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Forgotten Milepost: Clemente’s Travel Center

May 1, 2012

One piece of transportation history that seems to be in the process of being completely forgotten is the Clemente Travel Center, also known as “State Road” in New Castle, Delaware.

Right in the center of the mid-Atlantic roadway corridor, nestled between the New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore/Washington metropolises and Atlantic City and the coastline (and on the outskirts of Wilmington, DE), this roadway stop billed itself as the place

It was the major rest stop and transfer point for the interstate bus system (Greyhound and Trailways). Even the express buses to the deep South or cross country (such as the ones we used to take, whose first city after leaving New York was Richmond) pulled off of the I95, and headed a few miles down , (like they were going down the Delmarva/Eastern Shore Line), to make the stop, and then had to cut across DE Rte. 273 (Frenchtown/Christiana Rd.) several miles to pick up the I95 again in Christiana.

The stop consisted of a really large cafeteria in the front (very big dining area), and likely a gift shop, as well as the ticket counters for the buses. And of course, restrooms.
In the back was the door to the long platform running straight ahead, with the bus bays on both sides.
Behind all of this was parking space, and behind that a marshy area with a small road, a pond, a freight track, a park, and the end of a creek eventually leading to the nearby Delaware River. A nice sunshiney place in the morning, and the gateway to the cozy, peaceful looking Eastern Shore.

The food I most remember is the cheesecake, which had a similar creamy texture to NYC’s famously unique Junior’s, though tasted a bit different, and had some crumbs on top.

Old postcards, thanks to Eb Dunlap:

Front, looking at an angle from the south, and interior shots showing the long cafeteria tray line to the left, gift shop to the right and front entrance in the middle:

Front sign looking south (c1960-2; all of this was gone by the 80’s; only had a narrow unlit vertical sign saying “Clemente’s” on the wall; sort of easy to miss):

Bus port, looking west, from behind (with 1968 Greyhound MC-7 on right):

Internal layout, drawn by Eb:

(By the 90’s the the men’s restroom [at lest] touched the rear outside wall and had windows facing the port).

My first time there may have been in ’75 on the return bus trip from my aunt in central Virginia. But I’m not sure. (On the way down, we had met my aunt in the city and she drove us down. First time to the South). I know on my next trip down there, in ’80, the bus stopped there both ways. I had liked it so much on the way down, I looked forward to making ths stop on the way back.

Four years later, I chose Virginia’s then largest city, Norfolk, to attend college. When driving, we usually took the US13 all the way, and I suggested Clemente’s as one of the stops, which then we always did.
At first, when coming back home for the holidays or summer, I flew (first time ever). But then, I became ever so curious about the cities I was flying over (and we had passed by without stopping, whether by bus or car). So I began taking the bus; either the 12 hour trip via the western “Peninsula” and mainland (Richmond, Washington, etc), or if going straight, the more direct 9 hour, but non-interstate (little towns and traffic lights) Delmarva peninsula. Both routes came back together at State Road.
I continued making the trips down there, even after leaving college.

Time began running out for the Center, when the Baltimore Travel Plaza opened, which was closer to the I95, being right near an exit in eastern Baltimore. Service then began moving into the new stop, which was in addition to Baltimore Downtown (the former Trailways station, with the Greyhound station closed after the merger).
The June, 1991 Russell Guide (which I managed to get), still listed some mainline runs, and all the Eastern Shore runs at State Road. That year’s trip (to both my aunt, and Norfolk; a huge triangle), was my last time there. My next two trips; my first Florida (“expansion”) trip, that summer (Jacksonville, which in many ways is a sister city to Norfolk), and the second one, a year later (Key West); the super expresses all stopped at the new Travel Plaza.

By the fall ’92 Carolina Trailways schedule, State Road was reduced to a flag stop, and the new crossroads between the Eastern Shore and the I95 corridor was nearby Wilmington (which is kind of out of the way for the buses going straight to New York, as it is past the turnoff to I295, which is the mainline highway heading to the Delaware Memorial Bridge to New Jersey, while I95 goes through Philly). Previously, Wilmington was part of the local route to Philadephia).
All mainline service used Baltimore Travel Plaza (and/or Downtown) instead.
Eventually, the super expresses from New York to Richmond and beyond no longer stopped even there, but instead began using the Maryland House, which was a rest stop in the median of the highway (i.e. between northbound and southbound roadways), not too far north or east of Baltimore. Of course, this was faster and more convenient than even the Travel Plaza since it was right in the highway.

On my next Norfolk trip, in late ’92, Clemente’s was but a dark, shuttered derelict we zipped by between Odessa and Wilmington. (The meal stop was now at a lesser fast food chain {Roy Rogers or Hardees?} in Maryland somewhere).
I would be married less than a year later, basically ending my nearly decade long string of solo interstate bus jaunts. I had already been plotting my next trip, to Chicago (a place I had never gotten to, focusing on the South so much), but money, and trying to to do things together; with her not liking buses, it was put off indefinitely.

Forward over a decade later, the MC12 model coaches that were just coming out when I last rode are now the dwindling old fleet, and carrying the last of the distinctly sounded Detroit Diesel two-stroke engines that provided power for more than half a century, as federally mandated four-stroke engines were taking over. (Buses would never be the same again, and I don’t even miss them as much).
State Road was long gone from all schedules, and many stops and routes, such as the old US40 local from Philly to Washington, the US17 shortcut between Norfolk and Washington, and several Eastern Shore stops, and even the US60 route west of Richmond providing the sole service to my aunt’s area, were also gone.

So being well into the age of the internet, I happen to find out that a huge mall had been built on what was blocks of flat parking space in the core of downtown Norfolk. (It was actually there for about 9 years already; I just never looked up anything about Norfolk online until then). Plus, everything else that had been built up since my single days, with construction ongoing everywhere (It was pretty desolated and depressing when I was in college). My long delayed “expansion” to Chicago (and cutting back through Canada between Detroit and Buffalo), finally occurred ’04, on my spring vacation.

So a year later, in ’05, I finally got down to Norfolk again, (and being older, had to stay the night in a hotel, where I used to go and come back in a day. I did do Chicago like that, however, and figured that was my last).
The “traditon” had become to go down via the mainland (since I used to stop off at and explore the other cities along the way), and return via the direct route via US13.

