LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Dover’s past is rapidly disappearing

It was a couple of weeks ago I was telling my wife about surveying the land now of the Silver Lake Park here in Dover, and I mentioned the old mill that existed nearby, and its mill races. Linda, my wife, came to Dover in 1953, and didn’t know about the mill, which is why Silver Lake even exists. “Show me,” where it was she said, so I did.

We entered the park from Kings Highway and drove along the entrance road to the curve and stopped. It was here, I told her, right where we had stopped, and its ruins are buried under this roadway, and if you look down the slope you can see what is left of the old mill race. Yep, it’s still there.

How many people in Dover know that?

It reminded me of a statement made by an employee of the Department of Transportation who, a few years ago, to explain the reconstruction of South Governors Avenue, said that Governors Avenue was a “stage road” from Dover to Camden.


Governors Avenue didn’t even exist south of Wyoming Avenue until the 20th century.

However, a short section of the old colonial road from Dover to Camden does still exist. Some might say that Kings Highway and South State Street follow the line of the colonial road, and they are correct. But how many know that a part of the actual old colonial road is still there?

Probably not many. I drove my wife to the spot and pointed it out.

This also reminded me of the incorrect statements made by others, about Dover’s history. I recalled an employee of DNREC claiming “Mirror Pond” was a “steamboat turnaround.”


Dover did have a steamboat landing, but it was at the base of Water Street, and no steamboat ever turned around in what today we call “Mirror Pond.”

“Mirror” is not its name, but is a type — like “reflecting pool.” That pond was created in the 30s, about the same time Loockerman Street was extended, and is a part of the Eastover Hills subdivision. It was named Eastover Pond.

And another, a councilman yet, who claimed the small wooden dam below what was Court Street is the remains of a “railroad trestle.”


No railroad ran along Water Street.

I recalled how many of us Dover natives were put down when we remembered that the westerly end of “The Bowl” — now the site of Delaware’s ugliest building, the Dover Public Library — was utilized as a dump for construction and other debris. We didn’t know what we were talking about, we were told. But they didn’t put a basement in that building, to save money, they said. Uh huh.

A local politician had the street names of the founders of Dover squashed and replaced by someone who probably didn’t know where Dover was.

And how many know that the first astronauts came to Dover to be fitted for their “space suits.”

Now we’ve seen the Playtex plant demolished. Gone. Remember A.N. Spanel? Remember the rubber girdles that made Playtex famous?

I could go on. I could mention Ward’s Ice Cream plant, and the Frear and Diamond State dairies, and the Hartnett lumber yard, and the baseball parks. But I won’t. Needless to say much of Dover is gone. And some of us who do remember Dover as it was are going now.

Maybe someday we will have a Dover Museum to display the true story of our historic town, its existence spearheaded by a group like the Friends of Old Dover. But before it is all gone, I guess it’s up to us “old-timers” to ramble on about what was here.

If anyone cares.

Doug Van Sant

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