Friday, June 26, 2015

The Early History and Impact of the Wilmington & Western Railroad

Invitation for the inaugural WWRR train, Oct. 19, 1872
The topic of transportation advances has come up in several recent posts, but mostly in the context of the rise of the automobile and the changes it required of roads and bridges. That was the 20th Century. In the 19th Century there was another major advancement in transportation technology, one which forever changed the social and economic factors involved in the movement of people and goods. We're talking, of course, of the railroad.

There were three railroad lines built through MCH in the 1800's, two along its southern portion and one up its eastern side. The two southerly ones -- the PW&B (later the PB&W, now the Amtrak line) and the Baltimore and Ohio (now the CSX line) -- were just portions of much longer lines. There were stations here, but mostly they just passed through, sort of like I-95 through Delaware today. The third line, though, weaving its way along Red Clay Creek and then away to the northwest, was much more of a local business and passenger line. More Kirkwood Highway than I-95. This was the Wilmington & Western Railroad, and it was a good example of how a business can be important without being, itself, particularly successful.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Changing Face of Milltown

A bridge on Milltown Road, 1921
In the last post we looked briefly at some of the changes that were taking place in and around Mill Creek Hundred in the decades surrounding World War II. [Editor's note: That started out as just the intro paragraph to this post, but rambled on long enough to be spun off on its own.] [Writer's note: I'm also the Editor.] One of the most noticeable things going on was improvements to the area's roads and bridges. Now we'll look more closely at the changes made over the years to one particular place -- the intersection of Limestone and Milltown Roads.

To be honest, this is one of those topics I had neatly avoided for years, primarily because it always seemed like more trouble than it was worth. I kind of understood what had happened, but it never completely made sense to me. Recently, however, with the help of Bob Wilhelm (who grew up very near the intersection), it all now seems much more clear. Hopefully it will to you, too, when you're done reading the post. It draws heavily upon Bob's recollections of his youth, and I thank him greatly for his help.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Changing Face of Mill Creek Hundred

Section of Lincoln Highway (Kirkwood Highway) in 1918
The history of Mill Creek Hundred, as with much of New Castle County, can be neatly divided into two parts: the Pre-War Rural Era and the Post-War Suburban Era. In this blog we deal primarily with the earlier time period, but since the "modern era" began 70 years ago it's just as much a part of MCH's history as "The Olden Days". And while there are many still around who can remember it well (even if the details sometimes get mixed around), the events in the next post took place over a half century ago.

Once Europeans began settling MCH in the early 1700's, the face and general feel of the area didn't really change all that drastically for the next 200 years or so. Sure, the large tracts of the first settlers were broken up, farms got a little bit closer, and some new industries popped up here and there through the 19th Century, but all in all, I don't think someone from 1720 would have felt all that out of place walking around in 1880. Heck, he would have even recognized a lot of the names! The 20th Century, however, was a whole new ballgame. (Literally. Baseball historians use 1900 as the start of the Modern Era.) Take someone from 1880 and drop them on Kirkwood Highway in 1965, and I'd bet they'd be a bit taken aback.