town postcard graphic

RG #5080


New Castle
RG 9015-028-000-02031: Old Town Hall, New Castle

The 1600s & 1700s

The City of New Castle was claimed by the Swedish, the Dutch and the English at various times during the seventeenth century, but the English would finally prevail and New Castle was part of the territory which was granted to William Penn by King Charles II of England. When he arrived here in 1682, Penn found a well-established town. In 1704, the inhabitants of the “Three Lower Counties on Delaware” [the current State of Delaware], petitioned Penn for independent status and a separate assembly to enact laws making New Castle a center for the colonial government as well as a county seat. In addition to being a political center, New Castle also became a center of commerce in the colonial period, and a market was established in the Town by 1740.1 In the tradition of its Dutch heritage, a tract of land of over 1,000 acres had been set aside as “common land” for the benefit of all inhabitants of the Town, but for almost 100 years no one had been charged with oversight of the Common. In 1764, after petitioning both the Proprietors in Pennsylvania and the Delaware Assembly, the ability to control this land was granted by a Charter issued by Thomas and Richard Penn. This common land was placed under the control of the Trustees of the Common which throughout its history has interested in various ways with the government established in the Town.2 In another action taken late in the colonial period by Richard Penn, the Lt. Governor of Pennsylvania, the New Castle Market Square, and its market house were vested in a group of trustees to be held in perpetuity for the Town’s inhabitants for their use in holding fairs, markets and other public uses. 3 Even today, this land continues to be held for the use of the public.

Although not specifically labeled as an Act of Incorporation, a 1797 law which authorized the Town to elect Commissioners for the Town outlined other activities that would be common practice for Commissioners of an incorporated Town. The 1797 law was entitled An ACT to establish the boundaries of the town of New-Castle, and for other purposes herein mentioned. Eligible electors were white, male, property owners over the age of 21 who had paid their taxes. The Commissioners were authorized to survey the Town; pave its streets; establish the thickness of party walls and the set-back of buildings from the streets; as well as regulate fences and require property owners to keep them in repair. The Commissioners were to determine the costs to survey the Town and mark the streets, the cost to make repairs to the market house, and to erect public pumps, and were to assess the Town’s citizens an amount that would enable these costs to be paid.4


1800 – 1849

The duties of the Town’s Commissioners were expanded when an 1802 law empowered them to provide for the care and maintenance of piers to be erected in the river and also authorized them to collect a reasonable fee for wharfage. In addition, the Town’s Commissioners were authorized with promulgating rules and regulations related to all ships coming to, lying at, and taking in or discharging any cargo, and allowed those who did not comply to be fined. The Commissioners were to appoint a Harbormaster to take charge of and superintend the harbor and to make the rules known to those vessels that docked at New Castle.5 In 1804, a supplement to the 1797 ACT was enacted. This law empowered the Commissioners to make a ground plan in preparation for laying out pavements and gutters in front of the houses in an area generally bounded by Vine [Fourth] Street and Front Street [The Strand], between Delaware Street and Harmony Streets. Those who had built houses along these streets were, at their own cost, to place sidewalks and gutters to match those the Town’s Commissioners had installed elsewhere in the Town. If they did not do so, the Commissioners could complete the work and hold the property owner liable for this cost, selling their “goods and chattels” if they did not make payment. The Commissioners were also authorized to erect public lamps and keep them in repair; to appoint a Treasurer to assist them in levying taxes on the Town’s citizens; and also to appoint an inspector of flour and a “corder” of wood. The firing of small arms was now prohibited within the Town except on days of public rejoicing. The Sheriff of New Castle County who was resident in the Town was charged with keeping the peace and enforcing all aspects of the law.6

A number of laws were enacted which impacted on the governance of the Town of New Castle prior to the enactment of an Act of Incorporation in 1875. In a law enacted in 1825, New Castle’s Commissioners were empowered to tax the citizens of the Town in order to raise funds to procure apparatus with which to fight fires and to provide a place to keep this equipment.7 In 1839, a law was enacted to re-enforce the duties of certain county officials in keeping the peace within the Town.8 A law in 1847 served to confirm the rights of the Commissioners of New Castle to charge wharfage fees and to use these fees to repair the wharves including the wharf on Harmony Street.9