I was surprised with a new expressway in the Delaware portion of the route (DE 1) bypassing a chunk of the route of US13, including the steep St. George bridge over the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal* passing way above the sleepy colonial looking town it is named after. (The new expressway uses a new “cable-stayed” bridge, the only other one I had gone over being the one entering Savannah, GA during one of my Florida trips). The two highways do run right next to each other in places, however. However, instead of taking the new road to its interchange with I95 at Christiana, we got off and back onto the US13 at the town of Bear for that last highly commercial stretch through New Castle and Wilmington Manor. (This is still done, and I believe it is to avoid a toll at the Christiana interchange). Trying to remember exactly where the Center was, I looked out for it, and could recognize it, next to the “colonial house” looking office building (now a data school or something), and by now I could see it appeared to be turned into a furniture store.

More recently, with the wonders of Google Maps, including Street View (expanded into even rural areas), I could see that it was in fact a little shopping strip, anchored by the furniture store in front. The stores are mainly lesser chains, that can be found all over the east, but are unknown in New York. There’s even a dance studio, now.
It’s apparently the old building with a new façade, and the platform enclosed into the other stores, with pretty much the same (though newly paved) roadway around the facility the buses used to use. When the buses used it, the north side was inbound, and the south side was outbound. Now, a sidewalk to the stores and grassy strips are where the south bays were, and the north side appears to be the loading area and employee parking in the back of the stores, and the former bus entrance is now gated off. Also appearing the same, is the big parking lot behind the whole complex.

Looking it up online, I could not find ANYTHING about “Clemente’s Travel Center” or even “State Road”. Even searching the slogan “Where the Nation Meets and Eats”, only turned up an old New York Magazine (Mar 3, 1969 “Tracking the Action to Bowie”) on Google Books, briefly mentioning it in passing! On the physical site (at least from the photos), there is no sign that it was ever there.
So I knew I had to add this section dedicated to it.

I find that the name of the plaza is The Shoppes of New Castle You would think at least a page like that would mention it was the former Clemente travel center. They should have called it “Clemente Plaza” or at least “The Shoppes at State Road”.

The last couple of years, the Maryland House is being rebuilt, so some Greyhound schedules listed the nearly identical Chesapeake House, further up the road, past the Susquehanna, right before it empties out into the Chesapeake Bay (which can be seen from the I95 bridge).
(Also by now, the combined Greyhound/Peter Pan operation has completely pulled out of the Baltimore Travel Plaza, but several “China buses” stop there instead. A new “Baltimore downtown” opened closer to the highways).

Even further up, near the Christiana interchange is the similar Delaware Welcome Center (which I see in the Wikipedia entry also called “Delaware House”, which I thought of it as too. This probably by extension from the Maryland and Chesapeake “Houses” down the road. Edit: Google is now calling it the “Delaware House Travel Plaza“, so apparently, it’s official!)

I had wished a replacement for Clemente’s would open in the wide grassy median of I295 on the east side of US13 where the two highways cross.

Using Paint, I cut out the existing bulding and pasted it into that space, and saw that it did in fact fit. (and most of the length of that building was the platform anyway). It would be two story, with the US13 buses stopping on the ground floor and continuing into Wilmington, and the mainline I295/I95 buses stopping on the upper level between the roadways, just like they do at the Maryland House. So it would once again be the “crossroads” of the two routes, “where the nation meets and eats”, and yet still have the convenient median location for the mainline buses.
I sent a suggestion to Greyhound a while back. Perhaps I should have sent it to the state of Delaware, or found out who the owner of the Delaware Center was. Wikipedia says it was rebuilt in ’09-10, and that would have been the opportunity to move it to where I suggested. (You would think that would have been the replacement for Clemente’s, and with the 1 via the 273 Christiana Bypass not too far from it, it would have still been somewhat convenient for the new Delmarva route).

Here’s another photo of the new shopping plaza:

*Delmarva is actually, technically an island, as the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal (opened 1829) severs it completely from the mainland. On the south end of the stretch is the North Channel Bridge, which is a part of the Eastern Shore end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel that steeply rises above the rest of the span for a ship channel. So on the other end, you had a similar steep narrow bridge, the St. Georges Bridge. The two always reminded me of each other, and they both can be seen as the actual entry/exit points to the Eastern shore!
Also, visible from the bridges over the canal is the brightly glowing Delaware City Refinery. While New Jersey is full of these types of oil plants, this one in Delaware is all by itself, and I used to think of it as “Emerald City”, as it resembles from a distance (especially back in the 80’s, when it still had the greenish mercury lights, instead of the yellowish sodiums they all have, now).

The new road would have been the logical , but that designation was picked up by Pennsylvania, for a highway in the western part of the state; completely out of the west-east order the interstate odd numbers run in. They could justify it by using the designation for both highways, by running the designation across I76 to the Philly area, where it would run with 95 to the Christiana interchange, and from there, down to Dover where the expressway currently ends.

  1. It’s hard to even tell what the name of the area really is. Of course, on the bus it was known as “State Road, DE”, like it was official. But apparently not. In actuality, it’s really between several towns. It’s closest to New Castle, and that seems to be what places are addressed to. (It’s still beyond the actual city limits, to the east, going down Frenchtown Rd). The county district it is apart of is #10 Delaware City; that town being further away to the southeast, also on the river. And yet there are services (such as fire dept.) in the area still named after Wilmington Manor (which I for along time thought it was), which is really further north, closer to the Del. Mem. Bridge. Llangollen Park is on the other side of the stream in the back. The closest place name I can find is “Midvale”, and that only on Mapquest. It seems to be a small community marked by numbered avenues across the road. (The Clemente’s side of the road is all commercial in that area). On Google maps, this name is not shown, so the closest thing is Rambleton Acres, adjacent to the west, but not directly connected by road, so it’s probably not the same community. Perhaps “State Road” is simply that clump of commercial lots, and it fell out of use because it is not residential?

