On March 27, 1821, Wilmington was detached from Jay and renamed Dansville. Once informed that there was already a Dansville in New York State, a former resident of Delaware proposed the town be known as Wilmington. The town of St. Armand was separated from Wilmington in 1844.
The flat fields of Wilmington provided fertile soil for the growing of rye. The rye was distilled into whiskey and sold to soldiers during the war of 1812. The dam on the AuSable River provided power for early mills of all kinds. Rueben Sanford, a pioneer entrepreneur, established a forge in Wilmington as well as a distillery. In 1868 a starch factory joined the existing sawmill and forge. The early years in Wilmington were prosperous and industrious, with agriculture taking the town through the lean years. Thriving industries swelled its coffers.
As the town entered the 1900's the tourist industry began to grow. The beautiful setting of the town, bisected by the West Branch of the AuSable River, and overlooked by Whiteface Mountain, drew rave reviews from travel writers. During the course of the 20th century the old hotels were either torn down or burnt down to be replaced by modern motels.
Fly fishermen throng into the area for the trophy fishing on the AuSable River, while its waterfalls, swimming holes, and campsites draw tourists to attractions. The river supplies the snow- making guns at Whiteface Ski Center.
After World War II, construction began on Santa's Workshop, the first theme park in America. It provided the town with a steady stream of family tourists and a place of employment for local youths. During the theme park heyday, attractions in town included alligator wrestling and a fox farm, as well as High Falls Gorge which still exists.
Wilmington has benefitted from the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center, operated by the State. The mountain has been the site of many national and international competitions, including the alpine ski events of the 1980 Winter Olympics. Whiteface Mountain not only contributes a ski center, its looming presence, and hiking trails, it also creates unique weather patterns. Unlike most of the Adirondack High Peaks, Whiteface stands in virtual isolation, topped by a lonely cloud and a castle. The Atmospheric Sciences Research Center has established a weather research center on the top of the mountain. The old Marble Mountain Base Lodge serves as headquarters.
The mountain can be hiked, run up or driven. An eight mile Toll Road opened in 1935. The first shovelful of dirt was turned by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1929. This length of road presents the driver with panoramic views stretching from the St. Lawrence River to Vermont. The road was dedicated in 1935 by Roosevelt to the World War I dead from New York State. In 1985 a ceremony was held rededicating the road to "all veterans who served in defense of our country." There is an elevator and a footpath at the top to the castle. From the summit, it seems one can see the whole Adirondack Park and beyond. The mountain top now also includes a memorial to the World War II troops of the 10th Mountain army division, a skiing troop, in which a number of Adirondack residents served.
Presently, Wilmington is concentrating on upgrading its infrastructure and improving its public recreational facilities, while preserving its unique natural setting. Although primarily a resort town, Wilmington continues to nurture a number of cottage industries, as well as the first Waldorf school in the County.
Area: 65 square miles
High point: Whiteface Mountain 4,872 feet
Principle waterway: AuSable River
Boundary change: 1844
Town Hall: P.O. Box 180, Wilmington, NY 12997 (518)946-7174
Population: 1850: 1,176, 2000: 1,131>
Major industry: distillery, recreation, iron mining, forge
Named for: first named Dansville, changed on Mar. 22, 1822 to Wilmington for Wilmington, Delaware, which was named for Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington, a member of the privy chamber.