Monday, November 4, 2019

Jack Dempsey Fights in WIlmington's Coast

Jack "Nonpareil" Dempsey
Wilmington was buzzing in early November of 1887 when the Middleweight Champion of the World came to fight at the Grand Central Theatre. Jack "Nonpareil" Dempsey was in town and fought four bouts against regional boxers. On October 31st he took on Ned McCann, next on November 1st it was Frank Bosworth, then on November 3rd Denny Kelliher had a turn, and lastly on November 5th it was Bill Gabig who felt the sting of Dempsey's gloves. Dempsey who was middleweight champion from July 30, 1884 until January 14, 1891 defeated all four locals with ease. Dempsey was 50-3-11 and was undefeated until late in his career. This Jack Dempsey is not to be confused with the Jack Dempsey who was the Heavyweight Champion of the World from 1919-1926.


A sampling of the arrests on "The Coast" in 1882.
The Grand Central Theatre was located in the section of WIlmington once known at "The Coast," which was along Front Street and Water Streets in the vicinity of the train station. The Grand Central was between had a long and storied history as one of Wilmington's dens of vice. Being located on the Christiana River, close to three train stations, and various industrial sites gave "The Coast" just the right mix of travelers, railroaders, sailors, and industrial workers to support 30 bars and hotels and a number of "disorderly houses." 

Dempsey contracted tuberculosis in the 1890s but continued to fight and died from it in 1895, eight months after his last fight. The Pennsylvania Railroad purchased the property and knocked down the Grand Central Theatre in 1901. Over the years the old building had also been known as The Commercial House, Carroll's Casino of Music, and the National Hotel. 


Jack "Nonpareil" Dempsey's visit to Wilmington and the notorious "Coast" are two bits of history that have been Almost Forgotten. We hope you have enjoyed this little vignette and hope you will share this blog with your friends, subscribe, and maybe post a comments. 



2 comments:

  1. Being located on the Christiana River, close to three train stations, and various industrial sites gave "The Coast" just the right mix of travelers, railroaders, sailors, and industrial workers to support 30 bars and hotels and a number of "disorderly houses."

    There's a really fascinating article from this period (1889) called "Tough Wilmington" where two reporters (definitely not from the Coast) take a stroll through the Front St, East Side area and describe what they see. As you point out from the above quote, it was definitely not an area for the feint of heart! Just sent it to your email.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nathan, Can you point me to that article? Tried googling but no luck

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