    Update: just Googling “State Road, Delaware”, I see there’s now a [very short] Wikipedia entry on it (It was created March 31 ’12; which is two months before this article, but this article was really from the year before on my non-Wordpress space, so when I was doing the research for it, it wasn’t up yet. The article uses as one of its sources this state historic map:

  2. Starr Mickle permalink

    I too, truly miss the Clementine’s Travel Center (known as State Roads). I wish a retro version could be brought into existence within the State Roads vicinity.

  3. Steve permalink

    I remenber State Road Delaware as a kid in the 60’s. When my father was stationed at the Norfolk Navy Yard, we would drop him off State Road to catch the Carolina Trailways bus back to Norfolk.

    • I was wondering how far back Carolina Trailways’ ownership of that run went (didn’t think it would be 60’s), and just ran across this article saying it bought all the routes in 1952, from buying Red Star Motor Coaches, based in Salisbury!

      (If you were riding in the 60’s; if it was before ’64 when the CBBT opened, then you must remember taking the ferry at Cape Charles. Apparently the bus went onto the ferry as well. I see that the ferries took cars and trucks, so it must have taken the buses as well. It seems this was as much of a common “route”, even bearing the US13 designation on both sides, as it was when the bridge-tunnel opened).

      The service to Wilmington, NC that I remembered in the 80’s and 90’s began with the bridge-tunnel, thus connecting the service with the actual “Carolina” area. In more recent times, the Norfolk-Wilmington segment was eventually cut, as was even the Philadelphia service, and then the Delmarva service was again severed from North Carolina, with the current NY-Norfolk service and the DC/Baltimore-oceanfront services (the latter were scaled down as well, and for awhile, through routed with a NY-Ocean City via Baltimore run). And then, it was finally absorbed completely into Greyhound, as I saw 4 years ago (They seemed to be in the process of rebranding the previous trip ten years ago, as I saw at the Salisbury garage —behind the station, which is now closed).

      Also, added a lot of stuff from this area to Pinterest:

  4. I remember clementes my mom used to work there. That brought back memories

  5. Dean Sagers permalink

    My mom was Susan Clemente daughter of Alfred Clemente who was the owner. Her & her sisters use to work in the cafeteria for years when they were teenagers. Is sad that the memory is fading out because it was a big part of my family’s like & a staple in the history of New Castle. Great job on the article.

    • Thanks, and cool!
      Looking up the name, you’re the guy who has a business down the road from there? If so, interesting! If you could ever move into the Shoppes, then you could at least partly restore the legacy of your family!

      • Dean Sagers permalink

        Yes I own a barbershop in Beaver Brook a Plaza on rt13 & use to have one right on the otherside on rt40. How did u know that?? think it is pretty cool that I have a business right down the street from where my family started theirs. I wouldn’t go into that shopping center, it’s a different time & different era & no real street exposure. I’m a Sagers & nobody from my era would even know that there was a relation on top of the fact that this generation barely remembers that spot

  6. Just curious of who you were, I Googled the name, and saw your Facebook, which had the link to the barber shop. (LL Cool J’s old DJ’s handle, lol).

    What do you mean “it’s a different time & different era & no real street exposure“? You think it would have no relevance for today (because of your different family name) or something?

    What I was thinking, with a business was in the strip, it could be named or themed after the old Travel center, with photos (if there are any), or other indicators of the history. A lot of other people would find that intriguing. A lot of people like stuff like that. And I found it so surprising how this could just vanish with barely a trace like that, to be so unknown to this generation. (Again, I wish at least the current owners would give a nod to the old Center).

  7. Eb Dunlap permalink

    I grew up in Wilmington in the ’40s, so thoroughly enjoyed your article about Clemente’s and the surrounding area. The area is generally referred to as “State Road”; the intersection of U.S. 13 & U.S. 40 being the actual ‘state road’. The area encompasses the stretch of highway (13&40) from the real State Road (intersection) to Hare’s Corner (rte. 273), at the South end of the New Castle County Airport, a length of about 2 miles. The correct mailing address is New Castle. Back in the early days of the 20th century, that intersection was known as the “Crossroads of the Nation”, as those 2 highways were the main national North-South highway (rte. 13) and the main national East-West highway, and most all traffic going in any compass direction on the East Coast, crossed and merged at that intersection, to continue going to all points. The Esso station at that intersection (now an Exxon), has been there since the early ’30s, and, for a long time, had the designation as being either the number 1 or number 2 busiest gas station in the country, each year, based on volume. This area of the DuPont Highway (U.S. 13) also had endless motels along that short stretch (so many that I can’t even guess at a number). This, and this whole area, changed dramatically after the opening of the interstate highway system in this area, in 1963. I-95 took most of the traffic from each U.S. route, thereby much of the livelihood of the area.

    Oh, and before the interstate system, the main North-South route from Maine to Florida was the “Ocean Highway”, of which you can still see, on some parts of U.S. 13 and U.S. 17 (below Norfolk, where the ocean Highway shifted from U.S 13 to U.S. 17), signposts, and mention of the Ocean Highway. It followed the coastline all the way to Florida.

    Clemente’s terminal had the sub-title: “The World’s Largest Bus Stop”. All buses stopped there; even if you got on a national bus in Wilmington, about 7 miles North; most of those buses went South to Clemente’s, to connect with all of the other buses coming and going to all points. Clemente’s Bus Stop had a very nice, cafeteria-style restaurant, which served good food – many locals would regularly go there to eat. It didn’t serve food like you would expect at a bus station; it was good eating, at a good price

    I have a couple of pictures of Clemente’s, postcards really, but don’t know how to send them to you, or I would share.

    BTW, buses did go along with cars and trucks, across the Cape Charles – Kiptopeke Ferry, before the CBBT. I have, oft-times, rode that ferry by car and by bus.

    I’m surprised at the state ‘historic-prehistoric’ road map – it’s not that old: it shows I-95 (1963), I-495 (1977), and SR 1, which opened, completely, in 2003. I was hoping the state would have an older, historic map of the roads; heck, I think I have older maps still in my glove compartment. 🙂

  8. Thanks!
    Wow; I never really paid attention to there being a gas station there; but I did always like the way the 13 dipped under that railroad overpass before the highways merged. That’s what indicated we were almost at Clemente’s, and then afterward the “home stretch” along the Jersey Turnpike.

    I wonder why the main route to Florida would be US13/17, and not simply US1, which is what goes all the way down, and without having to cross the ferry.

