Title: New book chronicles historic DuPont Highway
Author: Adam Zewe
Publisher: Community News
Looking to avoid the inevitable summertime congestion caused by flocks of beachgoers migrating south on Rt. 1, many drivers spurn the superhighway and opt for the slower and steadier pace of Rt. 13.
But barreling along the DuPont Highway, few realize their tires are spinning down one of the country's oldest and most significant highways.
Delawareans Michael Hahn and William Francis explore the unique road's history in pictorial detail in their new book, "The DuPont Highway."
The DuPont Highway was the first dual highway in the nation - that is, a highway with two separate lanes divided by a grassy median, said Hahn.
Now a standard practice in highway construction, the idea was novel when Thomas Coleman Du Pont dreamed it up, he said. Du Pont, a Kentuckian trained as a civil engineer, became determined to build a road connecting Wilmington with Selbyville just to prove it could be done.
He also had an ulterior motive, Hahn said. Du Pont was an automobile-lover in a time when the only roads were poorly maintained and built with dirt, making them completely useless in the rain.
There was no national or state highway department in the early 1900s, so Du Pont formed a company and undertook the project through the private sector, Hahn said. His vision was a 300-foot corridor with adjacent roads, bike lanes, light rail lines, carriage lanes and tree lines. He started buying land to make that dream a reality in 1916, but it didn't evolve that way.
Farmers challenged the condemnation process, and it got expensive, Hahn explained. Without eminent domain, Du Pont ended up paying four times what some pieces of land were worth.
After a year, Du Pont had completed $4 million of road in 9-foot-wide sections between Selbyville and Milford, said Hahn.
Out of money, he appealed to the Delaware General Assembly to create a highway department and finish his road, Hahn said, and in 1917, that's exactly what happened.
The Delaware highway department, the precursor to DelDOT, eventually connected the road to Dover and south Wilmington, near the present-day Rt. 13/40 split, Hahn said.
Though there were probably only a few thousand cars registered in Delaware at the time, the road had huge implications for downstate chicken farmers who could now ship products north instead of relying on the monopolizing railroads, said Hahn.
Before Rt. 1 was finished in 1995, The DuPont Highway was the primary connection between upstate and downstate Delaware, he said.
Ironically, many people today see DuPont's 97-year-old vision for a 300-foot transportation corridor as a progressive idea that could alleviate a lot of congestion, Hahn said.
The DuPont Highway, affectionately called Delaware's Mother Road, is much more than a highway, Hahn said, it's an example of what can happen when technology and ingenuity come together.
"I think the book is valuable because it documents Delaware's early transportation history in an illustration book which folks can understand and marvel at the changes of technology and landscape," Hahn said.
The book is available at Borders, Ninth Street Books in Wilmington, the Delaware Made General Store in Dover, Happy Harry's stores across the state and online at Amazon.com or arcadiapublishing.com for #21.99.
Title: LHS to open program season: Sept. 18 with talk on DuPont Highway
Author: Staff Writer
Publisher: Cape Gazette
The Lewes Historical Society opens its 2009-10 program season at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 18, with a presentation about the DuPont Highway, Delaware's "mother road" and the nation's first divided highway, by authors William Francis and Michael Hahn, at Lewes Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall, Kings Highway and Franklin Street.
Francis, who grew up in Newark, says his love of history, especially old photos, began his interest in the DuPont Highway. "When I had the idea of doing a book on this roadway I felt that publishing a photographic history book through Arcadia Publishing was the best route - no pun intended - to go," he said. He said that he chose Arcadia because it is the leading local history publisher in the United States and it creates high-quality historical publications in small, local niches.
Coauthor Michael Hahn, a Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) employee who lives in Greenspring, just north of Smyrna, agreed: "This project was truly a labor of love. I've worked for DelDOT for more than 20 years, and it was great learning more about how the automobile made its mark on Delaware."
The original DuPont Highway, known as Route 13 between Dover and Wilmington and 113 from Dover to the southern border of Delaware, was completed in 1934. It had been dedicated 10 years earlier as the Coleman du Pont Road. T. Coleman DuPont, a descendent of E. I. du Pont and a two-time U.S. senator, had championed the road and paid nearly $4 million of his own money toward its completion.
While other philanthropists started schools, libraries and hospitals, Coleman du Pont said, "I will build a monument a hundred miles high and lay it on the ground." He was close. The DuPont Highway measures 96.7 miles.
The book, featuring over 100 vintage photos, is a rare treat for those who appreciate vintage cars, construction equipment, the dawn of the automobile era and Delaware history. According to Francis, "There is something about sepia-tinted photographs that evokes stories in me. This was a project where pictures tell the story."
The book, which both authors will sign, will be available following the presentation.
The Lewes Historical Society invites everyone to attend. Admission is free and light refreshments will be served following the presentation.