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History Was Made Here: Belmont Hall

Written on: November 25th, 2013 in Events Historic Sites News

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.

Belmont Hall

Belmont Hall

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.

Members of the Second Delaware Volunteer Infantry in camp.

Members of the Second Delaware Volunteer Infantry in camp.

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.

Belmont Hall interior decorated for the holidays.

Belmont Hall interior decorated for the holidays.

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.

Belmont Hall boxwood garden.

Belmont Hall boxwood garden.

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.

Historical photo of Belmont Hall.

Historical photo of Belmont Hall.

Go to the following for additional information on the history of Belmont Hall.


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