1850 – 1899

In 1851, the New Castle Commissioners were appointed the Trustees of the Free Burying Ground of the Poor and vested in the burial ground which was located at the northeast end of Town.10 The following year, the Commissioners were vested in additional land located between the burial ground and the Delaware River.11 The Town of New Castle was expanded in two separate laws enacted in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1855, a law extended the limits of the Town and gave the Commissioners authority over the expanded Town boundaries which set the southern boundary of the Town as a line parallel to and south of South Street, the western boundary to begin at a point approximately at the intersection of 10th Street and Delaware Street and then northeast on a line parallel with the current Sixth Street to just past the Broad Dyke Canal, and the northern boundary as North Street [a street never opened which was to be parallel to Chestnut Street] following it to the river. The law instructed that the streets within the expanded boundaries were to be mapped, but that no streets would be opened unless it was deemed “necessary and expedient” and the owner of the land had been compensated.12 A second law to expand New Castle’s boundaries was enacted in 1859. The southern boundary of the Town was now to be beyond and parallel to Washington Street. At the point where this new street, called Johnson Street, would intersect with the New Castle and Frenchtown Turnpike, the western boundary of the Town would run northeast on a line parallel with Sixth Street until it intersected with North Street, the Town’s northern boundary. The expanded area was mapped and gridded with streets which can be seen in the Delaware State Atlas by Pomeroy and Beers, 1868 and the Map of New Castle County by G.M. Hopkins, 1881 [available for review at the Delaware Public Archives]. Before a new street could be opened, ten freeholders were required to petition the Commissioners, and they must pay half the cost of grading the portion of the street adjacent to their land. In addition, the law required that New Castle County and the Road Commissioners of New Castle Hundred repair the public roads which ran through the Town which were the New Castle and Frenchtown Turnpike, Washington Avenue, and the Wilmington Road. Other provisions addressed in the 1859 law was an expansion of powers vested in the Town Commissioners including: laying out and opening streets if petitioned by residents; paving, graveling and repairing existing and newly-opened streets; lighting the streets; furnishing a supply of good water by erecting and repairing pumps; enclosing the public grounds, planting trees therein and on the public walks; abating nuisances; and all other purposes as the health and comfort of the Town’s inhabitants may require. In order to preserve good order in the Town and provide for better security of public and private property, the Commissioners were authorized to appoint a Policeman who would be a conservator of the peace within the Town and was empowered to adopt ordinances which the Policeman was to enforce. The 1859 law authorized the Commissioners to levy taxes in an amount not to exceed $1,000 annually.13 In 1873, a number of laws were enacted which called for streets to be opened or vacated, and for the establishment of a wharf line. Railroad lines into the Town were well established by this time and extensions were being requested to serve a nearby industrial complex. Due to this, several streets were vacated at the south end of the Town, generally in the area south of South Street and east of Sixth Street. Another law called for a street to be opened south from Pearl (now 3rd) Street into the area that is now Battery Park [it appears that this street may not have been opened]. The Commissioners were also authorized to limit how far wharves could be built into the river within the limits of the Town; they were to document this on a survey of the riverfront and to record this with New Castle County Recorder of Deeds. The other law enacted in 1873 authorized the Commissioners to collect $2,000 in taxes that would be used to pay any deficiency in the revenue of the New Castle and Wilmington Narrow Gauge Railroad.14 [This railroad was ultimately not successful, and its abandoned railroad line is evident today as the New Castle Industrial Track Trail and Baylor Boulevard].

Despite the fact that elected Commissioners had been carrying out activities which were governmental in nature for over three-quarters of a century, New Castle did not become a legally incorporated municipality until 1875. Upon passage of the 1875 Charter, the Town of New Castle became the City of New Castle, and was incorporated as “The Mayor and Council of New Castle.” The boundaries of the City were generally the same as defined in the expansion described in an 1859 law, and provisions for further expansion of the City’s limits were included in the Charter. The elected officers of the City were the Mayor, a five-member City Council, an Assessor, and a Treasurer. All elected officials served one-year terms and were required to be City residents. No ordained member of the clergy could qualify to hold the position of Mayor or serve on the City Council. Eligible electors were males of age 21 or over, who were eligible to vote in the state’s general elections who had resided in New Castle for at least a year. The Mayor was the executive officer and also conservator of the peace who, along with the Constables ensured that the laws and ordinances of the City were faithfully executed, and any violations were punished. The City Council was to meet monthly and by majority vote would enact ordinances to govern the City. They were to choose a President from their members as well as a Clerk who could be a Council member. The City Council was vested with all powers and authorities that had been held by the Town’s Commissioners; among these were: to preserve the health of the City and prevent the introduction of infectious diseases within one mile of its limits; to define and remove nuisances; to ascertain and fix the boundaries and grades of, repair, open, extend, and vacate streets; to direct the paving of footways and laying out of gutters; to prescribe the extent of steps, porches, cellar doors; to provide night watches and the lighting of the streets; to regulate party walls; to regulate public amusements; to regulate markets; to erect pumps with which to supply the City with water; to regulate the storage of gunpowder or any other dangerous combustible material; to prevent the running at large of any hog or dog; and to provide for the extinguishment of fires. The Act also contained the procedures to be followed when laying out and opening streets, overseeing the paving of sidewalks and gutters, and the assessing and collecting taxes. In order to defray the expenses of the City, the Council was allowed to raise up to $4,000 annually in City taxes. Another source of revenue to assist the City in repairing roads was the monies received from New Castle by the Road Commissioners of New Castle Hundred who were required to return 50% of the taxes they charged residents within the City of New Castle with the remaining funds to be used to repair the City’s public roads.15 Also in 1875, the 1802 law enabling to New Castle Harbormaster to collect wharfage fees was amended so that it would reference the City of New Castle rather than the Town, and the City Council instead of the Town Commissioners.16

