By Madeline Dunn, Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ historian and National Register of Historic Places coordinator
“Preserving Our Past for a Better Future: Delaware’s Historic Preservation Plan, 2013–2017” provides an opportunity for people throughout the state to become involved with the preservation of their historic heritage. One program which enables people to identify, evaluate, conduct research, and write about historic properties is the National Register of Historic Places. Established by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, this program authorizes the National Park Service to create and maintain an official list of historic properties deemed worthy of preservation at the local, state, or national level. Currently the national list contains 92,375 historic properties including 739 nominations from Delaware.
Delaware’s State Historic Preservation Office administers this program and throughout the past fiscal year processed seven nominations for review by the National Park Service. Six historic properties were listed in the National Register and one nomination is pending. Participation in this program provided Delawareans with an opportunity to make contributions to the statewide preservation plan by engaging them in the process of studying 20th-century properties, expressing an interest in the preservation of agricultural land, identifying and documenting buildings associated with underrepresented communities, conducting research, and writing nominations.
Individuals participating in the process included private property owners, research consultants, graduate students, county and town officials, church-congregation members, members of special interest groups, citizens serving on preservation review-boards, as well as professionals at the city, county, state, and federal levels. As a result, several preservation partnerships were either established and/or enhanced.
Four nominations associated with 20th-century architecture were listed this spring. These nominations included the Downtown Wilmington Commercial Historic District (listed on March 24, 2017) and two private residences—901 Mount Lebanon Road in Rockland (March 28, 2017) and the Jackson-Wilson House in Wilmington (April 10, 2017). Another historic property, Holly Oak (April 10, 2017), though constructed in the 18th century, was modified during the 20th-century in the Colonial Revival style. The rural New Castle County property known as the Cox-Phillips-Mitchell Agricultural Complex (March 13, 2017) documented farm buildings and chronicled information about Delaware’s agriculture industry. Finally, the listing of St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church (Oct. 17, 2016) in Harrington documented information about the establishment of the A.M.E. Church in Delaware as well as the congregation’s importance within a rural Kent County community.
Prior to submitting nominations to the National Park Service, Delaware’s State Review Board for Historic Preservation reviews the nominations and recommends that they be considered for listing in the National Register. The ten members serving on this special review-board represent professional preservationists including archaeologists, architects, architectural historians, historians, and preservation planners, as well as citizen members.
The State Historic Preservation Office invites individuals interested in learning more about the National Register Program or volunteering to assist with archival research and the writing of National Register nominations to contact Madeline Dunn, National Register coordinator-historian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Delaware properties added to the National Register of Historic Places in fiscal year 2017
The Downtown Wilmington Commercial District was listed in the National Register under two criteria: Criterion A—commerce and Criterion C—architecture. This historic district, containing 66 buildings, incorporates properties located in the 600 through 800 blocks of Market Street, the 700 and 800 blocks of adjacent Shipley Street, and the unit block of East Seventh Street. These properties represent buildings associated with the commercial heart of the downtown area between 1870 and 1968. The district is representative of the dynamic forces including the arrival of electric trolleys, an evolution in residential patterns, and the resulting concentration of business interests that transformed Market Street into a highly concentrated downtown commercial environment that prospered through much of the early-20th century. The nomination also provides contrasts and comparisons reflective of the city’s commercial growth, references specific reasons for the district’s commercial transition, and chronicles decades of changes denoting architectural, social, and economic trends.
Structures within this district represent a unique concentration of small- to mid-size commercial buildings dating from the late-19th to the mid-20th centuries. A variety of architectural styles including the Italianate, Second Empire, Beaux Arts, Commercial, Mission Revival, Art Deco, and Art Moderne are present in the district and parallel national trends in the design of commercial buildings during this period. Local architects responsible for designing many of these buildings include William Draper Brinckloe, Clarence R. Hope, Charles Barton Keen, Edward L. Rice, John Dockery Thompson, and the architectural firms of Brown & Whiteside; Hoggson Brothers; and Robinson, Stanhope, and Manning.
Located at 901 Mount Lebanon Road in Rockland, the original section of this house was built in 1950 and was eligible for listing in the National Register under Criterion C— architecture. “901” is a well-documented example of organic architecture espoused by Frank Lloyd Wright and other early advocates of modern house design. The horizontal orientation of the house, its organic relationship to the surrounding landscape, its rational design based on interior space, and the forward-looking style of the house and its builders make “901” a significant, one-of-a-kind artifact of the post-World-War-II era in Delaware.
