History of Ardentown
The idea of an experimental community based on Henry George’s theory of the Single Tax was extended in 1922 with the purchase of 97 acres of the Harvey farm and 12 acres of the Hanby farm to found Ardentown.
Fiske Warren, of Boston, a friend of Arden founder Frank Stephens, advanced $30,000 of the $39,000 needed. The papers creating Ardentown’s Deed of Trust were signed On December 23, 1922. This Deed of Trust reasserted the right of the Trustees to set land rent (a power that had been transferred to the elected Board of Assessors in Arden’s 1908 Deed of Trust). The original Ardentown Trustees were Frank Stephens, his son Donald, and William Worthington, Jr.
Most of Ardentown is north of Harvey Road, east of Arden, and west of the CSX railroad tracks. This tract includes the former Harvey barn, which has served as a theater since 1931.
For many years the barn was the Robin Hood Theater, which attracted such resident actors as Barbara Bel Geddes, Jack Klugman, and Anthony Perkins. In 1969 it became the Candlelight Music Dinner Theatre, one of the first on the east coast, and today remains a popular theater.
Across Millers Road from the theater is the stately stone revolutionary-era house, whose history has been traced by the University of Delaware, and is now part of the adjacent Ivy Gables assisted-living residence.
There are other Ardentown tracts beyond the basic village. One is north of the South Branch of Naamans Creek, on both sides of Marsh Road. It includes a private residence that once served as the headquarters for the old Arden Water Company.
The newest tract, acquired in 1998, is bordered by the railroad tracks, Interstate 95, Harvey Road and Naamans Creek. Most of this land, 31 acres, was deeded to the Village of Ardentown by the Delaware Department of Transportation. This land, plus six acres previously controlled by the trustees, is the Sunnyside Tract of the South Branch, Naamans Creek Preserve. The state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) considers this an important and protected natural area, which contains some of the oldest and largest trees in Delaware.
Today, the Village of Ardentown municipal government controls the Sunnyside Nature Preserve. It also is in charge of the roads and has a small property on the north side of Marsh Road adjacent to Naamans Creek. The rest of the land is held in trust through the Deed of Trust.
Following is a Wilmington News Journal Article covering an Arden Town Meeting to discuss what to do with the recent purchase of the Harvey Farm.
To visitors, even to many residents, the boundaries between Arden and Ardentown are hazy; indeed some lots straddle the line. Physically, the two communities flow into each other. In government structure, however, they are quite different.
The Village of Ardentown was incorporated through a legislative act on June 30, 1975. The Act of Incorporation spells out the function of the Town Meeting. It calls for the election of a town chairperson, who is limited to two two-year terms, a secretary, and a treasurer. It sets up two committees: Budget and Registration. The five-member Budget Committee allocates the village funds, subject to approval of the February town meeting. The Registration Committee, which has three members, is responsible for keeping lists of voters and residents. It also welcomes new residents with information about Ardentown and the Ardens. All members of both committees serve two-year terms, which are staggered.
The Village’s bylaws establish other committees, including a Civic Committee of seven members, a Memorial Garden Committee of five members and several ad hoc committees. All serve two-year terms.