The first of many amendments to the 1875 Charter was enacted in 1879. It called for manufacturing facilities of under five acres to be exempt from City taxes for up to ten years.17 In 1881, a law amended the Charter to revise the requirements for voter eligibility; while another law the same year, authorized the City to borrow up to $30,000, after referendum approval, with which to repair and improve the streets as well as for general health and sanitary conditions.18 In 1883, the Charter was amended to extend the Mayor’s term of office from one year to three years.19 Two years later, the New Castle City Council was authorized, after approval by City voters, to borrow $200,000 with which to purchase the New Castle Gas Company and the New Castle Water Works; the bonds issued to secure the debt were to be repaid through a special tax levied on all citizens of the City.20 In 1889, New Castle’s 1875 Charter was again amended to state that delinquency in paying city taxes in New Castle was a first lien on property.21 A law enacted in 1893 terminated the authority of the Road Commissioners of New Castle Hundred to collect a road tax from the citizens of New Castle; instead, the City Council was to levy this tax and became solely responsible for repairing all streets located within its boundaries. The County continued to repair causeways and bridges towards which the City was to allocate $600 annually.22 In 1895, another amendment to the 1875 Charter provided for taxpayers to receive an abatement for early payment of taxes and a penalty for late payment.23 There appeared to be some issue with the collection of taxes, as in 1899, the Collector of Taxes was allowed additional time to collect them.24


1900 – 1949

The problem related to collecting taxes continued, for in 1901, the General Assembly again provided New Castle’s Collector of Taxes additional time to collect them. Also in 1901, the $600 allotment from the City to the County for bridge repair, which had been required under an 1893 law, was terminated.25 In 1903, all City residents were exempted from being assessed road taxes; however, in lieu of this, the property taxes were increased; the new cap was $5,000 annually. The issues associated with collecting taxes appear to have continued as in 1903 a law was enacted which again allowed the Tax Collector additional time to collect the taxes, and a further law made changes in the ways in which the Collector could sue the residents for non-payment.26 In 1905, a number of minor amendments were made to the 1875 Charter.27 However, major revisions were proposed in a law enacted two years later in which the City was divided into four wards or districts which corresponded to the election districts laid out under the state’s election laws and the number of City Council members was increased from five to nine, with two Council members and an Inspector of Elections to be elected from each ward, and one Council member elected at large; elections were to be held biennially and all elected officials were to serve two-year terms. The 1907 law also expanded the procedures related to the collecting taxes. Of the four additional laws enacted in 1907, two authorized the borrowing of funds, $100,000 for sewer, street, and harbor improvements, and $5,000 for riverfront and harbor improvement north of Harmony Street; a third law addressed the issue of laying out and opening of streets which were beyond the limits of the City; and a fourth law changed the name of Front Street to The Strand.28 In 1909, six laws were enacted; the first authorized the City Council to collect a special tax of $2,000 for road repair; the second amended the law authorizing $5,000 to be borrowed to improve the riverfront and harbor at the north end of the City by allowing for additional property to be purchased for this use and also supplied material and labor to improve the waterfront; the third allowed for re-assessment of property when the assessment level was deemed too low; the fourth amended the 1907 law which authorized borrowing $100,000 for sewer, street, and harbor repair by authorizing the City Council to hire an engineer to furnish plans in advance of advertising for bids for the project; the fifth law increased the maximum amount of taxes which could be levied annually to $7,500; and the sixth added land to the City’s south side.29 In 1911, ten laws were enacted by the General Assembly which related to the City of New Castle; these would be the last amendments made before the City was re-incorporated. One of these laws revised the election procedures; another expanded the City’s boundaries to the north so as to include land labeled as 14th Street [only a part of this street was ever opened], and to the northeast so as to include the tract called Baldton to include  Brylgon Avenue as well as land on the river side of the Wilmington Road; a third law indicated that the City was to appoint two people, one from each political party, to assist in the appeals process when a property owner  challenged the value to which their land had been assessed; another law authorized the City Council to require street railway companies to pave between and to each side of the tracks; a fifth law provided tax relief to farmland, rural land and suburban land located within the City limits, decreasing their tax bill by 50%; a sixth law provided the City with the authority to demolish the jail building and the associated fence as they were no longer in use; and two other laws called for more minor changes to the 1875 Charter. In addition to these, two laws were focused on borrowing money in order to establish public utilities in the City. The first of these authorized the City Council to borrow up to $100,000 in order to acquire a waterworks with which to be able to supply water to the City; the second authorized the City Council to borrow up to an additional $100,000 with which to acquire an electric lighting plant. Both laws required referendum approval with votes cast by weighted vote tied to the amount of taxes which the voter paid.30

