A HISTORIC WATERFRONT COMMUNITY
HISTORY OF DELAWARE CITY
Delaware City traces its origins to 1801 when the Newbold family from New Jersey purchased a tract of land that became known as Newbold’s Landing. The Newbolds drew plans for the town in 1826, with the expectation that it would eventually grow to rival Philadelphia as a Delaware River port and commercial center. Its location at the eastern terminus of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal in 1829 caused Delaware City to become both an operating base and a way station for a number of significant shipping-related activities.
A peach boom during the period 1840-1880 that made Delaware City famous for popularizing peaches nationwide was started by Major Philip Reybold and his sons, who had over 110,000 peach trees by 1845. Peaches shipped from the Major’s Wharf in Delaware City reached many ports from New York to Baltimore.
Fish caught by Delaware City fishermen were processed and shipped from the town. Herring, shad and sturgeon were the main catch, with the sturgeon roe shipped to Germany and Russia to be packaged and marketed as caviar. Hunting and muskrat trapping in the nearby marshes also provided a livelihood for the residents.
Other small industries included the blacksmith shop, a carriage shop, a grist mill, a sheet metal factory, a chicken incubator factory and a mincemeat factory. Some of these were located in the area of the railroad station of the Delaware and Pennsylvania Railroad, which opened a line into Delaware City in the early 1870’s. Twentieth-century industry arrived in the 1950’s and 1960’s with the construction of the nearby industrial complex.
A walk through Delaware City’s streets allows you to view some of the best examples of the important architectural styles beginning with the Federal style of the 1820’s and Delaware’s Italianate “Peach House” buildings of the 1850’s. The styles continue through the catalog mail order homes of the 1920’s. Each of these styles represents an important period in the town’s prosperity.
EXPLORE & PLAY
At Battery Park, located along the Delaware River at the foot of Clinton Street, a visitor is surrounded by a scenic panorama of the Delaware River, Pea Patch Island and New Jersey shoreline.
Fort Delaware State Park: Civil War Living History
Visitors take a ½ -mile ferry ride from Delaware City to Pea Patch Island. A jitney provides transport from the island dock to the granite and brick fortress. Here, costumed interpreters take you back to the summer of 1864.
Fill your day with hands-on history. Help the blacksmith hammer out new parts for a cannon or work with the laundress. Be on hand when the 8-inch Columbiad gun fires a live gunpowder charge! See a replica of Pea Patch Island as it appeared in 1864 and artifacts from the Island’s past.
Make a day of it – there is a food concession stand on the island. And if you like, you can bring a picnic lunch to enjoy in our picnic area – tables and grills are provided.
Travel on to Fort Mott State Park in New Jersey, and visit Finn’s Point National Cemetery, the final resting-place for 2,400 Confederate prisoners who died at Fort Delaware.
Pea Patch Island, an oasis for history and nature lovers
A short trip from Battery Park on the Three Forts Ferry will bring you to Pea Patch Island. While Civil War buffs will find exactly what they’re looking for within the historic walls of Fort Delaware, nature lovers will be just as pleased with the bird sanctuary at the north end of the island.
Recognized by the Audubon Society as a bird sanctuary of “continental significance,” this oasis of natural beauty is home to the largest heronry of mixed species on the East Coast. Nine species of wading birds can be found here including the Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Glossy Ibis and Tri-colored Heron.
There are tidal creeks within extensive tidal marsh areas on the island and large areas of coastal plain woodlands including stands of tall trees and shrub-dominated patches. There is a nature trail and an observation tower for viewing the heronry.