This is a second in series of blog posts on the landscape of my childhood home:Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here, and Part 3 is here.
During the summer months, we spent as much time as possible outside in the street. We lived at the end of a cul-de-sac so traffic was light. We always had plenty of neighbors who were around our age and the local attractions like the Field and the Creek provided endless fascination.
As I got older, I began to wonder where the street really was and what was there before. Aerial photographs can provide some idea of how the Street fit into its historical environment.
The earliest settlement in the area of the Street was Arden. Arden was founded in 1900 as a single-tax commune. By 1922, it spurred the developed of adjacent Ardentown and in 1950, Ardencroft. The communities of Arden and Ardentown are clearly at the top right of the 1937 aerial photograph below. At this time, most of the land around what would eventually become “the Street” was farmland bounded by Arden, Silverside Road to the southwest, Marsh Road to the northwest and the railroad to the southeast. The community to the far southeast of the photograph below is the town of Claymont, Delaware, which dates back to the colonial period. Claymont has become a bit better known today as one-time hometown of Vice President Joe Biden. (Biden worked for a few summers at Windybush pool).
By the next round of aerial photographs, the area had seen significant development with Claymont pushing to the northwest and the clearing of the land for the Windybush neighborhood clearly visible. The Arden area also seems to have pushed to the southwest across the line of Harvey Road which connected that community to Claymont. Immediately to the west of the future location of “The Street” the neighborhood of Westwood Manor had been carved out of a wooded area. The future site of our neighborhood, howevever, remained farmland.
The neighborhood we called Northfield had been developed (perhaps it was the north field of the local farmer?) and it would appear the land that would become Hilton was partitioned. The Street, meanwhile, remained an orchard. The clearing cut through the southern limits of the orchard (and coinciding exactly with the future location of the Street and the Field) was an easement for high-tension power lines.
By 1961, the entire area had been developed. The change is dramatic!!! It is notable, however, at the in 1961, The Street was not developed.
The orchard was still there to the northeast of our house and the farmland immediately to the east of our house would continue to exist into my childhood as the massive back lot garden of a local Windybush resident. I suspect that some of the mature fruit trees in the man’s back lot dated to the before Windybush or the Street.
The biggest change to our local area came in 1963 when I-95 cut between the northwest expansion of Claymont and the southern sprawl of the neighborhoods surrounding the Street. According to the county, our house was built in 1962, so a year after the 1961 aerial photographs. The Street is called Wheatfield Drive suggesting the earlier use of the land (but also a generic, rustic neighborhood name). The 1968 aerial photographs document the appearance of I-95. It connected to our area via Harvey Road.
The detail shows the preserved fields to the east of our house. Moreover, it shows our house backing onto a wooded area that had originally stood between two fields. Our backyard had an old dog-wood tree and a massive tulip poplar typical of older, hardwood stands in the area. These trees clearly pre-dated the development of the area and stand as a reminder of the earlier organization of land in the area.
I lelf the area for college in 1990, returning only in the summer. As one might expect, development of the area continued with gradual encroachment on the few remaining open fields. In general, the wooded areas remained. The aerial photograph below is from 1992.
[…] grew up in a house on Wheatfield Drive in a northern suburb of Wilmington, Delaware. I lived there until I was 18 and then on-and-off during the next few summers while I attended […]