Street and the surrounding downtown area. Most recently Downtown Milford Inc. hosted the Eat In The Street event where individuals were served a three-course meal created with locally made cuisine, produce and libations in the center of Walnut Street.

Since the 18th Century North and South Walnut Street has seen several changes including physical buildings, its economy and its relevance to the Greater Milford Area. With the City of Milford moving the billing services to South Walnut Street and the possibility of an overhaul to the three-story building once housed by Warren Furniture on the corner of South Walnut Street and SW Front Street, the opportunities continue to grow as the town focuses more importance on North and South Walnut Street.