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Phone (302) 398-3530

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City of Harrington History

Harrington’s 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 Resources.

For more information on the history of Harrington contact the Harrington Historical Society at 398-3698. Harrington has a historical museum and railroad museum.

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