Still savoring its success in defeating a proposal to locate a large Seven-Eleven convenience store and gasoline station midway up the landmark hill just north of Wilmington, the Friends of Penny Hill has broadened its interest well beyond that single issue.

"This is going to be a long haul," said Stuart Watson, secretary of the organization, at a gathering of about 50 members and supporters who walked down the hill on Apr. 26 as a combination public demonstration and an opportunity to hear about properties along Philadelphia Pike which are considered to be historic.

The road itself merits that description in that it is said to be one of the first intercolony connector, 

then known as the KingsHighway.

There is a proposal pending before the Delaware Department of Transportation to have Philadelphia Pike between the Delaware-Pennsylvania border north of Claymont and the Wilmington city line officially designated as a scenic and cultural route.

Kennett Pike and Montchanin Road in Christiana Hundred and Delaware and Pennsylvania Avenues in Wilmington have already been afforded that status on a state level and have applied to have that extended

Walkers pass the historic Penny House en route to a gathering of the Friends of Penny Hill.

to achieve federal recognition. There also is a bid pending for State Route 9 along the Delaware River south of New Castle.

New Castle County Councilman Robert Weiner told the Penny Hill gathering that DelDOT has requested additional documentation to support the southern end of the Philadelphia Pike application prior to scheduling a public hearing on the proposal.

A separate proposal now under consideration would locate the northern Delaware portion of the East Coast Greenway, a pedestrian and bicycle 'urban trail' between Maine and Florida, along parallel Governor Printz Boulevard.

In the shorter range, Philadelphia Pike from Claymont to Wilmington has been identified as part of the route, traversing eight states, which probably will be designated by the National Park Service, a unit of the U.S. Department of the Interior, as an 'historic trail'. That is the route taken by George

Landmark may be put up for sale
The U.S. Coast Guard is about to declare the range light and adjacent keeper's house (not in the photograph) south of Bellefonte to be surplus property. The now automated light has been a navigational aid to ships on the Delaware River since 1920. It is said to be the only block-shaped lighthouse in the United States.

Washington's Continental Army and the French expeditionary force led by the Count of Rochambeau en route to the climactic Battle of Yorktown which resulted in the successful conclusion of the Revolutionary War.

Representative David Ennis announced at the gathering that the state Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control is about to seek bids on a contract for remediation of environmental problems, which will permit opening up the second section of Fox Point State Park between the northern limit of the existing park and the small cove where Stoney Creek empties into the Delaware.

Ennis said the extent of work required in the second section is considerably less than was needed in the initial phase, during which an impermeable plastic liner was needed to separate a new surface from contaminated soil. A thick layer of dirt should be enough to do the job in the second section, he said. When remediation is accomplished, he added, he intends to follow through on his long-standing idea of seeking private investment to construct a marina, restaurant and other amenities in the cove.

Weiner told the assembly that the necessary paperwork to permit his introduction into County Council of a measure to apply historic zoning to the Weldin House, which would have been torn down to make room for the Seven-Eleven. The required public notification timetable and hearings before both Council and the Planning Board will delay the process beyond the hoped-for June completion, but he said that, with no foreseeable opposition, the process will be successfully completed.

The councilman called on the Friends organization to support three of his proposals, which he said are currently languishing "on the dusty back desks of the [Department of] Land Use." They would:

hEstablish an historic property credit against New Castle County taxes, similar to the one that exists for state taxes.

hInstitute a program to provide low-cost loans to repair historic property balanced by penalties to prevent 'demolition by neglect' -- to prevent a property owner from allowing a property to deteriorate to a point where it has to be torn down rather than preserved.

hSet up a curator program whereby a person or family would agree to live in or otherwise occupy a publicly owned historic building rent-free in return for maintaining the property.

Weiner said the three proposals have encountered opposition within county government and asked the Friends organization for backing. "Nothing happens until you have broad-based public support," he said.

Posted on April 27, 2003

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