It’s a good question, but in a lot of cases, we’re not entirely sure of the answer. All we know if that most of those downtown street names appear on maps as early as the mid-1700s.
Some name origins we can be pretty sure about. A market building or stall stood near the Cape Fear River on Market Street as late as 1881. There was a dock at the foot of Dock Street.
Considering that Wilmington was founded in 1739, “Orange” is probably in homage to William of Orange, a Protestant leader and the husband of Queen Mary, who ascended the English throne in 1688 after King James II of the House of Stuart was deposed, essentially for being a Catholic.
Local historian Louis T. Moore did a lot of research on local street names. He noted that a number of Wilmington streets (including Walnut and Chestnut) are the same as streets in colonial Philadelphia, which was then the commercial hub of British North America. He also found a lot of the the same street names in Liverpool, England. (Before its chartering, Wilmington was referred to as “New Liverpool” in county deeds from 1734 to 1736.)
It has been suggested that some former Philadelphian or former Liverpuddlian might have suggested the street names as a tribute to their old home.
Date posted: March 10, 2011
User-contributed question by:
Ed and Louise Vogeley