    Yeah, the cafeteria was nice all the way up to the end. Nice and spacious, and sunny in the morning.

    Can you scan the post cards?

    • Eb Dunlap permalink

      Route 13/17 was the “Ocean Highway”, it traveled close to the coast, all the way down the East coast, to Florida. Through all of the small towns on the way down, which made it easy to stop and take a rest, a swim, find a motel room on the way, etc. The Ocean Highway was for vacationers, and the Kiptopeke ferry was a destination in itself. U.S. 1 was inland, no scenery. As was U.S. 11 and U.S. 27, I believe; inland, but direct routing right down the center of Florida, when it reached that point. Depends on the purpose of your trip, which way you would want to go.

      I have all of my postcards scanned into my computer, but how can I link them to these messages?

  9. Frank White permalink

    I was stationed at Dover AFB, DE in 1980. My wife and I used to go to that restaurant which we called the big bus stop. In August of 1960 though, we went from Newark N.J. to Washington D.C. on a Trailways bus .For some reason or another we stopped for dinner at the New Castle DE Airport.

    • I would imagine, maybe closed for renovation? (Being that they used a substitute so close by). I always noticed the cool blue runway lights next to the highway.

  10. Thanks to Eb Dunlap for finding the postcards of Clemente’s [added to main article].

    Here also from him is a shot of looking south toward where the US 13 and 40 split, with gas station in the middle (1960); 13 hanging left and ducking under the railroad overpass (heading toward Delmarva), and 40 to the right (toward Baltimore). Nearly ½mile south of Clemente’s, this he reports above, was supposedly the actual point named “State Road”. It’s a funny junction, as the opposite lanes of both highways cross each other at grade.

  11. Herb permalink

    My grandmother worked at Clemente’s – I think that might actually be her 1956 Chevy BelAir in one of the pictures! I also worked there when I was in high school – many years ago.

    • Eb Dunlap permalink

      The date of that picture is ca 1960, is that the time period your G-Mother worked at Clemente’s?

      • Herb permalink

        Yes, 1960s into 1970s would be about the right time frame when she would have been there.

  12. David Miller permalink

    I remember Clementes bus stop we used to take our house keeper to the bus stop she had son in the carolinas. My dad took me for the ride always wanted to go in for a sanck but time was not right
    we made severial trips with our house keeper in the early 1960’s
    sad to see a nother land mark gone

  13. Phil Lothrop permalink

    You forgot about “Black Cat”. The area just west of there was called Black Cat and still is called that by some folks and the fire department. There had been a restaurant and night club just by the railroad, on the north bound side of Route 13 called the “Black Cat” and it was quite famous. I have a dish from that place with their logo.
    Nice and interesting article about the Clemente place. The Clemente family lived until quite recently in Llangollen.

    • I never heard of “Black Cat”. (Wasn’t familiar enough with the area). The only thing around there now (from Google Street View) that looks like it would have once been a night club is the Jokes Wild costume store. Everything else in the immediate track underpass area is industrial.

    • Phil Lothrop permalink

      I think that the “Jokes-R-Wild” place is where the “Black Cat” had been. Across Rte13 the “Pockets” bar is where the Post Office and other stores had been and the Rail Road Station was up behind that, along the tracks; only the foundations are there now. A little further west, along the tracks there had been a hotel…. long gone now.
      I wish I knew more. Thanks for the reply,

      • Oh, wow; I just now notice the road behind Pockets is called Old State Rd.! (It’s a little single lane running through what look like overgrown farms).
        Cool there was once a station there! I take it those light colored clearings (former building floors?) are the foundations you were talking about, with the post office as the one on the east side of the road, and the station on the west side, which is next to the tracks

      • Eb Dunlap permalink

        Hello Phil and Erictb; The Black Cat Diner (originally) and then the Black Cat Club (1932) was yes, about where the Joker’s Wild place is now. Across the highway, on the Southbound lanes, was the Royal Oaks Hotel in the 1930’s. The building remains and is now the “Pockets” bar. Erictb, did I ever figure out how to post pictures to this site? I do have a picture of the Royal Oak, and the Black Cat night club. Erictb, I don’t know anything about a post office, nor a railroad station at State Road – which is where U.S. 13 and U.S. 40 split; we’ve spoken about this before. State Road is an area, a community, not a rail stop. The rail line that is there to this day, is a freight line, and I believe always has been. Erictb; if you have access to my email address, please send me an email; I also have a Facebook account. Get in touch with me, if you wish.

  14. It seems you can’t directly post pictures, unless you have a link to somewhere they’re already online. When I add them, I simply “add media”, but that’s only for the admin.

    Apparently, the post office and railroad station was a long, long time ago.
    “Old State Road” I mentioned is the name of an actual road, that branches off of the 13 across from Galloway Court, and runs behind the tire shop and the rest of the strip up to Pockets. Then it’s blocked by the railroad, and so it makes a hard right (around the Pockets property) to an intersection with 13 again. It looks like it originally went straight (had grade crossing with RR), and then took the alignment of what’s now the 40 (Just south of where the gas station and merger of the roads).
    So it seems obvious that was the old road that 13 replaced, but I mean really old, back when you had old carriages that a single lane could accommodate. I imagine the same road that becomes the “Main Street” of St. Georges, when that was the through road, before they cut the C&D canal through, and replaced it with the big bridge over the town. The bridge was built 1942, and replaced one that was destroyed by a barge three years earlier, but this site says that bridge itself was only 13 years old at the time. So I’m not sure if the one that was destroyed (described as a “vertical lift” bridge) was Main Street, or it was an earlier bridge in the current Dupont Hwy alignment; that road being completed in 1923, and was what ran over the bridge according to this report during the period the bridge was out: If the old bridge was on Main St., then perhaps it was considered apart of Dupont Hwy, or perhaps Dupont split between Main and Broad (which then come back together at the other end of the town where both them merge into the Dupont right of way), like it does in Odessa, Harrington and Greenwood. Looking at the map, it looks like it was once a similar alignment, with the bridge added later.

    So I imagine the place behind Pockets may have been a little town center (perhaps an actual original town of “State Road”?) with the post office and railroad station.

