Center Darby

Center Darby gets its name from its location, roughly in the geographical center of town. Darby's three major local roads–Route 63, Parade Road, and Upper Darby Road–flow into the town's center, which features a grassed area in the middle, known as Lafayette Square, though its shape is more or less elliptical.

There's a story that appears in Darby Doomsday, the video game, that explains the connection between Parade Road and Lafayette Square. In 1824 and 1825, the Marquis De Lafayette, the last surviving general of the Revolutionary War, was invited by President James Monroe to tour the United States in anticipation of the country's celebration of its fiftieth anniversary as a nation.

Lafayette, a very wealthy French nobleman, was only 19 years old when he came to America to fight with the revolutionaries. Because of his great wealth and commitment to the American cause, Lafayette though he was just a boy received a commission as a major general. Originally, General George Washington and his officer corps planned to humor the young general. But as it turned out Lafayette, despite his youth, was a very capable officer. More important, perhaps, is that he and Washington hit it off right away. Washington, who had no children of his own, and Lafayette, whose father died in combat when he was two, formed a close some say father-son relationship that lasted until the death of Washington. Lafayette named his first son George Washington.

Lafayette went on to fight for democracy in France, Poland and the Caribbean where he freed slaves on his own plantation (he repeatedly urged Washington to free his slaves). When he returned to America more than forty years later the country was aware that Lafayette played an important role in recruiting the aid of France during the revolutionary war. Over the course of almost a year Lafayette visited all of the 24 states then in existence where he was wined, dined, and put on parade. It was probably the biggest celebration of any celebrity in American history. Which is why there are so many mountains, lakes, and roads named Lafayette in the eastern part of the country. There are no official records that Lafayette actually visited Darby, but somewhere along the line the story spread that Lafayette and his entourage passed through the town to cheering crowds. Result? Parade Road and Lafayette Square.

At the center of this center is a granite obelisk war memorial commemorating the dead in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World War I, World War 2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Middle East Wars. There was a big discussion at town on whether to name all the wars and or keep the numbers down for purposes of editorial elegance. In the end, the maximalists won, conceding only the lumping together of various on-going armed conflicts into "Middle East Wars."

Let us consider a future issue discussed at the town meeting that later will appear in the video game, Darby Doomsday. The first local resident has been killed in combat in one of the recent Middle East wars. Bez Woodward, a drone pilot for the CIA, was captured and decapitated somewhere in the border lands of Syria and Iraq. Bez's widow, state senator Missy Mendelson, petitions the town for a War-on-Terrorism memorial. Trouble is there's no room left on the monument for more plaques. However, PLC (Paradise Lots Covenant), a national development company, proposes to build a new and bigger monument in its proposal along River Road for its Riverboat Gambling Casino. The company's plan includes moving the town center to its property that will feature a shopping mall, restaurants, condominiums overlooking Connecticut River, and a new town offices complex to replace the Darby's condemned town hall. The improved war memorial, yet to be designed, will be placed prominently on the new town common.

Center Darby as it is portrayed in the seven Darby novels includes the Elman Place, the Cutter Place, the McCurtin Place, the town hall, and the village store. Other buildings that don't appear in the Darby books but that I had in mind when I created the town include the library, the Congregational Church, the Grange Hall, the Fire Station, the Post Office, the town library, the elementary school and of course private homes, most built in the Colonial and Cape Cod styles with clapboard siding. There are a few red brick houses and even a couple houses built from the local granite.

Across from Center Darby Elementary School is the site of the town's biggest (though not its oldest) cemetery. The four cemeteries of Darby, one in each village, feature stone walls, mossy grave stones, artfully planted trees, and rolling lawns; for many of Darby residents the cemeteries are visitation sites that are as much places of rest for the living as they are for the dead.