On Oct. 23, 2014, Gov. and Mrs. Jack Markell celebrated the opening of the redesigned public garden at Woodburn, the governor’s official residence in Dover. The redesign was accomplished through a public/private partnership between the state of Delaware and the non-profit Friends of Woodburn which raised more than $250,000 for the project including a $100,000 matching grant from the Longwood Foundation.
Located at 151 Kings Highway, Woodburn is one of Delaware’s most historic homes and an outstanding example of late-18th-century Georgian architecture. The house was built in 1798 by Charles Hillyard, III (1759–1814), a fourth-generation Delawarean from a family of affluent landowners who were frequently active in the governmental, social and economic life of Kent County. Woodburn has served as the home of Delaware’s governor since it was purchased by the state in 1965. It was listed individually in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has been responsible for the care and conservation of Woodburn since August 2009. The division’s charge includes repair and maintenance of the building; design and upkeep of the property’s garden and horticultural displays; and furnishing of the home.
Work on Woodburn’s garden complex began in December 2013 as the final segment of a comprehensive exterior-improvements project launched in May of that year. The new complex, designed by landscape architect Rodney D. Robinson of Wilmington, includes a Colonial-inspired parterre garden that will feature a rose-covered arbor that provides the principal point of entry through a six-foot-tall evergreen hedge. Once inside, visitors encounter four square-beds, separated by brick and crushed-shell paths. Each bed is edged in boxwood and planted with a single crabapple tree, mixed ground covers and spring bulbs. A small pool with fountain serves as a focal point at the center of the garden. While colonists had no water to spare for pools and fountains, their inclusion at Woodburn adds character and ambiance to the space.
The parterre garden is framed on three sides by large planting-borders of seasonally flowering shrubs and perennials. At the corner nearest the house is a small wooden pavilion set within the border. This location affords a dramatic view of the garden, while providing a convenient and more private entrance from Woodburn. Beyond the parterre garden is the kitchen garden with vegetables, herbs and fruit trees. Woodburn’s redesigned garden includes several rare plants and trees donated by the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens.
In addition to the garden redesign, improvements to Woodburn included enhanced accessibility for people with disabilities; upgrades for pedestrian- and vehicular-safety including repair and/or replacement of sidewalks and driveways; installation of lighting; and infrastructure enhancements to the property’s electrical and storm-water-management systems. These improvements have helped to unify Woodburn’s campus making it a better home for current and future residents and an even better asset for guests, public visitors and the city of Dover’s historic district.
The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has recently received notification from the National Park Service that two additional Delaware properties—St. Stephen’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Harrington and the Union Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church Complex in Clarksville—have been officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the United States government’s official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects deemed worthy of preservation.
Located at 110 Fleming St. in Harrington, St. Stephen’s Protestant Episcopal Church is a small, wood frame, one-story structure that is the town’s only known example of vernacular Carpenter Gothic architecture. Though originally constructed for religious purposes, the building is currently owned by the Harrington Historical Society which operates it as a museum that chronicles the town’s history. The structure retains a substantial degree of architectural integrity including the original stained-glass window at the apex of the west façade, a bell tower with X-shaped cross-bracing at the southwest corner of the building, original decorative electroplated-hardware and its original board-and-batten siding.
The history of the church is deeply associated with the Rev. J. Leighton McKim who ministered to St. Stephen’s first congregation. Ordained in 1859 and assigned to Christ Church in Milford in 1862, he eventually became known as the highest paid Episcopal missionary in Delaware. As the principal donor, McKim oversaw the construction, by subscription, of St. Stephen’s Church in 1876. Though the mission existed as part of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware, McKim retained personal ownership of the building and property throughout his life. Applications requesting that St. Stephen’s be established as a separate parish within the diocese during the 19th century were rejected because of its private ownership status. It was not until after McKim’s death in 1918 that ownership of St. Stephen’s was transferred to the Delaware Diocese.
Located near the Sussex County community of Clarksville, the Union Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church Complex is a grouping of buildings dating from the 19th century to the present that serves as a center of religious life and traditions in the African-American community of southern Delaware. The parcel contains the Union Wesley United Methodist Church (1959), the Blackwater School (1890), a camp-meeting ground (circa 1873) and a large cemetery. The camp-meeting ground features a circular design with a centrally placed large bower (covered but open-sided structure for worship) surrounded by the “tents” that serve as residences for the attendees of the two-week-long annual camp-meeting. The earliest surviving “tents” are small-frame, gable-roofed, two-bay wide and two-stories tall.
The building that serves as the camp’s refectory, or dining hall, is the former one-room Blackwater School which served the educational needs of African Americans from 1890 until 1922 when it was replaced by a school built by industrialist Pierre S. du Pont. Constructed under the auspices of the Delaware Association for the Moral Improvement and Education of the Colored People, the Blackwater School retains a high level of architectural integrity and is the best surviving example in Delaware of the school buildings constructed for black children during the post-Civil-War period.
Featuring more than 300 events in 2013, and serving over 10,000 guests, the Buena Vista Conference Center is certainly a popular place. Called “the perfect wedding location” in Delaware Bride Magazine’s fall/winter 2013-2014 edition, Buena Vista features “lush grounds, cozy accommodations and luxe décor” that are utilized for a wide variety of functions including business gatherings and government meetings as well as receptions, parties and celebrations.
With that kind of acclaim, someone must be doing something right, and that someone (or some people as the case may be) are the conference center’s highly capable staff members. Following are profiles of these dedicated individuals who are helping to make events at Buena Vista a memorable experience.
Overall administration of Buena Vista is managed by Desiree Williams and Morgan Booker who work together to maintain customer relations, meet with new clients, conduct tours of the property, schedule events, process reservation agreements and billing, delegate and monitor staff duties, create and manage social-media initiatives, and oversee the maintenance and upkeep of the house and grounds.