    I did know that the railroad, which is a freight line now, once did have passenger service.,_Philadelphia_and_Norfolk_Railroad It actually ran until 1956! You still have some of the old stations preserved further down the line at places like Parksley, VA, which has a whole museum around it. In fact, we were earlier talking about the ferry; the train cars went over the ferry as well!
    We do still have rail clubs giving excursions down the line. ( I was interested (then the club I used to be in up here advertised one), but it was a matter of time and money.

    Just looked around and found (right on Wikimedia) this map of the whole system (1890s), including branches and associated lines (and sure enough; we see a State Road station!):

    (Glad this discussion led me to find that!)

    • Eb Dunlap permalink

      Is your email address an AOL address; and does your address begin with a “b” and end with a “2”? If so I have your address. Somehow, I have sent you, and you added to this blog/site/whatever pics of Clemente’s and a drawing I made, of the interior – it must have been by email. If that is your address, you probably have my email address – a Yahoo account which begins with “eb”

      Anyway; DuPont Highway (U.S. 13), and below Milford, U.S. 113, from Selbyville to Wilmington was built and paved by T. Coleman DuPont, between 1913 and 1925, with his own money. Before the road was paved, it was just a wagon trail from one end of the state to the other. The route that Caesar Rodney took when he rode from Dover to Philadelphia to sign the Declaration of Independence, in 1775.

      The railroad you mention is locally known as the “Delaware Road”, the only transportation other than by horse, until the DuPont Highway was built. Yes, way back, it did have passenger service, but it was mainly a freight line, bringing farmer’s goods to market from the farmers down the peninsula. In that respect, bringing farmer’s goods to market, the RR is still in use, but no passenger service. In not too long ago history, in the 1990’s, I imagine, they ran a NASCAR Race Special passenger train down to Dover (From Philadelphia), the weekends in the Spring and Fall that NASCAR was at Dover; being a NASCAR fan, I took that train from Wilmington, to the track for as long as they had that promotion 3-4 seasons.

      I know Old State Road, but I don’t remember that ever being the name of a town – the whole area, as I’ve said in earlier posts, before my last, from Hare’s Corner (SR 273) to the highway split is known as State Road. Are the dots on the map you’ve posted stations or communities? I mean, State Road is out in the boonies, to an extent, still today; I can’t imagine a rail station there, with as few people that would have been living there, a farmer here and there, back before the highway was paved, and the RR raised over the highway, which would have meant closure of any station there.

  15. Yes, that was how we did it before; e-mail. You mentioned Facebook, but I didn’t find you under the name you’re using here (just turns up a bunch of females named “Ebony”, with the same last name).

    Those points on the map would be stations, and stations are usually in communities, at the center of them. “State Road” always sounded like a town name to me, and if there was once a railroad station and post office there behind what is now Pockets, that would make sense as a one time town or community center. There seem to be a lot of stops on those railroads, so perhaps there were more little villages amidst the farms back then, and perhaps the highway system is part of what eliminated them.

    So there was only horse transportation on the whole peninsula before 1925? Wow; but sure fits the character of the [semi-isolated] region as being behind in time (which is what gives it its charm).

    I was going to ask, then if you knew if the original 1923-5 Dupont Hwy bridge connected North and South Main Street of north and south St. Georges, or was it in the same place as the 1942 bridge, but I see in the Wikipedia article on the town itself, it says “The St. Georges Bridge is in turn a replacement for a former lift bridge that sat in the middle of town. That bridge—built in 1923—was knocked down on January 10, 1939, by the 6,000-ton freighter Waukegan.” (I ask, because I like to imagine when the town was along the main thoroughfare. I’ve only passed over it on the current bridges, and the country store is like the quintessential Delmarva town corner, but it’s totally out of the way now).
    In “U.S. Route 13 in Delaware” it says “The route was widened into a divided highway between Dover and Wilmington in the 1930s”. The original 1923 construction “would end up being built on a 60-foot (18 m) alignment with a 32-foot (9.8 m) wide roadway.”

    This then, is what must have replaced what is now “Old State Road” (And US40 Pulaski Highway was completed in 1924, replacing Elkton Rd). So I imagine the two old roads met right there, at the station and post office, and that was the original “State Road” place. Once the new highways were built, it now fell out of use, and disappeared as a definite community, though the name stuck for the general area, centered on the nearby new fork at the gas station. \
    (Again, on the satellite view, I can clearly see the “footprints” of two buildings on Old State Road; one right next to the track. Actually, this part of the road is now barriered off, and you have to take Kelley’s Trailer Park Ct. out, which runs between Pockets and the strip mall).

    • Phil Lothrop permalink

      Ed and Erictb:
      I climbed up on that RR bridge and found the plaque that had the date…. now, I can’t find the picture I took of that but the date was, I think 1922. But, I had done a lot of research a couple of years ago.

      That RR was one of the first in our country! The New Castle and Frenchtown (NC&F) was built in 1830 as a horse-drawn, wooden-rail line as a portage from the steamers on the Delaware River, which landed in New Castle (the ticket booth is still there) to take passengers from New Castle to Frenchtown on the Chesapeake. Passengers. who were already travel weary, would then board a second steamer at Frenchtown on the Elk River which fed into the Chesapeake. That would take them to Baltimore.

      In about 1832 the line was converted to steam with a couple of engines built by Hicks from parts imported from England. They got rid of the old granite ties (which are still to be seen all over New Castle) and went to wooden ties. This lasted about ten years until the Canal pretty much put it out of business. Parts of the trackage were used by B&O, and a couple of other RR lines.
      The roadbed is still used from New Castle to about Bear (sort of short of Porter).
      I have walked most of that old roadbed; parts are still extent in parts of Bear and near Rte 40 around Pencader.

      Now, the Norfolk & Southern uses that stretch from New Castle to Bear. Sometimes we can hear the train whistle at night. They haul lots of tank cars from the refinery at Delaware City.

      In an old map of the area I found the State Road Station and the Post Office listed on that map. The map was not detailed enough to show the exact location of the buildings but, in those days, the RR crossed the roadway at grade level. Rte 40 was, at the time, the main drag and as 13 was developed, the RR was elevated. That may have been the death of the station and P.O.