In 1913, after thirty-eight years, the City’s Charter was amended, revised and re-consolidated. The boundaries of the City which were described in the Charter matched those in the 1911 law which expanded the City’s limits.  Major changes had been made to the Charter in 1907 when the City was divided into four wards or districts and the number of Council members increased to nine and the revised Charter incorporated these revisions. Elected City’s officials included the Mayor, elected at large; the nine City Council members, two from each ward and one at large; the City Council President, elected at large; the Treasurer and the Assessor, elected at large; and four Inspectors of Elections, elected by ward. Elections were held biennially and each elected official served a two-year term. The Council was to appoint a Collector of Taxes. The 1913 Charter codified the procedures under which the City could borrow money and issue bonds with the maximum that could be borrowed, in aggregate, was not to exceed 10% of the assessed value of the City’s real estate. The issuing of bonds required a referendum vote with one vote to be cast for every $100 assessed to a taxpayer; as all male residents were levied a per capita tax of at least $100, they were all eligible voters. The Charter provided specific guidelines for action to be taken for the assessment and collection of taxes and for delinquency in their payment. It included the provisions of a 1911 amendment to the Charter which provided tax relief to owners of real estate used for farming, trucking or agricultural purposes and real estate determined to be outside the developed and built-up portions of the City by reducing the tax liability of properties so designated by 50%. The amount levied in real estate taxes was required to meet the needs of the City, but a cap on the amount that could be levied in taxes was not specified in the Charter. The Charter did indicate that “colored persons” were to be assessed separately and were not liable for the school taxes and also provided for all white males to pay a per capita tax of no less than $100 and no more than $1,000. The Charter indicated that a tax could also be levied on telephone, telegraph, electric light, and trolley poles within the City limits.31 The same year that the Charter was approved, a piece of legislation authorized the City to borrow $30,000 to improve the streets and $12,000 to liquidate floating indebtedness. As with earlier laws in which the City sought to borrow money, an additional special tax was to be levied and collected which was sufficient to pay the yearly interest on the bonds which funded the debt and also sufficient to establish a sinking fund to ensure its repayment.32  

