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Gone But Not Forgotten

Headquarters Building

Originally built for rag storage before being converted into a research center, the handsome stone building on Yorklyn Road across from NVF’s main facilities became the company’s Operating Headquarters in 1968 under the leadership of Victor Posner. Damage from the floods of 1999 and 2003 left the first floor unusable, and in 2011, the building was razed, replaced by the new Yorklyn Bridge Trail debuting in 2016. Photo, Auburn Heights Preserve, Delaware State Parks.

Landmarks and businesses have disappeared from the Yorklyn landscape over the last century, but many left lasting legacies that continue to resonate with residents and visitors. From Gregg’s Store, which served the Yorklyn community through the Great Depression of the 1930s, allowing residents to pay for groceries on credit to signature structures, such as the old NVF headquarters building, each holds a story of the community that surrounded it and provides touchstones to the Yorklyn of yesterday.

Yorklyn covered bridge

Yorklyn covered bridge. Photo, courtesy Jim Gregg.

A Covered Bridge

While the precise date when Yorklyn’s covered bridge was built remains unknown, it was likely about 1863, when the Garrett snuff company introduced a new roadway from their mill site toward Hockessin along the present-day Yorklyn Road (terminating at the current Old Wilmington Road). Tom Marshall recalls driving through the bridge only once or twice as a youngster before it was removed and replaced about 1929. 

Skaters on Red Clay Creek near covered bridge, ca. 1890

This image of boys skating on Red Clay Creek circa 1890 shows the covered bridge in the background. Photo, courtesy John R. Harrison.

Boarding house, ca.  1915

Boarding house, ca. 1915. Photo, courtesy Jim Gregg.

The Boarding House

About 1910, when a new frame house was built for the snuff mill’s general manager, his old residence became known as the “boarding house,” where millworkers, many of them single women in the earliest years, resided until the structure was demolished in 1937 for the widening of the road near the bridge. 

Kennett Trolley

The Kennet Trolley. Photo, Hagley Museum & Library, Thomas C. Marshall Photograph Collection.

The "Kennett Trolley"

In 1903, the West Chester, Kennett, and Wilmington Electric Railway Company introduced a new trolley line that passed through the communities of Yorklyn and Hockessin. One of the stops was at the foot of the hill and across the mill race from Auburn Heights. Local residents could get to Kennett Square in about 15 minutes (for 5 cents from the Auburn Heights stop) or to Wilmington via a circuitous route, changing trolleys at Brandywine Springs. Very successful at first, the trolley line fell on hard times in 1922 and closed down as the local roads were improving, and automobiles began to take over. 

Yorklyn Station

Yorklyn Station. Photo, courtesy Hagley Museum & Library, Thomas C. Marshall Photograph Collection.

Yorklyn Station

Yorklyn Station was originally built in 1872 by the Wilmington & Western Rail Road Company, which went bankrupt in the 1870s. By the early 1880s, the station had been acquired by the B&O Railroad, which operated until 1966, after which NVF purchased the building. Shortly thereafter, Historic Red Clay Valley Inc. (which operates today’s Wilmington & Western Railroad) purchased the building for $1, relocating it to Greenbank, where it served as their gift shop until 1997 and now functions as the Red Clay Valley Museum and Visitor’s Center.

Spitz

Armand N. Spitz.

Spitz Laboratories

Once called the “Planetarium Capital of the World,” Yorklyn was home to the leading manufacturer of planetariums from about 1956 to 1969. Armand N. Spitz, a newspaperman and science educator, began developing planetariums in the early 1940s. Inexpensive and easy to use, his units brought astronomy education into schools, colleges, and community buildings around the country.

Spitz planetarium

Greenwood Garden Center's old storage facility, formally the testing site for Spitz's planetariums.

As sales increased in the 1950s, he built a plant on the Garrett Snuff Mills site (including a domed structure where he tested his units). There production continued until the company (purchased by McGraw Hill) relocated to a new facility in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The Greenwood Garden Center then used the domed building for storage until it was torn down.