      • Eb Dunlap permalink

        Phil, as note din my reply to Eric, I have not studied the railroads in Delaware at all, other than basic PW&B/PRR and B&O; just too damn many railroads for me to try to investigate – and my basic interest is Wilmington. But, definitely after the RR was raised over rte. 13, that change of location, plus the raised rails would have been a death knell to any community built around the RR at that older location.

    • Eb Dunlap permalink

      Erictb, first off, is your email address as I questioned; I don’t want to spell it out here, to maintain your privacy, but I gave hints of what I think is yours.

      Up until, I’d say, the mid-1950’s, generally everything South of about SR 273 was farms, all the way down the peninsula – as highways became built, the term truck-farming country was put in use. That’s why the “Delaware Road” was so very important, to move produce to market, vs. horse and wagon. No metropolitan areas, just small towns. The DuPont highway was built (earlier figures were wrong) between 1911 and 1924. Original highway width was 18′, from Wilmington to State Road, later widened, by adding a strip on each side, to 38′ (Milford to Selbyville was originally only 14′ wide). Dual highway construction began in the late 1920’s and was completed (the last section, between Dover & Smyrna) in 1934.

      The Esso Station at State Road, at the split of 13 & 40 has been there since the early 1920’s, when the highway was first built. The railroad bridge was built, as Phil says, in ~1922, to raise the tracks over the new highway (13).

      I have pictures of the various St. George’s bridges – a wooden swing bridge over the narrow canal, then the ground level lift bridge, and finally the high rise bridge – before the current Roth Bridge, built 1995, although I don’t, without much searching on my part, have the exact dates of the early bridge. The lift bridge that replaced the wooden bridge was built right next to it, the 1942 high rise bridge was built to the West of the lift bridge, by a few hundred feet, or so – I have pictures. I also have the history of the Waukegan hitting the lift bridge and destroying it, and killing the two bridge tenders, and the new, high level St. George’s bridge being built immediately, and opening Jan. 31, 1942; which was in use until the current Roth bridge was built. I have history of the canal, although buried somewhere – and the major wrecks on the canal, and bridge replacements. The RR bridge was most recently replaced in 1966; still a lift bridge, as to build a high level RR bridge of at least 140′ clearance would be an enormous task. I have very limited information on the old wooden swing bridges before the highway was built; but the lift bridges were built in the 1920’s to replace the wooden bridges.

      My base interest is in the old Wilmington that I grew up in, in the 1940’s to today; so I have some history of surrounding events, but not in depth. For one thing, I haven’t researched railroads at all, because there were many, and trying to assemble information on all is a task that I leave to others. I have basic information on the PW&B/PRR and the B&O, but the others: forget it.

      I have a book, somewhere, of U.S. 40 history, but I have not studied that at all; any interest I have is North – South, not West into Maryland. So, I don’t know, or care, when U.S. 40 was built: don’t know which was first and second. I can’t imagine U.S. 40 had much traffic before 1925, when the first ferry across the Delaware came into being, in 1925.

      • Yes, the e-mail you have is the right one.

        Was just working on this post, as here’s what I was referring to, from the satellite map:

        (This one I posted to Pinterest, and then just used that address to link it here. That’s another trick to posting images).

        Of note, this location is at grade with the railroad, which doesn’t begin grade separating until more to the right, and it looks to me like more of a matter of 13/Dupont depressing to below the RR than the railroad rising, but then you two would know better. In any case; I would think the converging new large highways, the elimination of the crossing there, plus the double-tracking of the railroad (it seems likely it wasn’t double 95 years ago) is what killed the town.

        Cool if you have photos of the two old bridges. They didn’t seem to exist anywhere, and information on the old bridges seems to be very scant.
        You would think that Deldot 1939 report I linked to, which discusses the accident and effect on traffic and has several before and after photos of places would have it, but it apparently doesn’t. (It does show the “New [State Police] Headquarters Building”, which is the colonial style “house” I always noticed next to Clemente’s. It always did look like some “official” building, and I think was still a police station or something in the 80’s; I think I remember the globe lights precincts use, but is now just the “Data Service Center Colonial School District Technology Center”)

        So it’s clear then that there were three bridges, (or actually four, if you include the new 1995 bridge). I take it, the wooden bridge was for horse carriages only, since you said there were only wagon trails before the Dupont was built?

        I don’t really care about 40 either; only the junction with 13 since that was the actual point we are talking about. I jokingly imagine that road is what this guy was singing about:

        (@Phil; never heard of granite railroad ties. They’ve been replacing wood with concrete now, but I never knew there had been any stone based material, or anything other than wood, before).

      • Eb Dunlap permalink

        Eric, OK, I’ll send you some photos by email, and you can then post them to this site, if you care to. The old wooden bridges over the canal were not much, as the canal was not very wide back then. I have not had much success finding information or pictures of the wood bridges, but they were replaced with the lift bridges in the 1920’s. The wood bridges were only one lane, and vehicles could traverse the canal, one at a time.The St. George’s lift bridge was constructed in 1926, and was demolished in the Jan. 10, 1939 accident. The link you posted to the Middletown article said that the accident caused the bridge to be closed for a few days – it was actually 3 years before the new high level replacement bridge opened (that’s a lot of a few days). But work began immediately on the new bridge – unlike when a very similar accident occurred with the Chesapeake City bridge, in 1942, destroying that lift bridge. Because of the war, the high level replacement bridge there wasn’t built until 1947-1948. They used a ferry system there until that new bridge was built.

        The rail tracks over U.S. 13 were a combination of depressing the roadway and raising the tracks. The tracks begin there begin to rise where Wiltshire Blvd. is, intersecting with U.S. 40. So the rails are higher than street level where Old State Road is – which would have, and did, cut off that road.

        I don’t know how many pics I can send with an email, I may send a couple of emails, if necessary – it’s so much easier to describe something when there is a pic with the description.

      • Phil Lothrop permalink

        Hello, Ed and Eric. I’m not sure to whom I’m answering but this sure is interesting.
        I found the picture of the plaque and it says, “Built by The Phoenix Bridge Co. in Phoenixville, PA., USA 1922.

