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The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has recently received notification from the National Park Service that two additional Delaware properties—St. Stephen’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Harrington and the Union Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church Complex in Clarksville—have been officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the United States government’s official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects deemed worthy of preservation.
Located at 110 Fleming St. in Harrington, St. Stephen’s Protestant Episcopal Church is a small, wood frame, one-story structure that is the town’s only known example of vernacular Carpenter Gothic architecture. Though originally constructed for religious purposes, the building is currently owned by the Harrington Historical Society which operates it as a museum that chronicles the town’s history. The structure retains a substantial degree of architectural integrity including the original stained-glass window at the apex of the west façade, a bell tower with X-shaped cross-bracing at the southwest corner of the building, original decorative electroplated-hardware and its original board-and-batten siding.
The history of the church is deeply associated with the Rev. J. Leighton McKim who ministered to St. Stephen’s first congregation. Ordained in 1859 and assigned to Christ Church in Milford in 1862, he eventually became known as the highest paid Episcopal missionary in Delaware. As the principal donor, McKim oversaw the construction, by subscription, of St. Stephen’s Church in 1876. Though the mission existed as part of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware, McKim retained personal ownership of the building and property throughout his life. Applications requesting that St. Stephen’s be established as a separate parish within the diocese during the 19th century were rejected because of its private ownership status. It was not until after McKim’s death in 1918 that ownership of St. Stephen’s was transferred to the Delaware Diocese.
Located near the Sussex County community of Clarksville, the Union Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church Complex is a grouping of buildings dating from the 19th century to the present that serves as a center of religious life and traditions in the African-American community of southern Delaware. The parcel contains the Union Wesley United Methodist Church (1959), the Blackwater School (1890), a camp-meeting ground (circa 1873) and a large cemetery. The camp-meeting ground features a circular design with a centrally placed large bower (covered but open-sided structure for worship) surrounded by the “tents” that serve as residences for the attendees of the two-week-long annual camp-meeting. The earliest surviving “tents” are small-frame, gable-roofed, two-bay wide and two-stories tall.
The building that serves as the camp’s refectory, or dining hall, is the former one-room Blackwater School which served the educational needs of African Americans from 1890 until 1922 when it was replaced by a school built by industrialist Pierre S. du Pont. Constructed under the auspices of the Delaware Association for the Moral Improvement and Education of the Colored People, the Blackwater School retains a high level of architectural integrity and is the best surviving example in Delaware of the school buildings constructed for Black children during the post-Civil-War period.