Monday, March 23, 2020

About Price's Corner

Many of us travel past or visit Price's Corner on a regular basis. With the big changes happening at the shopping center we thought it would be a good time to visit the origin of its place name. The Prices Corner Shopping Center, built in 1962, has been a well-known location in New Castle County for decades. 

Over the years there have been various stories about the origin of the name. One was that Price’s Corner refers to the good prices at the shopping center. Another states Price’s Corner is named after a convict who was executed at old Workhouse at Greenbank. There is also one that claims that it was Mr. Price who last farmed the property when it was sold to developers to build the shopping center. 

Prices Corner, like many of the other corners in Delaware, gained its name because of who lived there.


The Triangle
1881 New Castle County Map
Library of Congress
In this case it was David M. Price and his wife Jane Tweed Price. They were married in 1834 and moved into a 18’ x 24’ cabin located on a 2-acre triangle of land bordered by Greenbank, Center, and Centerville Roads. Price opened a blacksmith shop and by 1842 moved into a larger 11-room house constructed on the north side of the property. David and Jane raised seven children on the little triangle of land. The little cabin on Price’s property was later considered to be significant and one of the oldest of its type in Delaware. 

Delaware Public Archives Photo
Many believed the cabin dated to early Swedish settlers from the 1600s but studies by the University of Delaware dated the cabin to about 1750. Legend said the cabin was known as the “Honeymoon House,” used by children of the Justice Family in the late 1700s and early 1800s. It was the first stop for the children of the wealthy Justice family when they married and moved out of the family mansion. The cabin was acquired by the state as a historic relic and relocated to Fort Christina Park. It was damaged by fire in the 1990s and later demolished.

It’s important to note that Kirkwood Highway, or the New Road, as it was known then, had not yet been
1849 New Castle County Map
Library of Congress
built. The actual intersection of Price’s blacksmith shop was located where Centerville and Center Roads crossed. When Kirkwood highway was built it cut directly through the north side of the triangle reducing its size considerably. Today this is the location of the intersection of Old Capitol Trail and Centerville Road adjacent to the DART Park-n-Ride lot at Prices Corner.



The Truck Farm
Delaware Republican on January 6, 1873
The first reference to Price’s Corner as a place name is found in a small classified ad placed in the Delaware Republican on January 6, 1873 offering a small “truck farm” for rent near the Brandywine Springs. The term “truck farm” might have caught your attention, especially since in 1873 the motorized truck as we know had not yet been developed.

Compared to its more rural counterparts, a truck farm was a smaller specialty farm located closer to a large
Farmers wagons lined up for
Market in Wilmington.
city. Truck farmers grew high value fruits and vegetables and took them directly to market in the city with horse-drawn wagons. Where was the market located? On the street which became Market Street.


The Fenimore Era
After David Price died on January 21, 1892 his property was managed by John P. McKee, who was married to Price's oldest child Emily. Emily died in October 1893 and John died the following November. The property passed to another of David and Jane Price’s daughters, Mary T. Price, and was sold to Mrs. Ellen Fenimore after Mary’s death in 1923.

The Coroner's office is to the far left.
Ellen Fenimore was the widow of William H.Fenimore, two of their seven sons were well-known because they both held public office. Harvey C. Fenimore was new Castle County Sheriff and a private auctioneer and his brother Dr. William N. Fenimore was a well-known doctor, country coroner, and official doctor for Cranston Heights Fire Company. This explains how the coroner’s office ended up next door to the fire company.
The sign from Dr. Fenimore's Office.
Collection of Raymond Harrington

DelDOT Photo
In 1936 Mrs. Fenimore died and her estate was held in trust until 1944 when it was sold at auction by her son Harvey. The buyer Thomas C. Hawke turned out to be associated with the Fenimore family. Harvey C. Fenimore continued his auction business on the property for many years. In 1954 the State of Delaware tried to condemn the property for future expansion of the intersection of Kirkwood Highway, Center Road, and Centerville Road. Fennimore refused to sell, took the state to court, and won. The grounds for his win was there was no present need to take the land. Since the state was attempting to condemn the property and there was no immediate plan for road improvements the courts upheld the rights of private property owners. 
DelDOT Photo
The continued use of the placename Price's Corner was etched in stone in 1962 with the coming of the Price's Corner Shopping Center. That same year the Shell Oil Company made Fenimore an offer he couldn’t refuse. The triangle of land which included the historic log cabin that David and Jane Price started out in over a century before soon become a gas station.

Eventually the triangle of land once owned by Price disappeared when Route 141 was built and Centerville Road was lowered to pass under Kirkwood Highway. 

Many locals might recall Fenimore's Auction, Acme when it was on Kirkwood Highway, Penn Fruit, Sears, or the lunch counter at Woolworths. 