Desiree Williams began service in April 2014 having previously worked as an administrator with the Delaware Department of State. Originally from New York City, Williams attended Delaware State University on a full scholarship, graduating in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and public relations. During the course of her studies, she served as a summer intern at the Cable News Network (CNN) and at the public-relations firm Brotman-Winter-Fried in McLean, Va. The Smyrna, Del. resident is now realizing one of her career objectives by working in the field of event planning.
Morgan Booker began work at Buena Vista in July 2014. She received her bachelor’s degree from Texas A & M University in 2013 with a major in horticulture and a minor in business. While at the university, she volunteered for the Opera and Performing Arts Society of the Memorial Student Center (MSC OPAS), a student organization that presents professional productions of theatre, music and dance. After moving to the East Coast in 2013, she worked in administration, public relations and promotion for the Friends of Belmont Hall in Smyrna, Del.; and as a restaurant floor-manager and a member of the catering team at the Kitty Knight House in Georgetown, Md. The Tyler, Texas native now lives in Wilmington, Del.
Sally Shorey, a familiar face at Buena Vista, has worked at the conference center since 2001. Her responsibilities include customer relations and hospitality, and the upkeep and cleanliness of the facility’s kitchen. A life-long Delawarean and graduate of John Dickinson High School, she currently lives in Bear. Prior to joining the Buena Vista staff, Shorey worked for a local catering firm and for Chemical Bank in Newark, Del. She and her husband of 49 years have two children and three grandchildren.
Housekeepers Ryan Cardwell, Kevin Garner and Carlton Hall work hard to ensure that Buena Vista is clean and ready for the many visitors that attend events at the site. In addition to the upkeep of the house, they are responsible for the set-up and break-down of events, and assist in a wide variety of tasks including food service, hospitality, customer relations and inventory management.
Lifelong Wilmingtonian Ryan Cardwell received both his high school diploma and a certificate in facilities maintenance from the Job Corps Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. A member of the Buena Vista staff since June 2013, Cardwell previously worked in construction and at Sears, as well as serving as an inventory clerk for the Delaware Transit Corporation (DART) and as an account representative for Comcast.
Brooklyn-born Kevin Garner joined the Buena Vista staff in June 2013. He has studied both heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC), and accounting in New York City and is continuing his studies at Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington with the ultimate goal of becoming a certified public account. Prior to moving to the First State in February 2013, Garner worked for Graffiti-Free NYC, a graffiti removal service in the City of New York. He currently lives in Newark, Del.
Carlton Hall holds a bachelor’s degree in theater arts from Cheyney University and a master’s degree in historic preservation from Delaware State University. Originally from Salem, N.J., the New Castle resident previously worked in food service at the Glen Mills Schools, a residential facility for juvenile delinquents located in Glen Mills, Pa. He joined the Buena Vista staff in September 2014.
Located at 661 S. Dupont Highway (Route 13), southwest of New Castle, Buena Vista is one of Delaware’s most historic homes. The main section of the house was built between 1845 and 1847 by John M. Clayton, United States secretary of state from 1849 to 1850 under presidents Taylor and Fillmore, and United States senator from 1829 to 1836, 1845 to 1849 and 1853 until his death in 1856. The home later became the residence of C. Douglass Buck, governor of Delaware from 1929 to 1937 and United States senator from 1942 to 1948. Buena Vista and its grounds were donated to the state by the Buck family in 1965 and now serve as a state conference center administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.
Written on: October 15th, 2014 in News
The American Association for State and Local History has presented a prestigious History in Progress Award to the Delaware Historical Society and the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs for their collaborative exhibit “Forging Faith, Building Freedom: African American Faith Experiences in Delaware, 1800-1980.” The award, a component of the association’s Leadership in History Awards program, is presented for projects that are highly inspirational; exhibit exceptional scholarship; and/or are exceedingly entrepreneurial in terms of funding, partnerships or collaborations, creative problem-solving or unusual project design, and inclusiveness. Only four projects in the entire nation were honored with the award in 2014.
“Forging Faith, Building Freedom: African American Faith Experiences in Delaware, 1800-1980” explored the faith experiences of Delaware’s black community and its contributions to the development of religion in the United States including a commemoration of the bicentennial of the African Union Methodist tradition and the August Quarterly, the nation’s oldest African-American religious festival.
On-display from Sept. 27, 2013 to June 14, 2014 at the Delaware History Museum, a unit of the Delaware Historical Society located at 504 N. Market St. in Wilmington, Del., the exhibit was created through a partnership between the society’s curatorial staff, which researched and wrote the exhibit narrative and organized loans of exhibited objects; and the division’s Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team which designed, fabricated and installed the exhibit. Go to the following to view the exhibit online.
The American Association for State and Local History initiated the Leadership in History Awards program in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation and interpretation of state and local history throughout America. In 2014, the association conferred 77 national awards honoring people, projects, exhibits, books and organizations.
In addition to the History in Progress award, the “Forging Faith” exhibit was honored with an Award of Merit which recognizes excellence in history programs, projects and people when compared with similar activities nationwide. The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs was also the recipient of an Award of Merit for the “The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World,” a multi-dimensional interpretive program on the British warship that sank off the coast of Delaware in the late 18th century.
In addition to its three Leadership in History awards, the division was also recognized as a graduate of the association’s StEPs program (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations) which helps small- and mid-sized history museums assess policies and practices, manage daily operations and plan for the future. All of the honors noted above were conferred during the American Association for State and Local History’s awards banquet which took place in St. Paul, Minn. on Sept. 19, 2014. Constance J. Cooper, chief curator of the Delaware Historical Society, and Marian Carpenter, the division’s curator of collections management, accepted honors on behalf of their respective organizations.