An overview of Delaware’s architectural history from every period. Coverage is heavier for New Castle County.
Copies of this book are also available in the Reference and Special Collections departments.
New Castle County
A review of the land records to determine the ownership and description of the property. The history of a property’s title (“chain of title”) reveals all parties who have a legal interest in the property and the nature and degree of their interest. Land records are registered and maintained by county recorders. They generally have indexes to sellers (“grantors”) and purchasers (“grantees”). Deeds usually do not provide many details of structures on a property, but can provide clues as to when property was sold or purchased, divided or developed, and possibly when buildings were erected. The researcher must know names of owners of the property.
The University of Delaware Library has copies of deeds for New Castle County through approximately 1850 on microfilm, as well as grantor and grantee indexes (Microfilm S 334, Microfilm S 334.1, and Microfilm S 334.2).
The New Castle County Recorder of Deeds office has land ownership records for New Castle County. The documents on file in the New Castle County Recorder of Deeds office date back to the 17th century and include such historical items as the land grant assigning William Penn the area that has become the State of Delaware.
For other Delaware land records held by the University of Delaware Library, see Delaware Land Records .
From Off Campus
Recommendation for Library Purchase
The Library welcomes suggestions for books, journals, videos and other material. Please use the Recommendation for Purchase form to send your suggestions.
The University of Delaware Library provides access to a number of resources on historic structures. Strengths are for the State of Delaware, particularly New Castle County.
Start with Barksdale's Buildings of Delaware and these resources to determine whether a structure has been identified as “historic.”
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places, including more than 71,000 listings, is the Nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. The National Register Information System (NRIS) is the official database of the National Register of Historic Places. You can look up historic places by state and county. The information you retrieve, however, is minimal. An alternative to the online Register, you can also check the printed National Register of Historic Places (Ref E159 .N34), but the latest edition in that of 1994. After you determine that a property is on the National Register, you may be able to use the following resource.
National Register of Historic Places, Part I. (Microfiche no. 1490)
Reproduces the Inventory-Nomination Forms which contain information about each property, photographs, and maps. The University of Delaware Library holds the National Register for all states. Arrangement for all states is by county and then by locality. The microfiche edition includes properties determined eligible for inclusion in the National Register through December 1982. For information on properties later than this date, contact the State Historical Preservation officer or the National Register of Historic Places, Interagency Resource Management Division, National Park Service, U. S. Department of the Interior.
Cultural Resource Survey (Microfiche no. 2003)
Delaware Historic Preservation Office. Constitutes an inventory of historic sites in the state of Delaware. “The images on this microfiche are unaltered photocopies of the material contained in the survey files, Bureau of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.” Each site is on a separate microfiche. The microfiche are arranged by county and keyed to master maps held by the Bureau of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.
DelDOT Archaeology Series [separately cataloged]
Over 100 reports on archaeological investigations undertaken by the Delaware Department of Transportation have been published to date. Do a “title begins with” search in DELCAT under “deldot archaeology series” to get a complete listing of titles in this series held by the University of Delaware Library.
Historic American Buildings Survey (Microfilm no. 3464)
These are the measured drawings of the buildings surveyed for the Historic American Buildings Survey. The drawings for Delaware buildings are on Reel 9.
Historic American Buildings Survey. Delaware. (Microfiche no. 425)
The photographs and written historical and descriptive data, reproduced from photographs located in the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. The Library has microfiche for all fifty states.
Built in America
One of the Library of Congress’ American Memory digitized collections, Built in America includes the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and the Historic American Engineering Record. This first release adds digital images to the searchable on-line catalog records, including images of the pages of written histories for all HAER surveys and about 25% of HABS surveys, 17% of the HAER survey photographs and a small sampling of the HABS and HAER measured drawings.
How to Research Your Chester County Home
Although it is geared to Chester County, Pennsylvania, right across the line from New Castle County, Delaware, this online guide provides some useful things to consider when researching an historic residence in Delaware.
Maryland Historical Trust Historic Sites Survey
Includes nomination forms for the National Register of Historic Places for Maryland only, but may be useful for comparative building structures thoughout the Delmarva Peninsula. The forms include the name of the site, its location, approximate date, public or private ownership, if occupied, if open to the public, description of physical appearance and condtion, and photographs.
If your structure not listed in the sources mentioned on this page, you may have to do more extensive research in land records, probate records, directories, and maps. This publication outlines the process:
Research Guide: How to Research the History of Your Home
Also available in print in Special Collections, Folio NA7235 .D3 R47x 1995)
Prepared by the New Castle County Department of Planning, Historic Preservation Section.
City directories provide street addresses and names of residents. Directories can be useful for tracing previous owners of a property and the first occurrence of a street/house number. The University of Delaware Library has city directories for Wilmington, Newark, and other areas in the state in both print and microform. Check DELCAT, browsing, for example, the subject wilmington del--directories.
Resources for Newark, in addition to those above, include Newark, Delaware: Selected Primary Resources.
Documents in the University Archives may provide information about historic structures on the University of Delaware campus.
Ask a Librarian
Maps and Atlases
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
- The University of Delaware Library has these maps for Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. The Delaware maps are at Microfilm no. 3333 and no. 5690. A digitized collection of 140 map sets for Delaware is available as Digital Sanborn Maps: Delaware. Coverage is 1884-1958. Check the availability of a map at Digital Sanborn Maps: Map Sets for Delaware.
- D. G. Beers. Atlas of the State of Delaware. 1868.
- (Ref G1265 .B44 1980; Spec folio+ G1265 .B44x 1868; Library Annex Folio+ G1265 .B44 1980)
- Franklin Survey Company. Property Atlas of City of Wilmington, New Castle County, Delaware: Showing the Entire City: Compiled from Official Records, Private Plans and Actual Surveys. Philadelphia, 1936.
- (Spec folio+ G1269.W54 F72)
- The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Newark include maps dated September 1891, June 1907, May 1915, September 1922, July 1929, and a “correction record” for the July 1929 map, incorporating changes through 1945 and 1958. (These are sample images of the intersection of Main and Chapel Streets from the various editions.)