You probably have your own Price's Corner memory. We would love to hear them. Please share them in the comments section below. 

9 comments:

  1. Without Prices Corner, I wouldn't be here. My Mom and Dad met in the early 60's when they were both working at Sears. My first job was also at the Prices Corner Sears, working for one of my Dad's former coworkers. Great post, guys!

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  2. Remember the old Fenimore property at Price's Corner. Henry Fenimore was a classmate at Oak Grove School in the late 1950's and early 1960's.

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  3. There was a Roger Fenimore in my Oak Grove Class, 1957, but did not go on to Conrad with most of us. He had brothers James and Harvey, but may not be from the same Price's Corner Fenimore family. Maybe someone can add to this...
    Don't forget that the "James E. Strates Shows" pitched their tents there during the 1950s.

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  4. When I was in grade school there was a toy store where the Staples is now. I believe that it was called Kiddie World. Back in the days when it was safe for kids to roam freely (w/or w/out knowledge of their parents LOL!) I used to walk up there w/a somewhat juvie (jr)-delinquent-type friend. We had fun in there, though I rarely had the money to buy anything. Of course, a juvie friend in the 60's was NOT the same as one today; much more innocent and much less destructive! Just ornery and given to sassing back. (And fun to be around I might add ;-) )

    I also remember the lunch counter at Woolworth's. My friend in high school lived in the since-demolished old white farmhouse across Rt. 41 from the W & W Railroad station. We used to walk up to the shopping center from her house in the summer. I can't imagine trying to do that now, w/all the traffic!
    Interesting anecdote re: the state of Delaware trying to condemn Harvey C. Fenimore's property in order to expand highway intersection. The same thing happened to my friend's family property with Deldot (and the property next door.) She is convinced that this is what precipitated her father's heart attack and his health decline - and as one can see if one drives past there, Deldot has done NOTHING all these years later to expand/widen road, or whatever was their plan. So sad, because her parents could have lived out the remainder of their lives in the house where her father was born and raised. Gotta love government agencies of ineptitude! They probably didn't have the money to sue the state, or didn't know that they could; but they also might have won since there was apparently no plan in place for the land. Every time I drive by the property, I remember this history, and it makes me sad. My friend's first paying job while in high school was at the lunch counter at the bowling alley, which is actually still there across from the Shopping Center! That is one OLD bowling alley!

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    1. My grandmother was friends with your friends parents. If I'm not mistaken, the mother was a seamstress? I recall the father tinkering around in the little shed that remained after the house was torn down. That was easily 30 years ago that he woukd come back to that shed, if not longer. it was sad. Then one day I never saw him again. I think the building finally has collapsed this past year. I'll have to take a look. I live in The Cedars and drive past there often.

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  5. As a very little girl growing up in Faulkland Heights, I remember driving past the cabin at Prices Corner with my dad when he took me along with to the Cranston Heights Fire House. I was fascinated by it so my dad built me a replica in our back yard. I’m missing a part of this story however, wasn’t it, at some point, reconstructed in the Smithsonian?

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  6. I wondered why the Medical Examiners Office was next to Cranston Heights. Now I know. My Mom shopped at the Acme on Kirkwood Hwy. every week. One night, I was about 8 years old, Mom was making chicken and dumplings in the pressure cooker. When she opened the pot, the chicken smelled awful. She got right in the car, put the pot of chicken on the floorboard and up to Acme we went. She went inside and got the manager, he didn't believe her that she got the chicken there. She hadn't brought it in the store and he wouldn't go out to the car. So she went out and brought it in, opened it up and the smell drew a crowd. The cashier that we always checked out with, Sophie, was working and she came over and told the manager that "Yes, my Mom was there every Thursday after work to cash her check and grocery shop". The manager finally gave my Mom her money back. This was probably 1965. I will never forget that.

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  7. Investigate all the exercises we specified above - there is no weight or strain on your kid/youngsters to become familiar with all these. Health and Fitness

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  8. What a wonderful site! Ellen Fenimore is my great grandmother. Dr. William N. Fenimore, MD is my grandfather. My mother is Gertrude T. Fenimore. Uncle Harvey Fenimore gave me my first horse back ride when I was 2.5 years old on a plow horse at one of his horse auctions. We lived on the corner of Hillside Avenue next to Schmitty’s Submarine Shop in a house built by the Rubino Brothers. I still remember going to Mrs. Rubino’s restaurant and standing at the counter as she made pasta from scratch. And the tables covered with red checked tablecloths. We then moved to Valmy in Greenville, the estate of Alexia duPont deBie a close family friend. Also, the Fenimore Family log cabin at Brandywine Park is the cabin Great Grandmother Ellen lived in! So many memories and stories!

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