A spotlight on one of the more than 40 historic properties owned by the state of Delaware and administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.
One of Delaware’s most historic homes will be decorated for the winter season and open for visitation during the “Fourth Annual Christmas at Belmont Hall: A Civil War Christmas” that will take place on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, from 1 to 4 p.m., at Belmont Hall, located at 713 Smyrna-Leipsic Road in Smyrna, Del.
The day’s program will include an American Civil War military encampment featuring living-history re-enactors from the 2nd Delaware Volunteer Infantry as they tend a fire and portray camp life as it might have occurred during the Christmas seasons of 1861-1865. Additional activities include horse-drawn sleigh rides, presentations on civilian life during the Civil War, period music, a visit from Santa and craft-making activities for children. Admission to the program is $5 for adults and $2 for children. For additional information, call 302-264-9048. Note—Visitors to Belmont Hall can also take in the Christmas Open House at the Smyrna Museum that will be taking place on Dec. 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. In addition, Belmont Hall will be open for free tours on Sunday, Dec. 15 from 2 to 4 p.m.
About Belmont Hall…
In 1684, William Penn granted the 600-acre parcel of land on which Belmont Hall is located to Henry Pearman. After six changes of ownership, 91½ acres of the property were sold in 1771 to Thomas Collins who would go on to serve as a member of the Delaware General Assembly, brigadier-general in the American Revolution and eighth president of Delaware. In 1773, Collins completed construction of the grand Georgian structure which he named Belmont Hall. From that time until the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, the home was the scene of many meetings attended by noted patriots Caesar Rodney, Allen McLane, Col. John Haslett, Lt. Col. Charles Pope, John Dickinson, Thomas McKean and Judge Richard Bassett.
In 1867, Belmont Hall was inherited by Caroline Cloak Peterson. After the death of Howard Peterson in 1875, she married Gideon Speakman in 1876. Caroline made a number of changes to the property including the addition of a Gothic-Revival porch and the development of 20 acres of gardens including two boxwood formations at the front and rear of the house. She encouraged the Smyrna townspeople to use the property’s gardens for walks, ice cream socials and picnics. After a devastating fire in 1922, her son Cummins Speakman and his wife Marjorie restored the home to its original condition and floor plan, and members of the Speakman family continued to live there until 1987 when the property was acquired by the state of Delaware as part of the Route 1 construction project. Administration of Belmont Hall was transferred to the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs later that year and it was opened for use as a state conference center in 1993.
In 2010, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs entered into a partnership with the non-profit Friends of Belmont Hall to further preserve the house and property. In keeping with its stewardship responsibilities, the division utilized over $67,000 from its 2012 capital improvements allocation for wood repair, lead-paint stabilization and painting of the building’s exterior as well as installation of a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system that will keep the property operating efficiently well into the 21st century. The Friends of Belmont Hall now sponsors several community events that provide public access to the site throughout the year, as well as renting the house and grounds for meetings, weddings and parties.
Go to the following for additional information on the history of Belmont Hall.
Written on: November 25th, 2013 in News
On Nov. 4, 2013, Larry Williams joined the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ staff as a physical-plant maintenance mechanic working with the Preservation-Maintenance Team, a group of trades professionals who maintain, repair and preserve the nearly 90 structures administered by the division.
An all-around tradesman and troubleshooter, Williams served a three-year apprenticeship in carpentry early in his career and has worked for Christiana Construction, the Pennsylvania Shipyard and a 20-year stint at the Sunoco oil refinery in Marcus Hook, Pa. A native of north Wilmington and graduate of Mount Pleasant High School, Williams comes from a long line of carpenters and craftspeople. He and his wife now live in a Newark, Del. house that he planned and designed and for which he completed the lion’s share of construction.
A total of 314 visitors attended the Lewes, Del. based lecture/tours of the hull of His Majesty’s Sloop DeBraak during 2013, an increase of 38% over the previous year. As a result of this continued interest, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will again offer tours of the historic vessel’s hull during the upcoming season that will run from late spring to early fall 2014.
The DeBraak was a British warship that was escorting and protecting a convoy of British and American merchant ships en route to the United States when it was capsized and lost off the Delaware coast on May 25, 1798. The surviving section of the ship’s hull and its associated artifact collection have been curated by the division since they were acquired by the state of Delaware in 1992. Go to the following to learn more about the historical significance of the DeBraak.
Tours will again begin at the Zwaanendael Museum, located at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, Del., where a lecture on the ship will be presented in conjunction with “A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World,” an exhibit that tells the story of the vessel, its crew and the historical context within which it operated in the late 18th century. Ticket holders will then be transported, via van, to the DeBraak hull facility in nearby Cape Henlopen State Park for a curator-led tour of the surviving section of the ship’s hull.
Details for the 2014 season of tours including dates, times and prices will be announced via this blog in the near future. For additional information, call 302-645-1148.