Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Glimpse at the History of Delmar Manor

Delmar Manor is a development built in the 1950's in the East part of Delmar Delaware around Tenth street. It is one of three sections of Delmar Delaware that is referred to by name. The others are; Brooklyn (around 6 and 8th street) and Frogtown (the West side of Delmar). Only about 30 homes of the projected 112 homes were ever built.

Delmar Manor started out about 1949 with Delmar Manor Reality development acquiring a number of acres of land around Tenth and Grove street. At that time the land was out of the Town limits. The original land seems to have been owned by Mitchell H. German (of Brick Row fame) in the 1890's and was later sold to Joseph J Ellis. I am not someone who is good at following deed transfers at the courthouse. I attempted to research some of the land in Delmar Manor to find out the people who owned it in the past but simply was unable to follow the transfers. Delmar Manor, Inc had as President Liborio I. Villani and Helen Villani as Secretary. The Villani's seem to be connected with the Villani of Ocean City. The Plat of the development called for 112 lots. The Streets were named Hantwerker Drive, Ellis Parkway, Jones Terrace, Hope Avenue, Pleasant Avenue, Gay Avenue and Faith avenue. The flow pattern was greatly different from what exists to day.

In January 1951, with much fanfare, Ben Villani announced the creation of Delmar Manor. In part, the 112 homes were to provide housing for veterans and the expected influx of workers that would have jobs at the new Purina Mill. Delmar was looking at big times in 1951. At that time, Mr. Villani was predicting 75 homes would be completed by the end of 1951. In May of 1951 he was predicting all 112 homes would be completed by the end of 1951.

The typical house in Delmar Manor was the dream home of many Americans in the 1950's. It was a "rancher". I can still remember my mother talk about these type of ranch homes that were being built in the area and speaking dreamily about the Picture Window and the breezeway. In Delmar Manor in February of 1951 they were talking about homes between $5,000 and $6,500, FHA approved two to three bedroom. They were to have; Automatic Oil Heat, washing machine, electric range, paved driveway, city utilities, large picture window, and a tile bath. Lot size was a minimum of 65 by 120 feet.

The first model home was built in August of 1951. They sold it on opening day. I have tried to look for this house in Delmar Manor as a picture of it is in the ad at the top. It may be the house at 203 Hantwerker Drive or that house may just have the same floor plan.

At this point Delmar Manor had lower the down payment on the houses to $280 for veterans and $600 dollars for non veterans. They had 12 sold and had ordered all the material to build the 12 homes from Nuttle Lumber Company. A slight shift in the price occurred,the price now begun at $7,800 and were FHA approved. Of interest one of the homes built in 1954 (3 bedroom, 1 car garage, breezeway, concrete slab) is currently up for sale at $199,000. Using the inflation calculator $7,800 in 1951 is equivalent of $66,500 in 2007 so I guess the different between $199,00 and $66,500 is profit.

Delmar Manor had covenants attached to the deed. The usual things of no signs in the development, no oil wells, no mining operations, no garage over two cars, and no building to cost less than $7,500.

In December of 1951 the first crack in the bubble appeared in Delmar Manor with a Mechanic Lien being placed on the door of each of the 12 homes started. Nuttle Lumber at not been paid. In January of 1952 the veterans who had placed a down payment got warrants for Mr. Liborio I. Villani of Seaford. He could not be found. In January there was a Sheriff sale of Delmar Manor. Industrial Trust Company (Part of Wilmington Trust) paid $71,300 at the auction to protect their interest in Delmar Manor. In February Liborio's father Mr. Ignazio Villani repaid the veterans their down payment.

In March of 1952 there were new players in Delmar Manor. Wilmington Trust, by way of Industrial Trust, committed to finishing the 12 homes and were looking for buyers for these homes. A new Corporation called Delmar Housing Inc was formed. The main people in the company were William S. and Charles Marvel of Delmar and Robert Rogers and Simeon Bowman of Salisbury. In May of 1952 work resumed on the 12 homes.

It becomes confused at this point who really owned the undeveloped land. Regardless at some point Houlihan Real Estate Company brought a large portion of the undeveloped land. They created another subdivision called Fox Run from the old Delmar Manor land.

I am under the impression in 1951 Delmar Manor was annexed into the Town of Delmar. However due to a disagreement between Mayor Hantweker and the Villani's he dis-annexed it. In 1987 it was re-annexed into the Town of Delmar.

Delmar Manor has had an interesting history, I can only hope for better for Fox Run.

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