Mardela to Delmar

On June 5, 2012 · 7 Comments

I’ve expressed my enjoyment of geographic portmanteaus previously. These are place names created by mashing together two or more other place names. Delmarva is a perfect example. The Delmarva Peninsula on the east coast of the United States is bound on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware River and on the west by the Chesapeake Bay.



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The Delmarva includes most of the U.S. state of Delaware along with chunks of Maryland and Virginia, thus Del+Mar+Va. The peninsula contains several towns with similarly-influenced portmanteau names such as Mardela Springs, Delmar and Marydel. 12MC readers have been kind enough to mention these inspired locations in various comments over the years. This series has long been on my list of places I’d love to visit in person. I had a chance to experience two of the three last weekend.

I’d like to propose a wonderful, low-hassle road trip for readers who live in the Washington, DC or Baltimore, MD metropolitan areas who travel to Maryland’s Atlantic beaches during the summer weekends. This requires a tiny detour from U.S. Route 50, the "Ocean Gateway, " while delivering multiple geo-oddities in quick succession. It adds less than two miles to the overall length of a beach trip.



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Mardela Springs, Maryland


Mardela Town Hall

The portmanteau town of Mardela Springs requires almost no detour whatsoever. Turn right off of Route 50 and drive a single block to arrive at the Mardela Town Hall, pictured above. Go another block, turn left on Main Street for maybe three more blocks and it will position a visitor perfectly to continue on Delmar Road for the next oddity, which appears about three miles later. It’s not a portmanteau but it might be even better.


Delaware’s Southwestern Corner


Transpeninsular Meets Mason-Dixon

Delaware features a sharp angle that is slightly larger than 90°. This is the state’s southwestern corner. More precisely, it’s the intersection of the southern terminus of Mason-Dixon Line with the Transpeninsular Line. I visited the eastern end of the Transpeninsular Line previously. This was my first time at this place, however, which is the approximate midpoint of the Transpeninsular Line (i.e., half way across the Delmarva Peninsula). That’s almost too much compact geographic craziness for one person to comprehend. I was giddy.

The two states have cooperated nicely to protect multiple boundary stones set into the ground here. They’ve erected a protective pavilion with a brick walkway leading from a small semicircle parking area directly off the roadway. I selected a photograph taken from the north side on the Mason-Dixon line looking south in order to show the walkway and parking. The left side of my body was in Delaware and the right side was in Maryland. I’ve been to lots of boundary stones and markers during my adventures. Rarely have I seen a location so well maintained and truly convenient.


Delmar, Delaware/Maryland



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Another seven miles brings one to Delmar and a rather peculiar situation, the "Little Town Too Big for One State." Delmar’s primary road, State Street, straddles the border between Delaware and Maryland with sizable portions on both sides of the line.

Delmar is two incorporated towns: Delmar, Delaware, governed by a Mayor and four council members is located in Sussex County and Delmar, Maryland, governed by a Mayor and four commissioners, is located in Wicomico County. The Towns share a central administration, police department, public works department, and sewer/water facilities that are jointly owned and operated.

How’s that for unusual?


Straddling Delaware Maryland Line

I drove the length of State Street and it’s fairly busy. I wanted a border-straddling photo so I went just west of town a couple of hundred feet down Line Road, which also follows the border. That way, I figured, I might be able to reduce the chance of hit-and-run accident while I foolishly stood in the middle of the street with a camera. Delaware is on the left and Maryland is on the right, with the Transpeninsular Line cutting directly through me.

The final portmanteau town, Marydel, will have to wait for another day. It was too far away.

It would be very easy to cut directly south towards Route 50 from here, and continue onward towards the beach.


Victory Celebration


End of the Route

I continued south however, another few miles into Salisbury, Maryland. I topped-off my portmanteau and border hunting adventures by stopping at the new Evolution Craft Brewing tasting room. Completely relaxed, I continued with the rest of my journey.

This has to be the easiest geo-oddity tour I’ve ever experienced.

On June 5, 2012 · 7 Comments

7 Responses to “Mardela to Delmar”

  1. Pfly says:

    A somewhat related thing up here is the term for things common to both Snohomish and Island Counties, WA: Sno-Isle. The Sno-Isle library system being an example. It’s not quite the same as the kind of portmanteaus you’re talking about, but makes up for that by being a particularly silly name.

  2. Bill Harris says:

    Unlike Dlemar, Marydel is only incorporated on the Maryland side of the border.

    The school system in Delmar is unique also; perhaps the only arrangement of its type in the country: children attend grades K through 6 in Maryland and grades 7 through 12 in Delaware.

  3. Darien Gap says:

    Now it is time for you to head west and visit the pormantaeu of the other end of the Virginias: Kenova, WV, named for Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia when VA and WV were one state.

  4. Tony (Somerset) UK says:

    I would think the most famous “portmanteau” is in South Africa – Soweto (South Western Township)

  5. Delmarvalous says:

    This was great to read. I was surprised that you didn’t mention the stone was set by Mason & Dixon. To add to what someone else said about Delmar the school system is shared with K-4 in Maryland & 5-12 in Delaware (it changed from K-6, 7-12 when a middle school was added). The police, fire, water and wastewater workers all must get licensed/certified in both states to work in Delmar. Finally, there is a heritage day in Delmar in September and I’d love to invite you back for that.

  6. Uncle Paul says:

    Great posting, as I am a resident of the Delmar area. My wife works at the local high school. It’s confusing, but important to point out that the schools are funded by both states. Imagine the budget meetings and that insanity? True story: My wife was involved in a fender bender that took place at the intersection of East Line Road & Old Stage Road. A state trooper from Maryland and a state trooper from Delaware showed up to assist with the minor accident. So happens, it occurred in the middle of Line Rd, which means it was (technically) in both states. The two troopers actually flipped a coin to decide who got to handle the paper work. Small towns, what can ya’ say?

  7. steve says:

    I love this stuff. And I love that humble Delaware figures so prominently on this site.

    Similar to Uncle Paul’s comment, I used to work at a very popular and busy destination seafood store at the northern end of the state on route 202. The store was in DE, but the overflow lot was in PA and the left hand turn across traffic straddled the state line at a slight rise making the turn that much more dangerous.

    There was an accident at the border probably every week during the busy summer months. Our store had two phone lines – a PA one and a DE one and depending which one we used to call 911, that state’s cops would come. However, it was agreed up that wherever the cars unded up (usually in DE as the crasher was driving south driving the cars over the DE border) determined which state’s cops handled the accident.

    I probably saw cops arguing about this 10 times over my time working there. Alas, the problem no longer exists because the store moved a bit and the state improved the deathtrap left-hand turn.

    As for schools, most 12MC readers know the craziness that is Fishers Island, NY. (Everything about it screams CT but it’s a NY piece of land.) They do have a K-12 public school (for <70 kids) but several catholic kids ferry it to CT for school because the island is under the nearby CT archdiocese.

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