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Echoes of the past along Route 52

Dec 31, 2014 10:05AM ● Published by Kerigan Butt

The gatehouse and original Winterthur entrance still stand on the east edge of Route 52.

Gallery: Greenville & Hockessin Then and Now [11 Images] Click any image to expand.

(Editor's note: This article first appeared in our Winter 2014 edition.)

By John Chambless

Staff Writer

Route 52 runs from Wilmington into Pennsylvania through some of the most spectacular real estate on the East Coast. Not only does the road lead to internationally-known Winterthur, but it passes private estates that beckon drivers with questions of, “Who could afford to live there?”

The road, which was incorporated in 1811, began as the Wilmington and Kennett Turnpike. Travelers were charged a fee based on what kind of vehicle they were using and what they were carrying. The open hills along the road became home to wealthy families connected to the DuPont Company in Wilmington. Pierre S. du Pont was a frequent traveler, and he set out to modernize the road at the dawn of the automobile age. He became the head of a turnpike company he formed before the outbreak of World War 1, and work proceeded in stages through the 1920s, at a cost of more than $764,000.

Today, travelers benefit from the many improvements made to the original road, as well as du Pont's edict that billboards not be allowed. The beauty of Route 52 is that it remains uncluttered and it offers a passing glimpse, through the trees or just over a hill, of jaw-dropping elegance.

Outfitted with a camera and a copy of the book “Along Route 52: Delaware's Historic Kennett Pike,” by Andrew Engel (Arcadia Publishing, 2014), I traveled along Route 52 to capture some of the places that have survived the century since the Kennett Pike was new. Here's what I found.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail jchambless@chestercounty.com.


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