The first amendment to the City’s 1913 Charter was made in 1915 when a law created the position of City Clerk. Like other City officials, the City Clerk was elected and was to serve a two-year term, acting also as the Assessor and Collector of Taxes, and as Clerk of the Council. Also in 1915, amendments were made to the procedures for bringing suit in matters related to tax delinquency.33 Additional debt, in the amount of $20,000, was authorized for street improvement in 1917 with an annual tax levied to ensure sufficient funds to repay the debt upon maturity of the associated bonds. In the same year, the structure of New Castle’s government was again changed. The City Council was decreased from nine members to five, all to be elected at large, with one member being chosen by the voters to serve as President; the President served in an ex officio capacity. Each of New Castle’s four wards was to elect its own Inspectors of Elections.34 In 1919, New Castle again received authorization to borrow up to $150,000 for the purpose of providing light and water by acquisition or construction.35 This new funding request which matched the amount requested in 1911 for this purpose indicated either that the earlier referendum had been defeated or that additional money was needed in order to fund the initiative. In 1920, an increase was made to the City Clerk’s salary.36 In 1921, a three-man Board of Water and Light Commission was established to operate the newly-acquired water and light systems; they were to be assisted in this task by a full-time Superintendent. The Board was to operate as a separate agency of the City and was to establish fees which would support the operation and maintenance of these utility systems. Another law enacted in 1921 opened voting to all citizens of the City and also provided that all citizens be assessed taxes.37 Two years later, the City of New Castle reversed changes which had been made in 1917 relating to the election of City Council members by reinstating the policy of having Council members reside in, and be elected by the citizens of, a specific ward. In addition, a law awarded a pension to Police Officers over 65 who had served on the force for 25 years.38 In 1925, New Castle was authorized to borrow $20,000 for the improvement of the public roads on the City’s west side including parts of Sixth Street, Delaware Street, the Wilmington Road, and Washington Street.39 Of the six laws that were enacted in 1927, all but one amended the City’s Charter. Those that amended the Charter included a law which made technical corrections to the City’s boundaries so that the City’s boundary would align with the boundary of the lands of the Trustees of the Common; several laws initiating or making changes in the compensation of City officials; and a law which increased the amount which the City could borrow to not exceed, in aggregate, 20% of the assessed value of the City’s real estate. The other 1927 law called for the construction of a system of sewers and disposal works for the City. A referendum was to be held to determine if the citizens of New Castle wished to move forward with planning for a sewer system which would be managed by the City Council or by a separate body called a Sewer Commission. A five-member Sewer Commission was authorized and under its supervision, plans for the sewer system and its estimated cost were prepared. A second referendum was required in order to secure approval for building a sewer system in which two-thirds of the cost of the system was to be charged to owners of the property abutting the location of the sewers. All such property owners were liable for this assessment which was to be considered a lien on their property until satisfied.40 In 1929, there were again six laws enacted: one revised the Charter to decrease the length of residency required if seeking elective office from two years to one; another allowed the City to sell the old firehouse once a location for a new one had been secured; two laws addressed compensation for the members of the Board of Water and Light and those of the Sewer Commission; one law changed the location of Seventh Street; and the sixth law authorized the City to borrow $45,000 to pave the streets, and lay in or repair gutters or drains.41 In 1931, two laws were enacted; the first restored the residency requirement for those seeking elective office to a minimum of two years; and the second law revised the City’s Charter to restore the provisions of an 1879 law which gave certain properties in manufacturing use, an up to ten-year tax exemption.42 A number of laws were enacted in 1933 that impacted the City of New Castle’s officials and Commissions; the first required that $2,500 be raised annually in taxes for a sinking fund to repay the street improvement bonds; a second law required the Board of Water and Light Commission to set rates that would allow them to establish a sinking fund for the water system bonds; a third law required that those who were seeking a seat on City Council must own real property within the City; a fourth law made minor changes to the election procedures; and a fifth required an annual audit of the City’s finances.43 In 1935, the City of New Castle was authorized to use New Castle County’s assessments and valuations for their tax assessment purposes; however, they retained the farmland/suburban designation which had been added to their assessment process in 1911 so that these properties would continue to receive their decreased tax rates. The provisions in the City’s 1913 Charter related to tax delinquency were also revised in a law enacted this year.44 A 1937 law authorized the City of New Castle to sell any real estate it purchased at a tax sale and to place the proceeds in the general tax account. In the same year, the City extended pension benefits to the City Clerk if this person had served for twenty or more years and was over the age of 75. Another 1937 law indicated that the City had issued $170,000 in sewer bonds of which $84,000 had been redeemed through payments by property owners; the remaining $86,000 was to be redeemed and refunded and the new bonds would be paid by a special tax levied against all New Castle citizens.45 A 1941 law authorized the City to redeem and refund $25,000 in bonds associated with the light and water system, and also granted the City with the power to take or acquire lands to be used for open space or parks to promote health and recreation in the City or within three miles of it. Another law that year allowed the City to borrow $25,000 to purchase the land that would be developed as Battery Park; the Trustees of the Common partnered with the City in this endeavor, agreeing to pay the yearly interest on the bonds and to discharge the bonds when they came due, as well as to take on the role of the City’s Park Commission.46 In several laws enacted in 1945, the City revised its procedures associated with collecting delinquent taxes; redeemed and refunded street improvement bonds issued originally in 1925 and initiated a requirement that a special tax was to be levied to ensure their re-payment; and borrowed $25,000 which was to be set aside to address any emergency repairs which might be required in the sewer, water or light systems.47 In 1947, the City lowered the per capita tax on males to $2 with an exemption for men who had served in the military during Work War II.48 In 1949, after approval by referendum vote, New Castle was authorized to borrow $125,000 with which to purchase and install an elevated storage tank. In the same year, also after referendum approval, the City was authorized to borrow $300,000 to construct a sewage disposal plant and extend the sewer lines throughout the City. Another law in 1949, addressed the issue of delinquent sewer service fees, and compensation for the Sewer Commission members.49


1950 -1999

In 1951, an attempt was made to update the City’s Charter. The Charter revision included a clause which required a referendum vote before it was implemented. As the referendum was defeated, the 1913 Charter remained the City’s governing law. Also in 1951, New Castle was authorized to distribute water up to three miles beyond the limits of the City.50 Another attempt to re-incorporate the City of New Castle was made in 1955, but the Act still contained a clause requiring referendum approval and the referendum once again failed to receive the approval of the citizens of New Castle.51

