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Delaware City

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Unique in the state as an antebellum boom town, Delaware City (pop. 1,453) was born of the Chesapeake and Delaware (C&D) Canal. The Newbold family, proprietors of Newbold's Landing, drew a town plan and invented the optimistic title of “city.” The main street was named for Erie Canal promoter and New York governor De Witt Clinton. Speculators drove up land values between 1826 and the opening of the C&D Canal in 1829, but the bubble burst. Subsequent growth was slow, the population peaking at 1,355 in 1860. The town was stranded when an enlargement to the canal, in 1927, was sited two miles south. National Geographic (1935) called Delaware City “the seasonal center of shad and sturgeon fishing and reed and railbird hunting,” but river pollution soon ended the lucrative fishing industry. By the 1980s, the town was struggling. Over the past forty years, a series of proposals has been put forward for touristic rehabilitation, and they are finally showing signs of success.

Christ Church (1849–1851; 222 Clinton Street) is one of several congregations established in Delaware after Episcopalianism returned to life under Bishop Alfred Lee. Parish tradition points to a Philadelphia oddity, The Floating Church of the Redeemer (1849), as inspiration. The rectory and parish hall were added in 1870 and 1894–1895, respectively. The building has lost its steeple. Also in town is the Ebenezer United Methodist Church of 1875, restored after a fire in 1946 (306 Clinton St.). At 300 Clinton Street is a bungalow said to have been designed by Gustav Stickley and illustrated in his magazine, The Craftsman (1912). Near Reedy Point Bridge (1965–1968), south of town, stand the scattered buildings of Fort DuPont (1899–1915), which originally provided artillery support for Fort Delaware (PR21) in the Civil War.

Writing Credits

W. Barksdale Maynard

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