The Latrobe Survey of New Castle 18041805
by Lucille P. Toro, May 1971 Thesis, M.A. History, University of  Delaware


 Two events in New Castle's history, though not completely related, worked together to culminate in the Latrobe survey of 1805. At the close of the 18th century, New Castle, Delaware, having long declined in importance as a seaport and the state governmental center, once again found new vitality and began to act accordingly. Being on the main travel line between the North and the South, and, with the possibility that the eastern terminus of the Chesapeake and Delaware canal would be in New Castle, an influx of people‑and capitol gave the town a brief period of prosperity. 

During this period, the state legislative body passed a law giving New Castle self government for the first time since the English gained control of the colony from the Dutch. The act further called for a survey to establish the town boundaries and show the existing layout of the streets. The responsible citizens of New Castle envisioned an orderly growth of the town, therefore, in 1804 a supplement to the act, specified the need for street gradients in order to determine what the street levels should be for proper drainage and future building.

 Early in the 19th century, as chief engineer for the canal company, Benjamin H. Latrobe took up residence in New Castle in one of  the many, newly built tenement houses, in order to live close to his work. Well known to many of the town's leading citizens, it seemed logical that they would ask Latrobe to do the survey. In spite of all his troubles connected with the canal, he consented to do the survey, relying to a great extent on his apprentices, Robert Mills and William Strickland, for the detailed work.

 That Latrobe was in the area at this time and available to do the New Castle survey was purely chance. Because of this good turn of fortune, New Castle today has an excellent graphic description of the architecture of the town and a complete layout of every existing building in 1805. Even though the anticipated growth of the town never took place, the town fathers followed through with Latrobe's recommendations as is evidenced in the present facades of many of the buildings which were built before the survey and now show the obvious lowering or raising of the street level.