In 1957, a number of amendments were made to the City’s 1913 Charter. These included revising the level of compensation for City officials; revising the regulations for appointing Police Officers as well as their duties; increasing compensation for the City Clerk and requiring the Mayor to own real estate in the City [a 1933 law had required this only of City Council members].52 Further revisions of the City Charter were enacted in 1965 when election procedures were revised.53 In 1976, compensation for City officials was increased;54 and in 1980, it was also increased for members of the Board of Water and Light Commissioners.55 A year later, a law containing various amendments to the City’s Charter was enacted. It allowed for a quarterly assessment process in order to add properties which had not been included in the yearly assessment or to make adjustments when a property was demolished or enlarged; it also allowed for New Castle to issue business licenses. Other amendments in the law revised the procedures for providing abatements for early payment of taxes and fees for late payment as well as the procedures when owners were delinquent in paying their taxes.56 In 1982, the Charter was amended by further changes to the election procedures.57 Several laws made minor changes in 1985.58 In 1986, the City Charter was revised to include an annexation process with two sets of procedures outlined, one, if all property owners in the area to be annexed, were favorable to annexation and a second process if only some of the property owners were in favor; the latter required referendum approval by the City’s residents.59 Laws in 1988 revised the Charter by requiring that the manufacturing facilities which were granted the ten-year tax exemptions must provide continuous work to a sufficient number of employees.60 In 1989, the City Clerk was relieved of the duties of Assessor and Collector of Taxes, both of which then became appointed positions.61 In 1990, the City updated its election process to ensure greater consistency with state law governing municipal elections.62 Technical changes to the Charter were made by law in 199263 and 1993.64  In 1994, land which was a burial ground and is now a park at Bull Hill was granted to the City of New Castle.65 A 1995 law made changes to the procedures of the Sewer Commission;66 and a 1996 law shortened the voter residency requirement.67 In 1999, the City’s Charter was amended to empower the City to provide residents with steam, natural gas and heating oil, with wired and wireless communication and other communication services provided that this will not interfere with existing private utilities. Another law that year made major revisions to the operations of the Board of Water and Light, renaming it the Municipal Services Commission, and making it a separate agency of the City. The Commission was to raise money through the fee charged which would be sufficient to operate the City’s water and light systems and also contribute $3,000 annually to the sinking fund for bonds associated with these systems. In lieu of paying for any fees for the use of water and light, the City pledged to cover any deficiencies in Commission expenses.68


2000 – Current

In 2011, the 1913 Charter received a final amendment when the City’s election process was revised.69

In 2012, after 99 years, the Charter of the City of New Castle was re-incorporated in the name of “The City of New Castle.” The new Charter makes reference to the City’s boundaries being on file at the New Castle County Recorder of Deeds office. Annexation of contiguous territory was required to be carried out in accordance with Delaware Code. The City’s elected officials consisted of the Mayor, the President of the Council, and four other City Council members, a Treasurer and a City Clerk, all of whom were to be elected to four-year terms. Each Council member appointed someone to serve on the Election Board which had oversight of City elections. Also appointed, on an as-needed basis, are a City Solicitor and a City Engineer. The Mayor was the executive of the City and continued to serve as the conservator of the peace. The President of the Council continued as an ex officio member of the City Council, presiding at all Council meetings which were to be held at least monthly. The City Council was the legislative body of the City government and had supervision, management, and control over the streets, sidewalks, lanes, alleys, pavements, curbs, light, power, sewer and water within the City. They were also “to exercise all municipal powers necessary for the proper administration of the municipal government, and for the well-being of the inhabitants . . .” The Council was charged with determining an annual budget and with levying taxes on real property which would be sufficient to cover the aggregate of the budget; no maximum on the amount to be levied was specified. The assessment values of real property were to be adopted from New Castle County. The Charter was very specific as to procedures for delinquent payment for taxes and other public services, such as service charges for maintenance or use of water and electrical services; installation of electrical lines, water mains; sidewalks and curbing; removal of weeds, grasses, refuse, trash or other waste material; razing of buildings or improvement of property carried out through public expenditures; as well as how debt actions were to be carried out. The Charter also allowed the City to borrow money in one of three ways; money for current operating expenses could be borrowed with only Council approval, must be repaid within thirteen months and must not exceed $500,000 in aggregate; borrowing for capital expenses and issuing bonds required referendum approval, was not exceed 1.2% of the total assessed value of the City’s real property, and required a special tax sufficient to pay the annual interest and the establishment of a sinking fund to repay the debt; but borrowing to be secured by anticipated  revenue only required that the City’s total indebtedness did not exceed 20% of the value of the City’s real estate.70

The first amendment to the new City Charter, enacted in 2015, changed the time of the elections.71 In 2016, amendments were made to the 1999 law establishing the Municipal Services Commission by eliminating the $3,000 annual payment and replacing it with an annual payment of 6% of the prior year’s user charges; in return, the City was to pay the Commission for street lighting but would not pay for water usage.72 In 2018, a law made a number of corrections to sections of the 2012 Charter; the most significant changes were to eliminate the City Clerk and Treasurer as elective City offices and to have them be appointed by the Council; to restrict those holding elective offices from holding a second elective office simultaneously; and to add a new provision to require that a special election be held if two candidates for the same elective office had a tie vote. The 2018 law also eliminated the exclusion which was contained in the 2012 Charter which prevented the City from borrowing funds to construct a pier or wharf at Delaware Street.73

For the fully amended text of the current Charter, see


CITATIONS in Del. Laws and Deeds

1 1 Del. Laws, c. 72 (1740) [pp. 183-87]

2 New Castle County Deeds, Book W (1764) [p. 631] (History of the Trustees of the Common in the booklet New Castle Common, 1944 (; also see

3 1 Del. Laws, c. 212 (1772) [p. 518]

4 2 Del. Laws, c. 141 (1797) [pp.1368-76]

