Arden is a village and art colony in New Castle County, Delaware, in the United States, founded in 1900 as a radical Georgist single-tax community by sculptor Frank Stephens and architect Will Price. The village occupies about 160 acres, with half kept as open land. According to the 2010 Census, the population of the village is 439. In 1973, the entire village was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Two neighboring villages of similar size were founded on Georgist principles, Ardentown, in 1922, and Ardencroft, in 1950. In 2003 they were also listed on the NRHP. Many Ardenites, as the villagers of Arden are called, consider themselves to be "close-knit, nature-loving, liberal, tolerant, free-spirited, artistic, intellectual, even ex-hippie."
Arden was founded in 1900 by sculptor Frank Stephens and architect Will Price, based on ideas such as Henry George's single-tax, William Morris’s Arts and Crafts principles, and Peter Kropotkin's theories of community. Philanthropist Joseph Fels funded the project.
The single-tax movement, popular in the U.S. and other countries from the 1890s until the 1930s, believed that the best way to raise government money was to tax only the value of unimproved land and the public-created value, like roads, added to the land. The tax, based on a systematized assessment, would recover both the value of natural resources and public investment for the public, while not impeding labor and capital from profiting from their efforts. Followers of Henry George's philosophy of economics created Arden as an experiment in the single-tax idea after a failed attempt to implement Georgism in the entire State of Delaware in the late 19th century.
William Morris, an Englishman, rebelled against modern cities and industry. He advocated a return to craft production, good design, and village life. While Kropotkin was primarily an anarchist communist, many of his ideas regarding social and community living were used by the founders of Arden to advance William Morris' ideas for the return to village life.
At first, Arden was a summer community. People lived the simple life in tents or rustic dwellings. By 1909, much of the land had been leased, mostly for summer use. By 1922 there were 148 leaseholders, 100 buildings, 350 summer residents, and 100 winter residents.
The founding of the Arden Club in 1908 provided an organizational core for community activity. Interest groups and task groups were called gilds rather than committees. From the beginning, Shakespeare’s plays were produced in the outdoor Field Theater. Fairs, pageants, and Arden holidays filled the calendar. Many of these events continue today through various community organizations including the Arden Recreation and Community Association (ACRA) and the Arden Club, as well as through some of the village committees for each of the three Ardens. The Georgist Gild continues to offer courses in Georgist economics to the Ardens and any other interested communities.
It took longer to implement the Arts-and-Crafts ideal because the community was so small at first. Many people worked in Wilmington or Philadelphia. In 1913, the Craft Shop was built, which provided facilities for various artisans. Arden crafts, especially from the Arden Forge and Arden Weavers, became popular in the area.
The conceptual lifestyle of Arden proved so popular that it expanded twice, with Ardentown in 1922 and Ardencroft in 1950. Today, the Ardens remain as single-tax communities at the village municipal level. The spirit of Arden encourages all sorts of artistic and intellectual expression and a strong community life. Most of the village activities and Club activities are run by volunteers.
Arden, Delaware and its sister villages, Ardentown and Ardencroft, are in the National Historic Register because of their cultural landscape, rather than its land or buildings. Still, there are several buildings associated with Stephens and Price, including old farm houses and converted barns, the Craftshop, the Weaveshop, and a number of fine Craftsman Houses, that have historical and architectural interest.