of Harrington History
roots can be traced back to the 1730’s and a settlement developed
by the Clark family. By the 1800’s, Clarks Corner was well
established at the crossroads of the Frederica and Milford Roads
with an inn, tavern, store and mill nearby. The inn, owned and operated
by Benjamin Clark, was located near today’s intersection of
Commerce Street and Railroad Avenue.
The importance of
Clarks Corner was significantly changed in 1856, when the Delaware
Railroad was constructed from Dover to Seaford, by way of Clarks
Corner. The Delaware Railroad was the southern extension of the
Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad, which in turn
was a division of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Matthew J. Clark
subdivided a portion of his land into town lots that quickly became
the nucleus of the community. A railroad station and depot was established
and the two flourished. A post office was established to serve the
farming residences, stores and small businesses. Locally, the city
became known as Junction Station, however in 1859, the city was
re-named Harrington, in honor of the Honorable Samuel M. Harrington,
the Chancellor of the State and the first president of the Delaware
Railroad. The City of Harrington was incorporated by the General
Assembly on March 23, 1869.
1869 was an important
year for the community. At that time a second rail line, the Junction
and Breakwater, was constructed from the station through Milford
and further south to Georgetown and hence on to Lewes in Sussex
County. Products and produce from the Harrington area were shipped
to the ports on the Delaware Bay and from there to Wilmington, Philadelphia
and New York. The Junction and Breakwater solidified Harrington’s
place as the key transportation hub for central and southern Delaware.
In addition to the
railroad yards and associated warehouse, and manufacturing were
important in Harrington in the second half of the nineteenth century.
The City boasted a sawmill, cannery, fruit evaporator, basket factory
and fertilizer plant.
In 1880 the city
was estimated to have a population of 800 persons. In 1887, the
City had grown to 1,300, reflecting the growth in industry and employment
opportunities. The construction of Delaware’s first highways
in the early 1900’s assured continued transportation options
for produce and manufactured goods from Harrington, but diminished
the railroad’s importance to the City’s economy.
In 1917, the Delaware
General Assembly created the Delaware State Highway Department with
passage of the Highway Act of 1917. The Department quickly identified
a north-south highway route that would link the County seats and
larger towns and provide road access to the important railroad terminals
as its first priority. The specific route ran south from Dover through
Harrington to the Town of Delmar on the Delaware Maryland boundary
and was intended to parallel the Delaware Railroad right-of-way.
An important feature of the alignment was that the new main road
should pass outside of the established towns, rather than through
them. With the construction of what is now US Route 13, Harrington
remained an important transportation hub for goods and services.
Today the City’s
geographic and public services are still centered about the railroad
junction site. Harrington is included as a “Railroad Town”
in the Industrialization and Capitalization 1830-1880 time period
in the Management Plan for Delaware’s Historical Archeological
For more information
on the history of Harrington contact the Harrington Historical Society
at 398-3698. Harrington has a historical museum and railroad museum.