5 3 Del. Laws, c. 102 (1802) [pp. 223-28]

6 3 Del. Laws, c. 144 (1804) [pp. 322-27]

7 6 Del. Laws, c. 284 (1825) [p. 522]

8 9 Del. Laws, c. 199 (1939) [p. 241]

9 10 Del. Laws, c. 217 (1847) [pp. 207-08]

10 10 Del. Laws, c. 587 (1851) [p. 587]

11 10 Del. Laws, c. 654 (1852) [pp. 666-67]

12 11 Del. Laws, c. 261 (1855) [pp. 269-70]

13 11 Del. Laws, c. 623 (1859) [pp. 710-13]

14 14 Del. Laws, c. 543, c. 544, c. 546, and c. 547 (1873) [p. 628, p. 629, pp. 630-31, and p. 631-32]

15 15 Del. Laws, c. 152 (1875) [pp. 255-71]

16 15 Del. Laws, c. 153 (1875) [pp. 271-72]

17 16 Del. Laws, c. 4 (1879) [p. 5]

18 16 Del. Laws, c. 489 and c. 494 (1881) [p. 450 and pp. 655-67]

19 17 Del. Laws, c. 183 (1883) [pp. 363-64]

20 17 Del. Laws, c. 572 and c. 573 (1885) [pp. 844-45 and pp. 846-47]

21 18 Del. Laws, c. 645 (1889) [pp. 835-36]

22 19 Del. Laws, c. 756 (1893) [pp. 1073-75]

23 20 Del. Laws, c. 105 (1895) [pp. 166-67]

24 21 Del. Laws, c. 277 (1899) [p. 514]

25 22 Del. Laws, c. 59 and c. 176 (1901) [pp. 104-05 and p. 365]

26 22 Del. Laws, c. 411, c. 412, c. 413, and c. 414 (1902) [p. 847, p. 848, pp. 848-49, and pp. 850-51]

27 23 Del. Laws, c. 170, c. 171, and c. 172 (1905) [pp. 285-86, p. 286, and pp. 287-88]

28 24 Del. Laws, c. 186, c. 187, c. 188, c. 189, and c. 190 (1907)

[pp. 373-81, pp. 382-88, pp. 388-90, p. 391, and p. 392]

29 25 Del. Laws, c. 178, c. 179, c. 180, c. 181, c. 182 and c. 183 (1909)

[p. 338, p. 339, p. 340, p. 341, p. 342, and p. 343]

30 26 Del. Laws, c. 209, c. 210, c. 211, c. 212, c. 213, c. 214, c. 215, c. 216, c. 217, and c. 218 (1911)

[pp. 478-88, pp.481-83, p. 484, p. 485, pp.486-87, pp. 488-91, pp. 492-95, pp. 496-97, 498-99, and p. 500]

31 27 Del. Laws, c. 216 (1913) [pp. 546-80]

32 27 Del. Laws, c. 217 and c. 218 (1913) [pp. 581-86 and pp. 587-89]

33 28 Del. Laws, c. 134, and c. 135 (1915) [pp. 409-12 and pp. 413-14]

34 29 Del. Laws, c. 139 and c. 142 (1917) [pp. 425-29 and pp. 441-45]

35 30 Del. Laws, c. 129 (1919) [pp. 285-87]

36 31 Del. Laws, c. 30 (1920) [pp. 76-77]

37 32 Del. Laws, c. 121, c. 122, and c. 123 (1921) [pp. 370-73, pp. 374-75, and p. 376]

38 33 Del. Laws, c. 126 and c. 127 (1923) [pp. 320-24 and p. 325]

39 34 Del. Laws, c. 127 (1925) [pp. 325-28]

40 35 Del. Laws, c. 120, c. 121, c. 122, c. 123, c. 124, and c. 125 (1927)

[pp. 369-71, pp. 372-93, pp. 394-95, pp. 396-97, and p. 400]

41 36 Del. Laws, c. 181, c. 183, c. 184, c. 186, & c. 187 (1929) [p. 553, p. 558, p. 561, p. 562, & pp. 563-67]

42 37 Del. Laws, c. 163 and c. 164 (1931) [pp. 605-06 and p. 607]

43 38 Del. Laws, c. 113, c. 114, c. 115, c. 116, c. 117 and c. 118 (1933)

[p. 457, p. 458, p. 459, p. 460, p. 461, and p. 462]

44 40 Del. Laws, c. 172 and c. 173 (1935) [p. 650 and p. 651]

45 41 Del. Laws, c. 158, c. 159 and c. 160 (1937) [p. 459, pp. 460-62, and p. 463]

46 43 Del. Laws, c. 175 and c. 176 (1941) [pp. 760-62 and pp. 763-66]

47 45 Del. Laws, c. 172, c. 173, and c. 174 (1945) [pp.646-52, pp. 653-55, and pp. 656-58]

