An Intentional Community
On an otherwise quiet fall evening in September 1952, 45 people gathered in Arden, Delaware to sign a remarkable document. As with much else in the community, it was an unpretentious thing, just one sentence written on a sheet of plain lined paper. But it had enormous ramifications. The next morning, it instructed, the formerly white-only Arden School would admit African-American children.
There had been rumblings for some time in Delaware about the inferior quality of African-American schools and the unconstitutionality of the “separate but equal” doctrine. But it would still be two long years before the Delaware schools system was legally integrated. Meanwhile, the residents of the Ardens had continued a legacy of progressive social policies and moved forward on their own.
Founded in 1900, the village of Arden began as a utopian community based on a unique “single tax” economic principle. In Arden – and, later, in its sister villages Ardentown and Ardencroft – the community itself owns all land and residents rent plots (they can build and sell houses on those plots). Above all, the residents of this community make intentional choices, like their school integration, that shape the future of their experimental utopia.
In Arden’s Craft Shop, blacksmiths, potters, and bakers once made and sold their wares. Today, in the same building, the community houses its museum and archives. Oak furniture, wrought ironwork, sculptures, paintings, and documents help tell the story of this intentional community. Step outside the museum to attend a town meeting, a community dinner, an outdoor theater production, or the annual Arden Fair (September), and you can experience the Ardens’ rich culture and history firsthand.
Visit the Arden Craft Shop Museum
Location: 1807 Millers Road, Arden, DE 19810
Phone: (302) 475-3060
Hours: Wednesday, 7:39-9PM and Sunday, 1-3PM.
Connections: Many more stories from Delaware’s African-American history appear in the Delaware Historical Society’s new exhibition, “Journey to Freedom,” at the Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage.