Bellefonte is a thriving town of 1,300, that by equal parts circumstance and design, is one of few remaining true urban hamlets of character.


Tucked between the post-Industrial sprawl of Philadelphia Pike and the hustle of Interstate 495, Bellefonte is often bypassed by the undiscerning traveler, sitting in an enclave that has become a man-made time capsule.


Bellefonte is a thriving town of 1,300, that by equal parts circumstance and design, is one of few remaining true urban hamlets of character.

Tucked between the post-Industrial sprawl of Philadelphia Pike and the hustle of Interstate 495, Bellefonte is often bypassed by the undiscerning traveler, sitting in an enclave that has become a man-made time capsule.

That's not to say progress has neglected Bellefonte, but it's come in a context that befits one of Wilmington's earliest and most significant suburbs.

Through the 1950s, Brandywine Boulevard was home to a trolley line connecting Bellefonte to Wilmington, all but cementing the boulevard's status as the commercial center of town.

Today, it's home to a vibrant mix of businesses, from resale shops and boutiques to a cafe, bakery, laundromat, barber shop and law offices. And unlike so many parts of New Castle County -- where use-based zoning reigns -- here, commercial, office and residential seamlessly co-exist.

"Bellefonte is a Norman Rockwell-esque small town where friendliness abounds in residents and storekeeps," says Kristie Moore, who relocated from Media, Pa. three years ago. "At night, people often chat on their porches or stroll, delighting in the fireflies."

Bellefonte at a glance

Population: 1290

Avg. Age: 37

Avg. Household Income: $55,975

Avg. Home Value: $215,006

Land Area: 0.2 sq. mi.

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Click here for Bellefonte in pictures

Incorporated in 1915, Bellefonte has a five-member town commission to oversee day-to-day operations, and a planning board to review zoning there.

"Having come from someplace else and realizing just how great this town was, I think led some of us to become active on the commission," said Keith Hughes, who relocated from Long Island.

Most major services -- sewer, police, paramedics and code enforcement -- are handled by New Castle County, while the town provides trash service, plowing, street lights and routine maintenance with an operating budget of roughly $300,000. In June, the Bellefonte Town Park opened, funded by a combination of private donations and transfer tax revenue collected from home sales.

The average tax bill for residents is roughly $200 above state and county taxes -- less than what many residents living in unincorporated parts of the county pay for trash pick up alone.

But the deals extend beyond government.

Bellefonte is home to four resale and antique shops, alongside several more unique shops and boutiques, making it the discerning bargain shopper's best kept secret.

Teija Salmela, who opened Blueberry Hill Antiques in 1998 and lives in an apartment above it, says Bellefonte's a wonderful place to live and own a business.

"It's as quiet as any neighborhood can be," she said. "You always see the same faces walking their dogs or pushing their kids in strollers or out for a run. It's wonderful."

Joanna Geroski, who owns Eclectica a few blocks south, relocated to Bellefonte from Manhattan, and immediately fell in love with it.

"I like the randomness of the houses," she said. "It just has a much different feeling than the cookie cutter communities."

Her shop, which features gifts, jewelry, vintage clothing and home decor, is in a way representative of Bellefonte itself -- a bit quirky, but mostly warm and inviting.

"I might get a little higher traffic in a shopping mall, but the personality of this place makes up for it," she said.

Jim Boulanger knows a thing or two about the town's personality. A Bellefonte native and Mt. Pleasant High School alum, Boulanger organizes a reunion every spring where old friends hop into their classic cars and descend on Brandywine Boulevard and Elizabeth Avenue -- their favorite spot as teens in the 1950s.

“We would basically hang out on the street corners and cruise around town in our friends’ cars,” he told the Community News during a recent reunion. “Then we would all go to dances at the (Brandywine Hundred) Fire Hall. That was our routine.”

Today, the social center of Bellefonte has largely moved from the street corners to the Bellefonte Café. Opened by former record-company exec Donna Rego, the café boasts more than just hearty meals, coffees and cocktails. It's also the town's pre-eminent creative space, offering live music, open mic nights every Wednesday and monthly poetry readings.

Attorney Chris Koyste, who renovated Brandywine Boulevard and Grove Avenue building that houses his law offices, sums up the local sentiment.

"We've got a funky, laid back atmosphere here with an eclectic mix of people...and 1920s and 1930s architecture. It's the perfect location for me."