48 46 Del. Laws, c. 239, c. 240, and c. 241 (1947) [p. 647, p. 648, and p. 649]

49 47 Del. Laws, c. 38, c. 39, and c. 93 (1949) [pp. 73-74, pp. 75-77, and pp. 146-47]

50 48 Del. Laws, c. 19 and c. 96 (1951) [pp. 26-64 and pp. 200-01]

51 50 Del. Laws, c. 314 (1955) [pp. 603-40]

52 51 Del. Laws, c. 233, c. 246, and c. 306 (1957) [p. 448, pp. 500-01, and p. 665]

53 55 Del. Laws, c. 12 (1965) [pp. 28-32]

54 60 Del. Laws, c. 312 and c. 454 (1976) [pp. 948-49 and p. 1282]

55 61 Del. Laws, c. 395 (1980) [p. 894]

56 63 Del. Laws, c. 116 (1981) [p. 232-36]

57 63 Del. Laws, c. 458 (1982) [p. 953]

58 65 Del. Laws, c. 7 and c. 200 (1985) [p. 5 and p. 366]

59 65 Del. Laws, c. 459 (1986) [pp. 884-86]

60 66 Del. Laws, c. 230 and c. 317 (1988) [p. 469 and p. 692]

61 67 Del. Laws, c. 30 (1989) [pp. 35-36]

62 67 Del. Laws, c. 321 (1990) [pp. 708-10]

63 68 Del. Laws, c. 231 (1992) [p. 793]

64 69 Del. Laws, c. 48 and c. 152 (1993) [p. 44 and p. 340]

65 69 Del. Laws, c. 329 and c. 344 (1994) [pp. 779-80 and p. 789]

66 70 Del. Laws, c. 130 (1995) [p. 366]

67 70 Del. Laws, c. 441 (1996) [p. 1069]

68 72 Del. Laws, c. 115 and c. 116 (1999) [pp. 163-64 and pp. 164-68]

69 78 Del. Laws, c. 6 (2011) []

70 78 Del. Laws, c. 267 (2012) []

71 80 Del. Laws, c. 3 (2015) []

72 80 Del. Laws, c. 303 (2016) []

73 81 Del. Laws, c. 414 (2018) []


City of New Castle records at the Delaware Public Archives (DPA) include:

  • Sewage Disposal System Drawings and Plans (1924-1950): 5080-000-001
  • Minutes of the Sewer Commission (1928-1982): 5080-000-002
  • Sewer Fees Ledger (1930-1941): 5080-000-003
  • Administrative Records of the Sewer Commission (1930-1960): 5080-000-004
  • Assessment Books (1894-1949): 5080-000-005
  • Tax Books (1918-1931): 5080-000-006
  • Dockets – Mayor’s Court (1893-1984): 5080-000-007
  • Subject Files – Mayor’s Office (c. 1960-1985): 5080-000-008
  • Correspondence Files – City Council (1990-1995): 5080-000-009
  • Meeting Notes – City Council (Supporting Documentation for Minutes) (1961-1996): 5080-000-010
  • Minutes of the Goodwill Fire Company (1907-1981): 5080-000-011
  • Minutes of the City Council (1797-1855, 1858-2012): 5080-000-012
  • Tax Foreclosure Sales (1974-2002): 5080-000-013
  • Board of Adjustment Zoning Case Files (1975-2010): 5080-000-014
  • Annexation Files (1988-2007): 5080-000-015
  • Fine Books – Mayor’s Court (1984-1993): 5080-000-016
  • Deeds and Leases (1914, 1930, 1944-1956, 1998, 2001): 5080-000-017
  • Easements and Rights-of-Way (1930, 1997-2002, 2007-2008): 5080-000-018
  • Bond Administration Files (1909-1952, 2002-2004): 5080-000-019
  • Photographs: 5080-000-020
    • Riveredge Park Development Groundbreaking, 1996
    • Mayor & members of City Council, 2001-2011
  • Annual Financial Statements (1995-1999): 5080-000-021
  • Ordinances (1875-2016): 5080-000-022
  • Legal Opinions (1950-2010): 5080-000-023
  • Resolutions by the City Council (1970-2010): 5080-000-024
  • Administrative Files (1911-1985) (some records of interest noted below): 5080-000-025
    • List of Members of the Trustees of the Common,1764-1935
    • Sewer Construction Documentation, 1927-1938
    • Request for Extension of Wilmington Southern Traction Co. Line, 1935
    • Agreement for Use of the Old Courthouse, 1935
    • Treasurer’s Reports, 1937-1971
    • Police Bill of Rights, 1985
  • Election Returns (1927, 1953-2015): 5080-000-026
  • Audit Report (1938): 5080-000-027
  • Project Files (1894-2010): 5080-000-028
  • Building Applications and Permits (2001): 5080-000-029
  • Architectural Drawings (2017): 5080-000-030

jnl / April 5, 2019, April 15, 2019