Tour 7 of Delaware’s most historic houses for one low price in September and October. The Delaware Historical Society is partnering with the New Castle Historical Society and the Historic Houses of Odessa Foundation to offer a single, half-price ticket – just $12 – that includes one-time admission to the majestic Read House & Gardens (1801), the diminutive, 17th-century “Dutch House” and the historic Amstel House (c. 1735) in Old New Castle. Then it’s on to the National Historic District of Odessa (just 15 minutes south of New Castle) to enjoy a treasure trove of historic sites including the Corbit-Sharp House (c.1774), Wilson-Warner House (c. 1769), Collins-Sharp House (c. 1700), and the Odessa Bank (1853).
The Read House has just undergone a $1,100,000 restoration in anticipation of receiving National Landmark status in 2011. Built by the son of one of Delaware’s three signers of the Declaration of Independence, George Read II, the 14,000 square foot mansion was one of the largest private residences in the state when it was built, with no less than 15 fireplaces!
While the Read House & Gardens is extraordinary in its own right, the magnificent riverfront estate is all that much more impressive in the context of its location in the New Castle National Historic District. In fact, New Castle is home to more than twenty properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as the National Landmark New Castle Court House.
Among New Castle’s few surviving early colonial buildings is the elegant Amstel House. Built by the town’s wealthiest landowner, Dr. John Finney, the Amstel House is graced with original woodwork, fine architectural details and open hearth. The house’s history is linked to many of the town’s prominent colonial families. A governor lived there. Delaware Signers of the Declaration of Independence stopped there to meet with friends. And George Washington even attended a wedding in the parlor.
Facing the legendary “New Castle Green,” the “Dutch House” traces its origins to the late 17th century when New Castle was a bustling port for Dutch, English, Swedish, and Finnish settlers and traders. Visitors are treated to an extraordinary collection of Dutch furniture and accessories, as well as a beautiful naturalistic garden.
The four remaining historic sites are located in one of the most interesting and well-preserved National Historic Districts in America – less than 15 minutes from New Castle. The district is home to a National Landmark mansion overlooking one of Delaware’s most picturesque waterways. It’s one of the principle sites on Delaware’s proposed Harriett Tubman National Underground Heritage Byway. And the entire community is smack in the middle of one of the most important flyways in North America. I’m talking, of course, about Odessa, Delaware on the banks of Appoquinimink Creek.
Odessa (formerly Cantwell’s Bridge) was once a busy shipping port due to its close proximity to both the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. Today, visitors can stroll Odessa’s tree-lined streets and admire some of the finest examples of 18th and 19th century architecture in the Mid-Atlantic region.
The National Landmark Corbit-Sharp House was built by William Corbit in 1774. The house is furnished to reflect the region’s lifestyle in the late 18th-century, and was once an important stop on the Underground Railroad.
The Wilson-Warner House, built by prosperous merchant David Wilson in 1769, exemplifies Delaware-Georgian architecture. And, its furnishings reflect those recorded in the 1829 family bankruptcy “List of Sales.”
The picturesque log and frame Collins-Sharp House is one of Delaware’s oldest residences, dating to 1700. It’s the educational hub for foundation and great place to learn open hearth cooking techniques.
The 1853 Odessa Bank building is reminiscent of small-town America, complete with a wonderfully eclectic gift shop.
Odessa’s Brick Hotel, also owned and operated by the Historic Houses of Odessa Foundation, was built in 1822. Later this year, the Foundation will re-open the property as an historic restaurant.
The 7 sites are managed by nonprofit agencies, but even their own members can’t tour all of the sites for the extraordinary price of just $12. So plan ahead, because this historic discount is only available in September and October! The project is co-sponsored by the Clarion Belle Hotel in New Castle and the Hampton Inn in Middletown. Joint Tickets can be purchased at the Read House & Gardens and the Amstel House in New Castle or the historic Odessa Bank beginning Tuesday, September 7.
For more information about Wilmington, Delaware and the Brandywine Valley check out the website of the Greater Wilmington Convention & Visitors Bureau.