A once booming railroad town, Harrington is now shifting gears and looking forward to redeveloping and attracting new businesses while enjoying the yearly Delaware State Fair, which brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to the area each summer.
Nearly a century before the city was officially named and incorporated, Benjamin Clark, a descendent of the area’s first European settlers, built a home and a tavern in 1780 on the corner of what then was the Frederica and Milford roads. In 1856, the Delaware Railroad established a junction, which accelerated the city’s population and industrial growth. A post office was established in 1862 and the city was named after the chancellor of the Delaware Railroad, Samuel Maxwell Harrington.
In 1869, the City of Harrington was officially incorporated. The first newspaper, The Harrington Enterprise was formed and the Harrington Library was chartered 14 years later.
By the mid-1930s, Harrington was a hub for small manufacturers, producing clothing for major national suppliers, but by the mid-1970s most of the clothing factories closed down.
Harrington Mayor Anthony Moyer said Harrington now has a small-town feel, but is located within a day-trip’s distance from major cities as well as beaches, fishing and water sports destination.
As Harrington shifted from manufacturing, and has recently lost two major employers in Pliant and Color Box due to corporate downsizing, the city still has a UPS hub and the railroad switching yard, Moyer said.
Harrington students attend the Lake Forrest school district, which Moyer said is one of the best districts in the state. The city is governed by a mayor and a six-member council.
The town is also home to Harrington Raceway and Casino, and the state’s largest agricultural fair, which is held right out of Harrington’s city limits. The Delaware State Fair has brought agriculture, entertainment and local businesses together for one week each summer since 1920.
Harrington City Manager Teresa Tieman said that while Harrington’s population has not grown dramatically, that the city is in need of infrastructure improvements in the near future, including improvements to water and sewer systems. Tieman said that a new well is needed in the next couple years.
A recent presentation by City Planner Debbie Pfeil outlined a number of relocated and expanded businesses, which Tieman said she hopes to continue in the future. While the Georgia Pacific plant closed in December and is now a vacant business lot, Tieman said that partnerships with Kent County Economic Development and the State of Delaware’s Economic Development Office make her hopeful of the city’s future. With a small townhouse development on the books as well, Tieman is hoping that is a positive sign that building will also pick up as the economy rebounds.