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Newark and White Clay Creek Valley

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Situated at the northwest corner of the state, Newark has grown to be Delaware's third-largest town (population 28,500), nearly as large as Dover and dominated by a sizeable university. Historically, the community was exclusively strung along Main Street. Its growth was extremely slow, reaching only 4,500 by 1940, but then it exploded to more than 15,000 by 1965 with the expansion of the University of Delaware and construction of two DuPont facilities and a Chrysler plant. As early as 1951, there were complaints about the town's traffic problem, an issue that has grown more troublesome. Newark's explosive growth doomed much historic architecture. A typical local newspaper headline of the post–World War II period read, “Razing of Pre-Revolutionary War House at Newark Starts; Will Allow Wider Road” (1957). The covered bridge (1861) at Paper Mill Road over White Clay Creek was removed in 1947, and an important Greek Revival house, Linden Hall (1845), was demolished at the Chrysler plant. The Frank Furness–designed B&O train station was replaced by a characterless brick box. The town planning department belatedly catalogued historic buildings in 1983, but within fifteen years several of the most prominent were swept away, including Deer Park Farm (1840) and Granite Mansion (1844). The brick Thomas Montgomery House (c. 1740), with paneled interiors, was in good condition in 1991 just before demolition. Curtis Paper Company operated on White Clay Creek at the edge of town from 1789 until 1997, the longest-running paper mill in the nation, but was demolished in 2007.

The entries begin in the upper White Clay Creek Valley, north of Newark. DuPont bought much of the valley starting in 1956 to dam it and create a huge reservoir. Environmentalists eventually defeated these plans, and, in 1984, the company donated the land to the state as White Clay Creek State Park (now 3,384 acres). Because it was sequestered by DuPont and spared almost thirty years of sprawl, the park is the best-preserved rural landscape in northern Delaware, where one can still walk unpaved country roads and see the ruins of old barns and stone farmhouses.

Writing Credits

W. Barksdale Maynard

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