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Wilmington Delaware Walking Tour
Item 10 of 21
The Keil Family, Jewish Immigrants from Austria, arrived in Wilmington in the early 1900s and opened numerous, prosperous businesses including retail and investments to automobiles and real estate. Max Keil purchased the nineteenth-century buildings at 700 and 712 Market Street over a period from 1911 to 1929. He then updated them during the 1930s to accommodate retailers, emblematic of a broader downtown Wilmington trend of updating and renovating nineteenth-century structures. Indeed, the 700 Market Street movement is located next door to the Braunstein's Building, which underwent a similar transformation in 1924.

  • Max Keil Building at 712 Market Street
  • Max Keil Building at 700 Market Street

The Keil family, Jewish Immigrants, moved to Wilmington from Austria in the early 1900s and established several successful businesses. For instance, Max and his brothers (and their sons) collectively owned and managed Keil Investment Company, Keil Motor Company, Keil Real Estate and Keil's Family Liquor Store, to name a few. As part of Max Keil's real estate and investment ventures, he purchased two nineteenth-century buildings at 700 and 712 N. Market Street and subsequently renovated them in the Art Moderne and Art Deco style. 

Both renovations demonstrate an adaption movement in downtown Wilmington involving the modernization of nineteenth-century buildings to accommodate newer businesses' needs. By World War I, Wilmington transitioned from a purely industrial city dominated by factories into a more white-collar, corporate city, primarily tied to chemical companies and automobiles. The shift pushed business leaders to invest in creating uptown office buildings, often by renovating and repurposing structures constructed during the last half of the nineteenth century.

700 North Market Street

The Max Keil Building is an example of the late style Art Moderne commercial building, and it represents the start of a trend in Wilmington of fabricating blank facades to emphasize the merchandise in the display windows. 

The building (circa 1875) is a single unit comprised of two, four-story mid-to-late nineteenth-century Italianate commercial buildings combined into a single unit. Max Keil purchased the first unit (702) in 1911 and the second unite (700) in 1918. They remained separate units until 1938 when he combined both properties into a single store by removing the party wall and replacing the facades with the present Art Deco style. The building has mainly served retail stores since Keil leased it as a single property. 

712 Market Street

The Max Keil Building at 71'2 North Market Street also serves an exemplary Art Deco - Art Moderne commercial style. Keil purchased the property in 1929, a three-story brick Italianate commercial building completed in 1850. As he did with the 700 Market Street property, Keil replaced in 1936 the original facade with a new Art Deco front. Keil also renovated the interior and added a single-story rear wing. For much of its twentieth-century history, it served as the home to retailers selling women's clothing and shoes.

"A Guide to the Archives." Jewish Historical Society of Delaware. jhsdelaware.org. 2013. http://jhsdelaware.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/guide.pdf.

Hawk, Alan. "Nomination Form: Max Keil Building, 700 Market Street." National Register of Historic Places. nps.gov. January 30, 1985. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/91817048-b540-4419-9413-a39e2051dcc4.

--- --- --- "Nomination Form: Max Keil Building, 712 Market Street." National Register of Historic Places. nps.gov.January 30, 1985. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/7f4d98cd-313e-466d-bdfa-f25fbbab4aed.

Hoffecker, Carol E. Wilmington, Delaware: Portrait of an Industrial City, 1830-1910. Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1974. Digital copy found at delaware.gov. https://archivesfiles.delaware.gov/ebooks/Wilmington,_Delaware_Portrait_of_an_Industrial_City.pdf.

"Isadore Keil Dead at 77." The News Journal (Wilmington, DE), March 20, 1971. Located digitaly at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/21334202/the-news-journal/

Powers, Mathew. "Braunstein's Building ." Clio: Your Guide to History. January 27, 2021. Accessed January 30, 2021. https://www.theclio.com/entry/125321.

"Rites Tomorrow For Aaron Keil." The Morning News (Wilmington, DE), August 7, 1956. Located digitally at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/24691888/the-morning-news/.

"Max Keil, 81, Leader in City Jewish Life, Business Activities, Dies at Home." The Morning News (Wilmington, DE), November 2, 1959. Located digitally at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/18015020/the-morning-news/.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

By Smallbones - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9044658

By Smallbones - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9039928