The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and New Castle County Architecture
The Delaware City Historic District is significant for its architecture, for its beginnings as a planned settlement, and for its importance as a nineteenth century canal-oriented transportation center. The buildings within the district date from 1826, the year the town was laid out, displaying significant development through 1930. The town was envisioned by its backers as a place that would develop into a major shipping and trading point for traffic that passed along this trans-peninsular trade route, and so, its early plans were based on the completion of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.
Delaware City is located 14 miles south of Wilmington, the largest city in Delaware, and 40 miles south of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The built area of town is roughly bounded by the Delaware City Branch of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal on the east, the Delaware River on the north, Dragon Creek on the west, and Delaware Route 9 on the south.
Located within the limits of an incorporated town of approximately 1,800 people that is situated in the eastern central area of New Castle County, Delaware, the town is strategically located at the eastern terminus of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal where it joins the Delaware River.
The 68-acre district is made up of 252 sites that include 232 major buildings
East of the canal branch, but outside the boundaries of the district, is Polktown, a small community that was settled by free Blacks in the 1830's, and the Fort duPont site, established in 1863 as an auxiliary gun battery, later used as the headquarters for the Delaware River and Bay Defenses during WWI and WWII.
An important feature of the economy of Delaware City is the expanse of marshland bordering parts of the canal, the river, and the creek that harbored substantial game bird and muskrat populations. Much of the outlying area beyond the marsh was highly productive agricultural land during the nineteenth century and is still so used.
Three related National Register sites are located just outside the district:
1. Eastern Lock of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal
2. Fort Delaware, a Civil War Prison located on an island in the Delaware River.
3. Chelsea, an 1848 brick, Greek Revival style dwelling built for Thomas Jefferson Clark, member of one of the leading families in the area.
Delaware City's main emphasis is on buildings of the mid-to-late nineteenth century, its greatest period of growth. Several of the earliest buildings in town are brick Federal style dwellings. The accepted plan was a two-story, gable-roofed, double dwelling with a symmetrical four-bay facade and fanlights above the entrances.
The most prominent house type of the mid-nineteenth century is the Greek Revival style. Based strictly on the two or two-and-a-half story, flat-roofed, square plan, there are no temple front or cross wing versions of this style in Delaware City or in its environs.
The Italianate style did not bring about much of a change in Delaware City's architecture since it was based on the same flat-roofed, square plan as the Greek Revival style. Because of the subtle difference between the Greek Revival and Italianate styles, features from both styles were sometimes combined, creating a transition between the two. The Queen Anne and Bungalow styles became prevalent in the twentieth century.