        I sort of insinuated myself into this discussion and realize that your real interest is in Clemente’s and not in Black Cat nor the NC&F railroad. But, I couildn’t resist getting involved because it is all so close and all so intertwined. There were at least two fires at the Black Cat which started out as a diner and then became a nightclub. I love local history.

      • Eb Dunlap permalink

        Phil, I really appreciate your answer; I can put that in my notebook now – it fits right in with the highway construction timeline. As I said earlier, I don’t do railroad history at all, as there were too many little RR companies in and around Wilmington back in the 1800’s, I can’t keep them straight; but I do know a little basics – PRR PW&B, B&O, Frenchtown, etc. Thanks for the info. Researching the Black Cat, I know there was at least one fire, but history is lacking about the truck stop then rebuilt diner/club. I sent Eric a picture of the new (1932) club, I imagine he’ll post it here. That’s basically all I’ve been able to find on the B.C., other than some ads. Thanks again. Eric, I see you got the pictures. Good. I’ll look into that last picture and see if I can help; but I’d guess, as you did, that the South side is on the left, and the picture is looking West; due to there only being the one road leaving the bridge on the left. I believe, as you said, the other street on the North side, is hidden by trees. I have more pictures of the canal, if you want to see some. If I didn’t note, the St. George’s lift bridge was built in 1923, and wrecked in 1939, and the new, high rise bridge was built, in under 3 years, opening in 1942. I’ll share with you some of the wreck pictures next, I think. Eric, you did get my second email yesterday, with other pictures, didn’t you?

  16. Wow; what a goldmine of history!

    I’m trying to make out this overhead shot. I assume it’s looking west, because north St. George was the bigger, older half (and there’s almost nothing on the other side in this photo). But I only see one street, where I expected to see two; Main and Broad, which now appear to converge where the bridge should be. Perhaps the other street is obscured by all those trees. I’m also looking to see if I recognize any buildings. Many of them there now are over 100 years old, and some 200, or at least close, so they should be in the photo. Instead, I’m seeing the bank of the canal bend so that it’s running almost parallel with the street (like the canal is opening up into the ocean right there). Also, these two inlets on the other side of the town.

  17. OK, here’s the Royal Oak and the Black Cat:

    (Had to convert this last one from whatever it was, to regular jpg).

    •Since the Black Cat is not the same building there now, did one of the fires destroy it?
    •One of the other pictures was the Summit Bridge. That’s the name of the place where the US301 now crosses; so I take it that’s where that was.
    •In the overhead photo, I was hoping to see the “country store” (its site says the building is 200 years old), and the brick house with the mansard roof (placard says National Lodge No32) but I can’t even tell what would amount to Delaware St. and Clark’s Corner Rd. (since the water is there. Looking at the current satellite, I could imagine that that completely green area to the east might be landfill. So they dug the canal wider and then filled part of it back in? I see a “C&D Canal trail” that runs around that area from Biddle Point, and est of there, There’s still water outside of the canal). Are there other pictures of the town from before 1939?

    Now, I’m wondering if this and at least another photo are reversed, as the road crossing the bridge is curved the wrong way. If heading north on Main st., it should curve left as you enter the town; if heading south from the town, it should curve right. But int he photo, it clearly curves right
    when exiting the bridge northbound, and curves left, southbound. With the canal, it’s hard to tell, because now it is basically S curved, and the shape of the banks have changed so much.

    • Eb Dunlap permalink

      Yes, original building burned totally: no pictures that I can find, or written information, for that matter. Summit bridge, at Summit, is where 301 crosses today. That is in the high- banked sides of the canal area.

      I don’t know what you mean by the green area. When they dug the spoils out of the canal they used to store them along the banks until they could move them, so as to keep the workers busy; and I’m sure, back in that day, a lot of the dirt dug from the canal bottom was spread over surrounding land. I also don’t understand “S&D Canal Trail”, what s that in reference to? Back in the early days, they used mules to tow boats through the canal, so there were tow paths along the canal.

      East of St. George’s, on the South side, is more and more marshland heading towards the river – that marshland gave the builders a lot of trouble when they were building the canal, the dirt kept sliding back into the water.

      The canal, at first, was very narrow, only one boat could pass through at a time, so every so often, a recess was dug, so ships could wit their turn, and ships could pass each other. I’ll send some early pictures of the canal so you can have an idea. The ships that used the canal also had to be specially built to dimensions that the canal could handle; I can’t find my notes at the moment, but the ships had to be less than something like 25′ wide, and 200′ long.

      The rest I really can’t comment on, as the early years of the canal, the banks were constantly changing, collapsing, being dug out, filled in, etc. Also, when they replaced bridges, roads had to be moved to line up with the new location. Over the years, as they made the canal wider and wider, the canal began to take a more sustained look, until now, where it’s something like 400′ wide, and 40′ deep. The East entrance to the canal also changed, from entering at Delaware City to a farther south point, at Reedy Point. I’ll put some more pics together and send them off to you.

      • Phil Lothrop permalink

        This has been great! Great pictures, Ed and Eric.
        I started a message before about the granite blocks but the message got wiped out by Comcast before I could finish it. I’ll remake it and repost it soon. Comcast is the worst and I’ll probably go to another carrier soon.

        Maybe my unfinished message will show up…. who knows! Meanwhile, I’m enjoying your posts and am amazed at your collection of old pictures…. Thanks.

      • OK, the “green area” you can see on the color modern photo you sent, on the left and right edges. That may be marshland (but this is the north side I’m referring to).

        The C&D Canal trail is a road that appears on Google (beyond the right edge). It branches off of the Michael N. Castle Trail (which runs along the north bank from Delaware City to the MD line; perhaps that was originally the tow path you mentioned) at Biddle Point, and then simply runs to an intersection with Cox Neck Rd. at a trio of houses and near an elementary school. Street View reveals it as not even paved, and Google doesn’t go down it. (On satellite, it looks like it may have been newly paved).

        Obviously, the narrow branch that goes up to Delaware City must have been the original narrow canal, and then they cut the wider one straight ahead, but kept the original one too. Cool that they kept one of the locks!

        The new overhead photo (i.e. the B&W old one; not the current Google) is exactly what I wanted! Can you sent it without those two buildings marked? It’s exactly as I figured, with the Dupont splitting into Broad and Main, which then become the divided highway when they come back together (just like those three other towns I mentioned, further south).

