The Delaware City Historic District is significant for its architecture, for its beginnings as a planned settlement, and for its importance as a nineteenth century canal-oriented transportation center. The town was envisioned by its backers as a place that would develop into a major shipping and trading point for traffic that passed along this trans-peninsular trade route, and so, its early plans were based on the completion of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.
Delaware City is located 14 miles from Wilmington, 40 miles south of Philadelphia and is situated in the eastern central area of New Castle County, strategically located at the eastern terminus of the C&D Canal where it joins the Delaware River.
An important feature of the economy of Delaware City is the expanse of marshland bordering parts of the canal, the river, and the creek that harbors substantial game bird and muskrat populations. Much of the outlying area beyond the marsh is highly productive agricultural land.
Chesapeake City was separated into north and south sections when the C&D Canal was built through the middle of the town. The two were connected by a drawbridge until 1942 when that was destroyed by a freighter that struck it. The current bridge opened in 1949. The town contains numerous old homes that have been converted into bed and breakfasts, restaurants and the local historical museum.
The Story of Mobility in America
Maritime Museums in Historic Towns
The Chesapeake & Delaware Canal is 14 miles long, 450 feet wide and 35 feet deep across Maryland and Delaware, connecting the Delaware River with Chesapeake Bay. The C&D Canal is owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District. The project office in historic Chesapeake City is also the site of the C&D Canal Museum and Bethel Bridge Lighthouse.
History In the mid-1600s Augustine Herman, a Dutch envoy and mapmaker, observed that two great bodies of water, the Delaware River and Chesapeake Bay, were separated only by a narrow strip of land. Herman proposed that a waterway be built to reduce, by nearly 300 miles, the water routes between Philadelphia and Baltimore. The issue of constructing the waterway was raised again in 1788 by regional business leaders, including Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush.
The US Army Corps of Engineers played a vital role in determining a canal route which opened for business in 1829. Today’s canal is a sea-level, electronically controlled waterway.
The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering landmark. The canal is unique as the sole major commercial navigation waterway in the United States built during the early 1800s still in use.
The C&D Canal Museum in Chesapeake City provides visitors with a glimpse of the canal’s early days. The steam engines are the oldest of their type in America still on their original foundations.
Connect for Travel to Maryland Delaware and the C&D Canal