National Geographic : 1952 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine eral are still intact. Three sides were strongly built: but the roof and the river side were flimsily constructed to blow out easily in case of explosion. Powder Mills Housed Researchers About half a century ago the company began research work in a few of these out moded mills close to the river. Gradually more modern buildings were erected farther up the hillside, and the new $30,000,000 addi tion stands on top of the hill. A casual, un informed visitor might suppose he had strayed onto an unusually large university campus. This research center, although the com pany's largest and most important, represents less than half its total research, which is carried on in 60 other locations. But this station has some 800 chemists, physicists, engineers, and other technically trained men from 200 colleges and universities (page 34). Among the numerous non-Du Pont Wil mington industries are textiles, braided rubber hose, glazed kid and morocco, and vulcanized fiber.* J. E. Rhoads & Sons, maker of industrial leather products, celebrates its 250th anniver sary this year. The concern is America's third oldest business establishment. It began in Chester County, Pennsylvania, but the factory was eventually moved to Wilmington. The main office is now in Philadelphia. During my last visit to Wilmington, one of the greatest private collections of early Ameri can decorative arts ever assembled was opened to the public. Henry Francis du Pont, fifth in the Delaware du Pont line, gathered these treasures, displayed in some 100 rooms in his former mansion, Winterthur. Here are two centuries, 1640 to 1840, of domestic architecture, ceramics, furniture, metalwork, textiles, paintings, and prints col lected from New Hampshire to North Caro lina. Visitors must apply in advance and are limited to 20 a day, taken through in groups of four. The first permanent settlement in the Dela ware River Valley was made in 1638 by the Swedes at the Rocks on the Christina River, still to be seen at the foot of East 7th Street, Wilmington. Later the Dutch conquered the region from the Swedes, and still later the English took over, the small river settlements being easily captured by naval attack. Spectacular Bridge Replaces Ferry A victory of quite a different sort is the conquest of the full-grown river by bridge building engineers. On August 16, 1951, the Delaware Memorial Bridge, sixth longest sus pension bridge in the world, was opened for business from a point a few miles south of Wilmington to Deepwater, New Jersey (page 19). Until then, there had been no crossing, except by ferry, of the long, wide stretch of the river below Philadelphia. Much of the bridge traffic is of a through nature, for the span connects with the new 118-mile New Jersey Turnpike and is a key link in the quickest route between New York and Washington. But workers in the offices and laboratories of Wilmington and the laboratories and chemi cal plants in New Jersey can now live in either State. New Jersey residents can enjoy the commercial and cultural advantages of Wil mington, and Delaware residents can easily reach the New Jersey beaches. Approaches to the bridge are very long and rise to a great height so that the largest naval and commercial vessels can pass beneath the central span. Already as many as 35,921 cars have crossed the bridge in a single day. Pri marily responsible for promoting the bridge was Francis V. du Pont, long chairman of the State Highway Commission. New Castle Preserves Its Past Although Wilmington was the first perma nent settlement in the Delaware Valley, a little river town, New Castle, six miles to the south, was once the metropolis of the region. It also was the State capital, court town, mar ket town, seaport, and junction of a land-and water route between North and South, before either Wilmington or Philadelphia attained im portance. Left off the main route when the rail lines south of Wilmington went inland to go around the head of Chesapeake Bay, New Castle be came known in late years, but only in passing, to millions of motorists hastening to cross on the New Castle-Pennsville ferry. The new bridge, which replaced the ferry, is several miles to the north, and I saw a number of ferryboats lying idle in their New Castle and Pennsville slips. Today's visitors have leisure to see old New Castle, one of the best preserved bits of co lonial America. It retains its charm in the compact section of the Green and in surround ing buildings and streets, despite the close crowding in of industry from the north. Following the river below New Castle, on winding and little-used roads, one soon leaves the pressure of industrialization for the peace of a land where settlements are few and the landscape consists of farms, inlets, creeks, and vast marshes beloved of hunters in autumn. On Pea Patch Island is Fort Delaware, a * See "Diamond Delaware, Colonial Still," by Leo A. Borah, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, Septem ber, 1935.