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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Bartley-Tweed Farm

Bartley-Tweed House
Tucked away on a bend on what I always thought of as a "cut-through" road (on the back way to Newark), sits a brick house with a few surprises, and an interesting story. The house, which turns out to be quite a bit older than I thought it was, is flanked by a somewhat newer (but still historic) carriage house/granary. And until recently a barn stood across (and unnervingly close to) the road from the house, all making up what is known as the Bartley-Tweed Farm.

The house sits on the north side of Fox Den Road, a few hundred yards west of Polly Drummond Hill Road (across from the Polly Drummond Shopping Center and McGlynn's). From the construction of the earliest remaining part until the late 19th Century, the property was owned by at least 5 different families. Unfortunately, not much is known about most of the owners except for one, and he's more closely connected with another site -- even though he owned this one for almost thirty years. The property itself is notable for two reasons: 1) it was the site of several undertakings not common elsewhere in the area, and 2) in several instances some of the construction here was a bit ahead of its time.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Cedars

Ad promoting the sale of lots in The Cedars
If asked to describe Mill Creek Hundred today, I think the word near the top of most people's list would be "suburban". Obviously, this was not always the case, and the transition from a rural area with a few interspersed villages to full-blown suburbia had to start somewhere. For the most part, the suburbanization of MCH took place after World War II, when all those returning servicemen (and women) wanted to move out of the cities and have room to spread out to raise their generation of Baby Boomers. I happen to live in a house that was part of that first wave of post-WWII building (it was first sold in March 1947).

However, even my neighborhood was not even close to being the first planned housing development in the hundred. A full 45 years prior, streets were laid down and lots drawn up for a housing development right next to one of the busiest places in the area. This was not a coincidence, for while the post-war flight to the suburbs was made possible by the automobile, this earlier wave was enabled by that great turn of the century aid to commuting -- the trolley. The development of The Cedars, located on Newport-Gap Pike and backing up to Brandywine Springs Park, was an example (though not a prototypical one) of what was called a trolley (or streetcar) suburb.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

R. R. Banks: MCH's Automotive Pioneer

Richard R. Banks' Wilmington Automobile Company
 As we've seen in numerous previous posts, there has been a wide range of different industries active at one time or another in Mill Creek Hundred. One industry I'm willing to bet that you haven't associated with the area is the automotive industry (although, to be fair there are/were/will be auto plants in two neighboring hundreds). No, I'm not going to tell you that there was once an automotive plant in MCH, but there is a local connection to the early days of the automotive age. It seems there is good evidence that the first automobile to be built in Delaware was constructed right here in MCH. And the men involved were pioneers in the field, at a time when many thought the car was just a passing fad.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Stanton and Brandywine Springs Schools

Stanton School, 1926
By the mid to late 19th Century, Mill Creek Hundred contained all or part of at least 17 separate school districts. Each district contained one school, and at least 13 of those schools were situated within the boundaries of the hundred. We've already looked at a few of them (Harmony, Fairview, Mt. Pleasant and Union), and even at a few of the teachers. As the 20th Century progressed, these old districts and schools were eventually consolidated into larger ones, and many of the schoolhouses lost. In this post, we'll focus on two more of these schools, each representing old districts -- the Stanton School (District #38) and the Brandywine Springs School (District #33). Both of these today have "descendant" schools still in operation, and one of these old schools (although not the first one at the site) is still serving its community, albeit in another capacity.

The District #38 school in Stanton was undoubtedly one of the longest-serving schools in our area. It was your classic one-room schoolhouse, made of stone, and measuring about 30x27 feet. It had two outhouses (which sometimes needed to be emptied, as this 1886 report shows), and stood on the north side of Main Street, west of Limestone Road, about halfway between the Friends Meeting House and Telegraph Road (about where the Goodeals is now). Exactly when it was built is a bit of a mystery. The number "38" does appear on the 1849 Rea & Price map (although, oddly, there is no "S.H." as there is by the other school houses), so it was surely built by then. Scharf claims that it was the first public school in Mill Creek Hundred, which would probably put its erection sometime around 1829, when the first real public school act in the state was passed. Writing in 1888, to Scharf it was already the "old stone school-house".