Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Magical 1948 Map

Lower left quadrant of 1948 map
Of all the resources I've found for use while researching Mill Creek Hundred history, some of the most useful have been maps. The first one of these I found was the 1868 Beers map (found at the upper right of the page), and it's no exaggeration to say that none of the rest of this would be here without it. There are a few other 19th Century maps that have been very helpful, but very little from the 20th Century. I have a 1904 topographic map, but it doesn't have any names on it like the older ones do. Most of what you'd get are just road maps, and not very detailed at that.

The two exceptions to this that I've come across are the circa 1941 New Castle County Bus Map and the 1948 map shown here. This is actually only a quarter of the entire map, the lower left quadrant to be exact, it doesn't have names of property owners like the earlier ones, but there are several things on and about it that make it interesting enough to take a closer look at.

First of all, it comes from a transitional time in the history of Mill Creek Hundred (and the rest of the Wilmington suburbs, for that matter). 1948 was right near the beginning of the post-war suburban expansion in MCH, and the map reflects that. There are a few new developments shown (Kiamensi Gardens, for example), but not many. You can see the suburbs expanding out of Newport and Elsmere, but for the most part things are pretty clear west of the Red Clay.

The really interesting thing about the map, though, and the reason I call it the Magical Map, is the presence of some streets that didn't actually exist in the real world. One example can be found just to the right of the center of the map, next to the "Kruse School for Colored Girls", which was covered in a previous post. On the southeast side of the school property is shown Woodward Ave, with the cross streets of 1st and 2nd Avenues. As best as I can tell from viewing aerial pictures from just before and just after this time period, none of those streets ever existed, except likely in a developer's mind. The hypothetical Woodward Avenue would have been, of course, named for the former owner of the farm there, J. Paul Woodward.

Another example of these magical streets can be found on the southeast side of Stanton. (And just a reminder, you can click on the map above to see a larger version of it.) On the SE side of Main Street, you can see Mill Rd. (still there) on one end and Chestnut Street (kind of still there) on the other end. I assume New Street is what became the eastbound lanes of Route 4. But then, behind New Street, there are several other streets shown that as far as I know never existed. And I'm sure there were never any streets built over the creek, as the map shows. Was this someone's (maybe Harry Boulden's) plan that never came to fruition?

Equivalent section from c.1941 Bus Map

What's also interesting is that the New Castle County Bus Map also shows some of these same aspirational roads. The bus map is probably a few years older, so it's possible that the 1948 map was built on the older one and therefore contained some of the same errors (or wishful thinking). My guess with that map was that some of these streets may have been plans that were interrupted by WWII. There may be more examples of this in areas I'm less familiar with, so let us know if you can find anything else.

Back into the realm of real things on the map, some other potentially interesting items might be the the New Castle County Workhouse, the New Castle County Workhouse Farms, the Brandywine Sanitorium (which I just saw the state is now planning to close), the Veterans Hospital, the DuPont Flying Field, and the Boys Camp. As far as roads go, I've never seen Milltown Road with "Coopers Corner" tacked on to it, the map still shows the full run of the upper part of St. James Church Road, and Kirkwood Highway west of Limestone Road was yet to be built.

All in all, while not fantastically historically significant, this 1948 map is a fun one to look at for a bunch of reasons. If nothing else, it does give a good snapshot of what the area was like as it stood on the brink of the rapid expansion that made it what it is today. Have fun with this map, and feel free to comment on anything you find that catches your eye!

10 comments:

  1. Scott-

    Sometimes map makers put fake streets on their maps as a kind of copyright protector. If someone uses the map and passes it off as their own work, the existence of the fake streets would be evidence that the work was not original. I once saw a map with several fake roads, all named after characters from The Simpsons. May favorite was Moe's Tavern Road.

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  2. D'oh! I did think of that, Bill, and you're right. That's a tradition that goes back centuries. These, especially the Woodward one, seemed too specific for that. Always a possibility, though.

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  3. On the 1941 map it shows Brandywine Springs to the west of rt41 and the Marshallton Mills behind the Workhouse across from the Cedars

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    1. Good catch, Denis. Looks to me like they just put the label in the nearest open space on the map, but it ends up being very misleading. The Brandywine Springs one isn't too far away, but the Mills one isn't even close.

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  4. There was (and still is) another Woodward Ave that is barely visible on the 1948 map. Just northeast of Price's Corner is the real Woodward Ave. The word "Woodward" can be seen going into "Center or Ferris School Rd" between the words "Center or".
    I'm familiar with that road because my father was born in a house that still stands on that road.

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  5. Scott, I just happened to be looking around on google maps and happened to notice a location called "Farmhouse" off of Old Capitol Trail near Joyce Drive. Not too far from the DE park entrance. Do you know much about this? The name pretty much says it all and I google earthed it and street view checked it out and would love to know more.

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    1. Yes, I have a couple of links for you. The Farmhouse is a wedding and event venue housed in an enlarged 19th Century farmhouse. Their website can be found here, and now contains an "About Us" page with good historical info (mostly 20th Century): http://www.thefarmhousede.com/

      I also did a post about it a few years ago, with more of the 19th Century history. Either search here for the Brown Farm, or copy and paste this link: http://mchhistory.blogspot.com/2012/05/brown-farm-aka-farmhouse.html

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    2. Thanks! I figured you wrote about it before, just wasn't sure. Always wondered about the Eastburn area and current YMCA land.
      I have one other question for you. On Pike Creek road, near the back entrance of Meadowood, there is that somewhat new neighborhood (on what used to be one of the nicest places to climb that big grass hill and overlook until they built houses on it). Well at the entrance to that neighborhood there is an old barn, it was standing still not too long ago but barely. I heard the hill used to be an old farm, and its rumored that the owner of the farm hung himself in that barn. Do you know anything about this area?

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    3. I did not forget about this. I'll get back to it shortly. I've got myself wrapped up in a post that has me thoroughly confused, but I will get to it.

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  6. It's no problem! Whenever you get a chance. While we are talking about that area on the hill next to St. Marks High, do you know much about the road that runs at the bottom of that neighborhood which dead ends to St. Marks driveway? I remember when that old house was still on the schools property until about 8 years ago. Always thought that was the weirdest thing.

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