The builders and owners, Dr. Davis Durham and his wife Harriet Frorer Durham, were distinguished residents in the village of Rockland. They hired a Philadelphia-area architect named Jesse Stetler to design a house that would capitalize on the panoramic view from their hilltop building site.
The architectural integrity of the original house remains high, though some modifications and expansions were made in 1973. These enhancements, being sensitive in design and materials used, neither detracted from nor compromised the integrity of the original house. They merely provided accommodations and spaces which met the changing needs of the Durham family whose descendants continue to reside on the premises today.
Located at 12 Red Oak Road in the Rockford Park section of Wilmington, the Jackson-Wilson House was built in 1914 and was eligible for listing in the National Register under Criterion C as a locally significant example of the English Tudor Revival style based on the architecture of the Cotswold area of south-central England. Reflecting this style, popular in the early-20th century, the home is an outstanding example of this national trend at the local level. Designed by the New York City architectural firm, Shape and Bready, the property is exceptionally grand in size and scale for Wilmington.
The house was originally constructed for Willard Cartwright Jackson and his wife Josephine Willauer Jackson. Mr. Jackson was the secretary-treasurer of the Wilmington Automobile Company. Joseph Shields Wilson and his wife Lois Martenis Wilson eventually acquired the property. Mr. Wilson served as mayor of Wilmington from 1905 to 1907, and again from 1946 to 1949.
Holly Oak, located at 1503 Ridge Road in Claymont, was eligible for listing in the National Register under Criterion C—architecture. Constructed in 1779, the dwelling is architecturally significant under the historic context, Stone Dwellings of Brandywine Hundred, as an early extant example of a hall-parlor plan built of stone. It is also significant as a Colonial Revival Stone Dwelling for its early 20th–century renovations.
The house was constructed as a residence for the Perkins family who owned the land for about 160 years. Documents suggest that by the 1850s, the property was utilized as a tenant house. John H. Longstreet, president of the Philadelphia Real Estate Investment Company and the president and treasurer of the Lawndale Land Company, bought the property in 1889. Longstreet reassembled the original 154-acre tract of land that once belonged to the Perkins family, along with additional acreage, and plotted the residential subdivision named “Holly Oak” in 1901.
The Cox-Phillips-Mitchell Agricultural Complex, located at 1651 and 1655 Old Wilmington Road in Hockessin, was eligible for listing in the National Register under Criterion A as an excellent example of the practice of remodeling agricultural complexes in Delaware during the 19th and early-20th centuries.
In the first half of the 19th century, a variety of social and economic factors combined to transform the agricultural landscape of northern Delaware, including the agricultural reform movement, an increase in population, rising prices of farmland, and improvements in transportation. This transformation took the form of changes in building materials, architectural styles, construction methods, and spatial arrangements, affecting both dwellings and agricultural buildings and aimed at increasing agricultural production and farm efficiency.
Expansions of house plans and new types of agricultural outbuildings, such as dairy barns, also accompanied and followed this trend. From the second half of the 19th century to the early-20th century, farmers in the Delaware Piedmont turned to dairying on a commercial scale, resulting in further changes to their barns and farm complexes. They built larger barns, specifically designed to support milking operations, and modified them over time to meet the ever-changing state regulations. Supporting agricultural outbuildings for equipment and crop storage also changed in this period to accommodate changes in machinery and the scale of production. Both the dwelling and the bank barn at Cox-Phillips-Mitchell Complex represent multiple periods of construction and adaptation, while the various other buildings demonstrate experimentation with efficiency. The farm also features several unusual combination buildings including a chicken coop/piggery and corncrib/granary.
The house and original outbuildings were built by William Cox who acquired the property in 1721. The house and outbuildings were expanded over the years by subsequent owners including William Phillips (a cooper who owned the property between 1766 and 1830) and John Mitchell who purchased the farm in 1868 and whose descendants continue to reside on the premises today.
St. Paul A.M.E. Church, located at 103 W. Mispillion St. in Harrington, Del., was eligible for listing in the National Register under Criterion A because of its association with the establishment of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Delaware during the early-19th century. This structure represents the last of the 11 A.M.E. churches built in Kent County, Del. between 1867 and 1895. Its congregation was established in 1830, 17 years after the African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1813 by Richard Allen and one year before his death. Worship was held in homes of congregational members for many years. In 1895, the members constructed a church on New Street, located on the east side of town. The locally-known African American house-mover Bobby Russ and his mules Susie and Jennie physically moved the church to its West Mispillion Street location in the early 1900s.