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Harlan Mill

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1815. Milltown and Limestone rds., Milltown
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)

Mill villages were keys to the prosperity of northern New Castle County. Farmers raised barley, corn, oats, and wheat, ground at water-powered establishments. Woolen mills allowed them to raise sheep, too. Modern commuters are hardly aware of Milltown today; the old five-points arrangement (radiating starlike in five directions) of colonial roads was cut off by highway rerouting in 1964. Milling got underway at this site on Mill Creek by 1747. Caleb Harlan was involved from 1771 to 1815, when his will conveyed “mill, millstones and every other appurtanances” to his sons and the present structure was built, as shown in a datestone. Abram Chandler purchased it in 1852 and, by 1871, had erected the extant brick house nearby with its elegant cast-iron veranda. The mill's rectangular plan and huge corner chimney (once warming an enclosed office inside), as well as its having the race flow through the building to turn the waterwheel and grinding machinery at one end, are derived from Chester County, Pennsylvania, practice (as disseminated widely by Oliver Evans's book of 1795 on mill technology). Harlan Mill ceased operation in the 1890s and was gutted by fire in the 1940s. Today it is a private home. To the west (on the current site of Dickinson High) stood the Thomas Springer log dwelling (c. 1795), installed at the Smithsonian Institution as “the Delaware Plank House” (1958–1963, Robert L. Raley, with curator John Pearce). Barbara Clark Smith's book After the Revolution (1985) discusses its former neighborhood.

Writing Credits

W. Barksdale Maynard


What's Nearby


W. Barksdale Maynard, "Harlan Mill", [Wilmington, Delaware], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Delaware

Buildings of Delaware, W. Barksdale Maynard. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008, 169-169.

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