Friday, June 21, 2013
what I find most disturbing is how Claymont's town "center" has become obscured and nearly buried by the suburban sprawl and hop-scotch development of the last thirty years. Claymont 's 'center ' was built around the older two-lane post road , the 'King's Highway' that's been named the Philadelphia Pike and now has become a four lane(in some stretches) highway. The 'Hickman Row homes', 'Overlook Colony' , Brookview Apts., the residential homes built on the slope leading down to the train station (northeast area beside Myrtle Avenue , etc. were inter-spaced in between the commercial properties and businesses --the biggest businesses were ,of course, Worth/Phoenix Steel Corp. (now Chinese-owned Evraz Steel), Dupont's Chemical plant in near-by Edgemoor, and the anchor department store Strawbridges&Clothier in the old Merchandise Mart and the Sears&Roebuck store on the Pike. The smaller businesses(Richardson's, Buffington's, Reese's Gulf, Charles Moon's Plumbing, the Food Fair(now the Waterfall catering establishment, the A&P (now Food Lion , Hoy's 5&10, Walberts, Smith's Drugstore & Soda Fountain, the Claymont Public Stone Library, The Wren House, Naamans Tea House, The Pantry, etc.) were built closer along either side of Philadelphia Pike between the two main High Schools Claymont High and Archmere Academy(rivals in football and for students seeking a smoother upward social mobility path.) What strikes me most about Claymont in its hey day was the literal rubbing of elbows closeness of the very poorest with the wealthiest in the town, we all walked to the same stores on the Pike, took the same mass transit , (Pennsylvania railroad , Wilmington bus service), and shared the same dreams of getting ahead through education, hard work, and community service. I am also struck by the sad realization of the slashing up of the Claymont town center by the two super highways I-95 and I-495 and the damage it has done to Claymont's original exurban fabric integrity. Claymont proper had been cut off from its principle mass transit resource, the train station, and nothing has taken its place . Good walkable towns with strong vibrant cultural and business cores need reliable, friendly, pleasurable mass transit to survive .