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Blast from the Past: Our Link to Another Coast

If you're planning on heading East for your next vacation...

I've previously documented here the origins of the California Powder Works near the coastal city of Santa Cruz.  However, the ownership history of the Hercules plant also links it to the East Coast.

I'm talking, of course, about the du Pont family of Wilmington, Delaware.  The du Pont's owned the Hercules plant from 1903-1912, when the Federal government ordered them to divest due to anti-trust laws.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation (of which I am a member) recently featured a travel piece in its "Preservation" magazine (Sept/Oct 2011) about Wilmington, which briefly mentions the original powder plant there.

Eleutherian Mills, named after Eleuthere Irenee du Pont, began operations in 1802.  It closed in 1921, and is now known as Hagley Museum.  The museum features a mill, working machine shop, houses, and a school.  E.I. du Pont built a mansion there in 1803.  Nearly destroyed by an 1890 explosion (sound familiar?), it has since been restored.

The du Ponts are everywhere in Wilmington, and the article goes into detail about several restored family mansions turned museums, and the Hotel du Pont downtown, part of their headquarters building.  The public library was built on land given to the town by the du Ponts.  It goes on and on.

Check out the article for more information and a lot of great links.

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It's holiday season, and you know what that means.  Another shameless plug for the Hercules history book.  This would make a wonderful gift for any history buff, far-flung relatives, or even locals who have no idea there was anything in this town before the Creekside Center was built.

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Rose Cassaday December 01, 2011 at 08:21 AM
Hi, Dean. I've been enjoying your historical blogs! Thanks for the energy and effort. Just in case you haven't run across them yet I thought you might enjoy looking at a set of photos taken of the plant just before it was destroyed in 2005. . Check out: http://www.flickr.com/photos/misterken/sets/72157594489555917/
Susan D.Keeffe December 15, 2011 at 09:01 PM
Dean, Happy Holidays! Keep up the great articles!
Susan D.Keeffe December 15, 2011 at 09:04 PM
Rose, Where did you get those photos? The main building in Hercules was not blown up. It was taken down, carefully, by the City of Hercules. The graffitii is nothing to be proud of, in my opinion, it represents gang activity and inappropriate use by folks in the empty, and contaminated, building making it a public nuisance. If you want great photos, go to the Hercules Historic Society web-site and/or buy our book!

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