Our History

In Wilmington during the 1880’s, the primary industries were duPont Powder Mills and Bancroft Textile Mills. Christ Church was the only Episcopal church in the area, but the clergy of Christ Church led cottage meetings in the region of the Highlands. In 1884 five men met to plan an Episcopal church for the Highlands. One of these men was John Bancroft, president of Bancroft Textile Mills and nephew of the founder, Joseph Bancroft. On an 80-by-150 foot lot donated by the Brinckle family, offspring of the first rector of Christ Church, a wooden church was built and consecrated on Advent Sunday, 1884.

The name Immanuel came from Immanuel Church, New Castle, which was founded in 1689 as the first permanent Episcopal Church in Delaware. Miss Eliza Thomas named the chapel.  She was a communicant of Immanuel, New Castle and a descendant of George Read, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Miss Thomas lived with the Brinckles and bequeathed $11,000 to the chapel, which began lmmanuel’s Endowment Fund.

The chapel was under the care of Christ Church until 1888, when the Reverend Kensey Johns Hammond became the first rector. In 1913, the Reverend William Henry Laird became rector, and the cornerstone of the present building was laid on October 11, 1914. The Reverend Charles Clash became rector after the Reverend Laird’s death in 1919, and on All Saints’ Day 1926, the first stained glass window was dedicated by Bishop Cook.

On that same day the mortgage was burned and the church consecrated.

The Architecture Of The Building 

Immanuel’s architecture is modified Gothic, as indicated by its pointed arches, ribbed vaults, sculpturing, and stained glass windows. The people of the Middle Ages believed that light best portrays God, Christ was referred to as Lux Nova (New Light). Sculpture and stained glass windows were pictorial because they served as teaching tools, necessary because most people in the Middle Ages were illiterate.The entire church was originally decorated in old German glass, which was gray like that in the entrances. Imagine seeing these windows change one by one from gray to brilliant colors, looking carefully at each one as the early saints did. As you look at each one, offer thanks for the lives of those who gave these windows, and for whom they were given.


A sketch of the entrance to Immanuel Highlands