The following is a brief overview of the history of Centreville. To order the book, Centreville: The History of a Delaware Village, please click here. Although early settlers began acquiring land in and around Centreville as early as 1680 and a Friends Centre Meeting House has existed since 1711, the year 1750 is generally accepted as the founding date for the Village of Centreville.
By that time, carters and drovers were moving farm products along “Kennett Road,” a dirt path that described much of what is now Kennett Pike. The Village, an easy half-day’s wagon drive from either Kennett Square’s farms or Wilmington’s markets and ports, was the perfect spot for man and beast to rest and find refreshment.
Centre Friends Meeting house was built in 1796 to replace the original 1711 log structure.
While surrounding land continued to support farms and mills, the Village grew as a center for the needs of both residents and travelers. By the mid-1800s, Centreville offered two inns, a school, a town hall, a blacksmith shop, a general store, a post office and taverns all around. Town doctors served patients in both Pennsylvania and Delaware. The “Wilmington and Kennett Turnpike,” an 1811 improvement of Kennett Road, facilitated travel north and south. Centreville was Christiana Hundred’s "town center."
1880s railroad connections between Wilmington and Pennsylvania hinterlands eventually replaced slower wagon transport along the road from Kennett to Wilmington. By the early part of the 20th century, the once-bustling Village of Centreville offered only a butcher shop and two country stores, primarily serving local residents and surrounding farms.
Seen from above, Old Kennett Road wends its way between estates.
Concurrently, E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co., a family-run gunpowder manufactory on nearby Brandywine Creek, was prospering. The company expanded through the course of several wars, purchasing land (primarily north and west of the Brandywine) to support the needs of business, family and workers. As the company prospered, family members bought additional land in Christiana Hundred and built American Country House estates.
By 1918-1920, when P. S. du Pont purchased the Wilmington and Kennett Turnpike, re-built the roadbed and deeded the "Kennett Pike" back to Delaware, du Pont family members or business interests owned 48 percent of the frontage on Delaware’s portion of the road, essentially halting growth from Wilmington outward. While post-World War II development flourished on other "spoke" roads out of Wilmington, Kennett Pike and the land surrounding it appeared much as it had at the turn of the 20th century.
Mid-19th century residences now house specialty shops.
The Village of Centreville, without an economic base and fundamentally cut off from city expansion, had neither the funds nor the desire to change. To this day, many of the buildings that existed in 1900 still stand. But this is not the story of a ghost town. Additional residences and adaptive reuse of older buildings brought new vitality to the Village in the 1950s. Structures that were formerly home to families or taverns now house specialty shops and offices; where a hotel once stood, park benches invite relaxation under spreading trees; land that long ago supported family farms––and then large country estates––welcomes visitors to museums, gardens and parks.
Centreville is today, as it was in the 19th century, a destination.
Northwestern Christiana Hundred, inhabited primarily by Leni-Lenape Indians, begins getting European settlers, most of them are Quakers acquiring land from William Penn for residences, farming and milling.
The Friends Centre Meeting House opens, providing Quakers with a religious gathering place. The name comes from its location midway between the New-Ark Meeting at what is now Carrcroft in Brandywine Hundred and Old Kennett Meeting.
Land is deeded for the Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church, built of logs at the foot of Bald Hill on the east side of the Brandywine. Later in the 18th century, the church relocates to its present location at the corner of Old Kennett Road and Kennett Pike.
A small settlement is in place in what is now Centreville, situated halfway along a dirt road linking Kennett Square, Pa., and its lush, surrounding farmlands to Wilmington, with its markets and Delaware and Christina river ports.
Most of the remaining Leni-Lenape Indians leave the area.
The Walnut Green schoolhouse is built, one of four Centreville schools that helped mark the beginning of public education in Delaware. The others were Centre Grove, Mount Airy and Clinton.
The brick structure still used today replaces the log-built Friends Centre Meeting House.
A U.S. Census counts 66 families in Centreville.
The General Assembly grants a charter to the Wilmington and Kennett Turnpike Company for a hard-surfaced road linking Wilmington to the Pennsylvania state line. It is completed in 1813 at a cost of $30,000.
Smith’s Bridge is built.
At least four taverns and several hotels in Centreville make it a popular stopping point for travelers.
The Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad begins diverting business traffic away from Centreville, which does not have a rail station.
Centreville Lodge No. 37, often called Odd Fellows Hall, is constructed. It now contains the Wild Thyme flower and gift shop on the first floor and meeting areas on the second and third floors.
P.S. du Pont buys the Kennett Pike, stops charging tolls, has it widened to 24 feet of concrete and turns it over to the state. There’s a provision that no trolley car lines or advertising signs be erected without the consent of every landowner along the road.
Construction is completed on the Centreville area’s best-known estate, Granogue, the hilltop home of Irenee du Pont Sr., president of the DuPont Co.
Buckley's Tavern opens.
A New Castle County Council resolution recognizes the original spelling of Centreville as correct.
Local Bicentennial committee estimates Centreville area population at 1,620.
The Centreville Historic District and 15 structures earn designation on the National Register of Historic Places.
Kennett Pike designated a Delaware Greenway to entice cyclists and walkers.
Centreville’s 250th anniversary is celebrated.