(Photo courtesy of BPG)
One day in 1958, the late Wilmington City Council Member and civil rights activist William H. “Dutch” Burton parked in the Mid-Town Parking Center and went to the Eagle Cafe, where he was refused service because he was Black. He sued the cafe’s property owner, the Wilmington Parking Authority, represented by Louis L. Redding, the Wilmington civil rights attorney who helped litigate Brown v. Board of Education. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Burton. The ruling eventually led to the abolition of Delaware’s discriminatory accommodation laws.
Both the parking center and the Eagle Cafe were on the site of what is now The Residences of Mid-Town Park. When the mostly-condemned property was being demolished in 2013, there was concern that a part of Wilmington’s civil rights history would be lost — especially since the cafe’s location was never officially recognized as a historical site even when it was still standing.
The cafe and old parking center may be gone, but now, for the first time, the site has been recognized for its place in history. On Oct. 18, the City of Wilmington, State of Delaware, Residences at Mid-Town Park developer Buccini/Pollin Group and the Wilmington Parking Authority formally recognized and honored Burton with the unveiling of Burton Place, a street located within the residential complex on West 9th Street, as well a state historic marker to commemorate the landmark court decision Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority.
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