        Yes, Main St. is straight in north St. Georges by itself, but when I said “curves”; I meant as the street goes from the north part of town, and crosses TO the south side. You can see it already curves to align with the bridge in the new photo you’ve sent. It probably curves some more in that direction on the other side.

  18. OK, thanks!

    I’m seeing a big body of water to the right, and Clark’s Corner Rd. going across it on a bridge; so it’s obvious that that was what we were seeing in the older photo, with the shoreline running parallel to the town. So yeah; all of that was filled in.

    (and the covered bridge):

    I see it’s right next to a railroad bridge. The “Delaware Road” track passes a mile east of the current US301 bridge, so it seems this covered bridge was in a different place than US301 after all. The Deldot article mentioned “Another improvement was the building of the concrete roadway across Lum’s Pond which has carried considerable traffic since the bridge at St. Georges has been out of commission. This roadway relieves the present detour from Summit Bridge to Glasgow to State Road.”
    Looking that pond up on the map; I saw it was next to where 301 passes (and the railroad is on the other side of the state park around the pond), but wasn’t sure what it meant by the roadway ACROSS the pond. I guess it means the area of the pond, or perhaps the pond was bigger and so the new road; which I assume was 301, actually did pass over part of it. Though 301 is the actual “Summit Bridge Road” that leads to Glasgow.

    • Phil Lothrop permalink

      That couldn’t be Lum’s Pond, could it?

  19. Phil Lothrop permalink

    @Eric: About the stone (granite) railroad ties. When the New Castle and Frenchtown railroad was first conceived, in 1830, it was planned as a horse-drawn rail cars line. You can’t have horses stumbling over wooden ties; worse yet, full length stone or cement cross ties.
    So, granite blocks were used to support the wooden rails upon which the carriages would be drawn by horses, leaving a dirt and grass path between the blocks for the horse. That was expensive and time consuming: quarrying the blocks and drilling holes for the bolts that would fasten the rails. But, that’s what they did in 1830.
    By 1832 the decision to go to steam locomotives and put the poor horses out to pasture was made. Now, wooden cross-ties were perfectly OK and locally available and much cheaper.
    The granite blocks were discarded and picked up by the locals who used them for walk-ways, curbs, steps, and whatever. They are all over Old New Castle and can be spotted as having one or two holes. I have seen a few in Bear and in Porter, DE. There are two rows of them in the passageway next to the Coffee Shop at Trader’s Cove, 206 Delaware St in Old New Castle. (Good coffee and snacks there, too).
    The NC&F railroad was a portage to allow the passengers, who started in Philadelphia, to go to Baltimore (a two hour drive today). In 1830 it was an arduous all-day trip! First the passenger got on a steamer in Philadelphia and headed down the Delaware River to New Castle. There they got off the boat and boarded the train and went to Frenchtown Wharf on the Elk River in Maryland, a 16 mile trip. Then, they boarded another steam boat which took them down the Elk River and into the Chesapeake; eventually they got to Baltimore; sometimes the same day, albeit probably exhausted!

    • OK, I found what you were talking about in the alley. (Reminds me of the slate sidewalk slabs we used to have all over parts of Brooklyn, but those are bigger; the width of the sidewalk).

      You ask about Lum’s Pond. Not sure what you’re asking. The pond and the state park named after it is between the “Delaware Road” RR, and US 301, yet the covered bridge is right next to the railroad bridge, and the article I cited mentioned something about a new road built “across” the pond; so I wasn’t sure what was what over there. But yes, since that’s Summit Bridge, then it’s right by the pond and the park.

      • Eb Dunlap permalink

        Lums Pond is, today, between U.S. 301 and the railroad tracks; I don’t know what they’d be talking about, back in 1939. There’s lots of low lands down in that area, and there could have been ponds that are gone now.

  20. Eb Dunlap permalink

    Erictb, the roads on either side of the canal used to be just gravel but in the past, maybe 10 years, they have been graded and I believe paved both sides. Before they became a parkland as they are now, those old gravel roads were a good place to go parking with your girl, or go have a drinking party, and also to use when hunting along the canal. That’s all changed now; the city has come to the country. From around St. George’s to the river, especially on the south side of the canal is all low land and marsh; not good for much. That’s why there’s never been anything built in those areas; low, and no services: gas, water, sewer or electricity.

    Remember, when they were building the canal, in the early 1800’s, there were no vehicles, so whatever they dug out had to be carried away by horse and wagon – so the closer they could dump it, the better. So most of the land around is all spoils from the canal digging – and widening over the years. The canal started as 10′ deep by something like 60′ wide, and over the years has been increasing until it is now 40′ deep (soon to be increased to 45′ deep, and it’s 450′ wide. The lift bridges that were put in were put there when the canal was about 90′ wide, and the support columns on each side were at the edge of the canal. As the canal grew wider, those supports were farther and farther out into the channel, and became more of a hazard with each widening, and those lift bridges could not be widened without removing and totally replacing the bridges, so the support columns were out in the canal, and a great hazard to all. More on this later, after I find my notes on the bridges. All of the bridges over the canal, by necessity, had to be built in another place than the bridge they were replacing, so that traffic could move, uninterrupted.

    The bridge which replaced the covered bridge at Summit was a swing bridge, as you will be able to tell when I send you the picture. That bridge was then replaced by a lift bridge, which was replaced by the high level bridge of today, in 1959.

    If you look at a Google Maps aerial picture of Summit bridge, you can see how the old road went, to the East of the new road and bridge. 301 used to follow 13 to an area named Tybouts corner, where it went off to the West following ER 71 to the old Summit lift bridge, then on to Middletown. That’s how I remember it; the new concrete high level bridge was built to the West of the old bridge, in 1959. That road from the latest Summit Bridge to Glasgow is a new road, built after or when the bridge was built – that wasn’t 301 at the time. And, before the lift bridge was built, the earlier bridge was farther to the East, as you see, right next to the railroad track. The railroad track has not moved. Is the DelDot document you refer to that 1939 document? That would explain why I have no idea what they are speaking about – that was before my memory. I don’t know what “pond” they are talking about, an detours made, in 1939 etc.

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