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Christiana

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Old-timers still call this tiny village “Christine.” The crossroads settlement remains largely intact, although highways and developments have ringed it. It is hard to conceive of this inland village as a port, but it does lie at the head of navigation on the Christina River. Although the river is only a few yards wide here, the town served as a major grain depot. In addition, the main north–south colonial highway ran directly through town, as did an important east–west county road. Ten or so structures existed by 1739. Joshua Hempstead of Connecticut, coming from Ogletown in 1749, was surprised to pass from a region of log houses to “a Clump of very fine brick houses a Dozen or more & Several Taverns,” it being “a place … of much Business.” The Traveller's Directory of 1804 said, “It was built by the Swedes in the year 1640, on the side of a hill, commanding a beautiful prospect of the surrounding country” (Moore and Jones, 1804). With fifty dwellings and a Presbyterian Church, “it is the principal carrying place between the waters of the Chesapeak and Delaware” and traded extensively with Philadelphia in flour. When a concrete bridge was built over the river (1936–1937), a Revolutionary cannon-ball was discovered.

Evidence of the community's substantial eighteenth-century wealth is that no fewer than nine brick structures stand in the historic district. The fine, eighteenth-century Hillis Mansion House (29 S. Old Baltimore Pike) belonged to a cordwainer who also owned wharves and stores. The Brinckle-Maxwell House (c. 1786), 29 E. Main Street, was originally side-hall. It is the only brick Federal-style building surviving in the village and has a parapet wall. Solomon Maxwell, its owner after 1787, ran the shallop boat trade with Philadelphia. The stone foundation is typical of several buildings in town. The Gothic Revival Presbyterian Church (1857, replacing one of 1738) emulates one in Newark.

Writing Credits

Author: 
W. Barksdale Maynard

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