Italian Immigrants Work to Create a Better Life and Bring a Culture to Delaware

In 1820, there were just thirty Italian immigrants in all of the United States. However, between 1880 and 1920, a wave of new immigration came to the United States from southern Italy, and many came to Delaware. They came to work as contract laborers on the railroad and to work to builders. By 1890, there were 459 Italian-born residents in Delaware, and their numbers grew by the close of the century.

Other industries in Delaware attracted Italian immigrants who wanted a better life. These included leather, iron, and steel. Many of the early immigrants were men who left their families behind temporarily until they could establish themselves and bring their families to Delaware. They often stayed in boarding houses with other workers. Eventually, they brought families here and bought homes.

Over the years, these immigrants settled in the neighborhood around Union and Lincoln Streets between Pennsylvania and Lancaster Avenues. They brought with them a strong, determined and independent culture, which they preserved through strong family structures and ties. The neighborhood was known as The Hill, and eventually Little Italy.

As Italian immigrants continued to settle in Delaware many began to open their own businesses, such as mom and pop shops. They opened fruit stores and offered their services as shoemakers, tailors, barbers, bakers, butchers, cheese and macaroni makers. Later they became restauranteurs, grocery and other retail store operators.

Today's Little Italy

Home of the of the famous St. Anthony's Italian Festival, today’s Little Italy is a friendly, welcoming neighborhood with a mix of rich cultures and a fine selection of restaurants offering ethnic foods and wonderful flavors and atmospheres. Its many specialty shops and businesses offer a wide variety of products and services, attracting enthusiastic visitors and residents alike. With its many traditional red brick homes, it is a compelling reminder of the past preserved for today’s visitors.

The historic community of Little Italy is home to many long-time institutions in Wilmington – St. Anthony’s Church of Padua, the West End Neighborhood House, St. Francis Hospital, West Side Health Clinic, the Prince of Peidmont Club and Woodlawn Trustees.

View a map of Little Italy

Little Italy Revitalization Project

The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) is the major advocate in Washington, DC for nearly 25 million Italian Americans, the nation's fifth largest ethnic group.

  • Its mission is to preserve and protect Italian American heritage and culture. Through its many programs, the NIAF:
  • Helps young Italian Americans with their educations and careers
  • Works closely with Congress and the White House to promote the appointment of Italian Americans in government
  • Encourages the teaching of Italian language and culture in U.S. schools
  • Monitors the portrayal of Italian Americans by the news and entertainments industries
  • Strengthens cultural and economic ties between Italy and the U.S.
  • Commendatore Ciro Poppiti, special advisor to LINA and NIAF officer for Delaware is also responsible for developing trade between Delaware and Italy, and is doing a fine job. Ciro may be reached at 302-521-5461
  • Visit their Website:

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