Wednesday, August 01, 2007

When did they redirect Shellpot Creek?

As I delved into the old maps of Shellpot creek looking for previous names I realized that as late as the 1930's, Shellpot Creek emptied into the Brandywine Creek not directly into the Delaware River as it does today. In fact that whole area around this connection was the Cherry Island Marsh, which may have made the difference between creek or river and marsh a subtle one.

The University of Delaware Research and Data Management Services, the Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) and the State of Delaware Department of Technology and Information (DTI) have developed a great site for all kinds of Delaware mapping information called the Delaware DataMIL, for Data Mapping and Integration Laboratory. Clicking on the the Map Lab button opens a window (Internet Explorer only!) with dynamically generated maps with all kinds of data layers. My favorite is the Aerial Imagery going back to 1937. The animated .gif (thanks Gickr) shows the connection between Shellpot Creek and Brandywine from 1937, 1954, 1961, 1968, 1992, 1998 and 2001.

It is interesting to watch the sudden appearance of I495 , the growth of the water treatment plant and ponds and all of the growing development in this section of Wilmington as the years click by in the animated gif. Watch closely and you can see the Shellpot creek connection to the Brandywine was severed between 1937 and 1954.

Using these pictures we can see that between 1937 and 1954 (from the first two pictures in the animated gif, zoomed in below, water outlined in blue),



the land between the Shellpot creek outlet and the Brandywine was filled in for a road to extend 12th street to the railroad yard and eventually to an exit for I495 . Shellpot creek was redirected to the Delaware river. I will eventually find a newspaper article or building planning records that references this change, but for now the aerial photography is very helpful.

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