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You are currently looking at what is now the University of Delaware’s Laird Campus. The University has built dormitories, a cafeteria, a convenience store and a conference center here now. But before the University developed this land in the early 1970’s, this spot was a completely open area of land known as Green’s Field. Green’s Field was an important component of The Neighborhood.
According to community memory, this area was named for Mr. Green, who owned the land and would allow people to use it for a variety of purposes. Several black families also owned land in this area. Pedro Swann recalls that his family even did some hunting there,
“When I grew up it was called Green's Fields, now that's where the University of Delaware high rise is. That's where we got most of our food from because these guys went over there and hunted deer, they hunted peasant, they hunted quail, stuff like that and that was stuff that hit our table… when I was going to school, that New London School, I would sit in the window and look out there and see the pheasant on the bank across the street…that's how abundant it was, but when the university started building there, all the pheasants started going up into Pennsylvania”
Other people farmed small patches of the Field to help sustain the self-contained community. But all remember the Field fondly as a place to gather and play.
Alvin Hall recalls that
“in the wintertime we had big snows, everybody would gather together—what we would call Old Green’s Field, which is the campus for the University of Delaware, and we’d all get there, and we’d go sledding down the hill and up the hill.”
In addition to providing sledding grounds in the winter, in the spring, the New London Road school would hold 8th grade graduations in the Field. As Violet Pettijohn recounts,
“graduations were always so nice. We used to go out in the field, in Green’s Field, that’s what we called it, Green’s Field, because Mr. Green owned it, but that’s where the high rise for the University is now, and picked all the kind of flowers we could pick. We’d have a trellis of flowers. Graduations was really beautiful up there. All the years that I can remember of kids graduating before me, it was really wonderful.”
But the memory that most community members share of Green’s Field is the blackberries. In the summer time, this field was ripe with sweet, juicy blackberries, that would be picked and turned into all sorts of delicious treats, such as pies and preserves. But it seems there may have been some competition to get the best blackberries! As Samuel Watson remembers,
“I mean they was some blackberries up in there, and Mom would tell me, go get her some blackberries and all these old women be out there picking blackberries and I had my bucket, looked like they’s picking the biggest ones, and I’d holler snake. I’d go over there and holler snake, and they’d take off, and I’d get over there on the good side and get some big blackberries over there.”
Green’s field provided essential elements to the community’s well being, from fresh meat and produce, to fun times and pranks. The transformation here from life-giving and sustaining wilderness to highly developed residential and commercial space is astonishing. Now cross the street and walk to 303 New London Road, the George Wilson Community Center.