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The sinuous Mispillion River bisects Milford, Delaware's fourth-largest incorporated town, subdivided by Joseph Oliver out of his farm in 1787. By agreement, Reverend Sydenham Thorne—a founder of the Episcopal church in the United States—simultaneously built a dam and wharves at his adjacent millseat. By the mid-nineteenth century the community had begun to spread south of the river (South Milford is in Sussex County, but discussed here for convenience), its growth fuelled by shipbuilding and, in 1859, the coming of the railroad. Great quantities of peaches were canned and shipped. When surveyed in 1979, North Milford Historic District was found to contain ninety-five noteworthy buildings (23 percent of them brick), of which more than half predated 1860. Front Street shows surprisingly many early-nineteenth-century buildings, some with Queen Anne embellishments. Several, including Number 129 with its date spelled out in black bricks (1816?), are in poor repair. Prominent in the South Milford Historic District is the former Schine Theater (Plaza Theater), built in 1922, the same year as the Everett in Middletown. It was the largest in the state when rebuilt with 1,800 seats after a fire in 1946. It closed in the 1970s. In 2003, a child knocked over a candle in an upstairs apartment on S. Walnut Street, starting a fire that unfortunately gutted a quarter of the historic district. Among the nineteenth-century homes in South Milford is the rambling, frame Vaules-Grier House, or Draper House (1872, altered 1907; 200 Lakeview Ave.), built for a railroad station agent.

Writing Credits

W. Barksdale Maynard

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