William Shipley, one of Wilmington’s founding fathers, opened what is believed to be the first full scale commercial brewery and malt house in Delaware shortly after his arrival to the area in 1735. Shipley strategically constructed his brewery on the northwest corner of High (now called Fourth) and Tatnall streets to make use of a fresh water spring located on the site.
The elder Shipley was succeeded in business by his son, William, sometime before 1757. William Shipley, Jr.‘s beer trade included sales to local taverns and private residents. His barley malt found a market well beyond Wilmington, as he was a major supplier for Philadelphia brewers. Eventually, Shipley, Jr.’s son, Samuel Shipley, gained control of the business.
A fourth Shipley, Joseph Boone Shipley, ran the brewery in the early 19th century. After his death in 1817, the brewery appears to have fallen out of the Shipley family’s hands for the first time since its construction. A series of proprietors, including Wigmore & Hawley of Philadelphia, operated the brewery until it closed for good sometime before 1840.
The Shipley brewery operated for nearly a century, making it the longest continuously operating facility in Delaware history.