Hidden gems revealed on Kennett Tour

Plein Air painting on the terrace added to the fun of the annual Bayard Taylor Home & Garden Tour

The tour required a lot of walking, but taking in breath-taking views and visiting gorgeous houses is a wonderful way to spend a Saturday. When you attend the annual Bayard Taylor Home & Garden Tour, you are also giving financial support to Kennett Library’s many programs

This year’s Library tour on June 1, appropriately titled “Hidden Gems,” offered glimpses of du Pont estates and other jaw-dropping properties hidden from passing traffic in and around Chateaux Country. There were also “hidden gems” waiting inside the exquisite homes such as  interesting features and nuggets of interesting history. Visitors were delighted to see an old vault now used to store children’s games, a Scottish village artfully recreated on the basement walls, china originally owned by a president’s wife and a front door large enough to accommodate a John Deere lawn mower.

The oldest house on the tour, “Crooked Billet,” was once part of the Pelleport estate on the outskirts of Wilmington. Built in 1684 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the house has been in the du Pont family since 1864. Touring the old house without furniture allowed visitors on the tour to imagine scenes of a long-ago age. A “new addition” built in 1702 served as a tavern called “Crooked Billet.” Crooked Billet is a popular name for a tavern in Britain and harkens back to the custom of hanging a bent stick over a doorway to signify guests were welcome. Crooked Billet LLC purchased the 28-acre property in 2016 and is in the process of building nineteen homes. This information explained a lot to the confused tour-goers who followed directions onto an obvious construction site at this stop on the tour.

The history of Amy du Pont’s “Dauneport,” inspired by Mount Vernon and built in 1930, tugs at the heartstrings and comes with a happy ending. Amy du Pont never married and neither did subsequent owner Emily McCune. The current owners, dentist Garrett B. Lyons Jr. and his wife,  a real estate attorney, have filled Dauneport with the love and laughter of five children. There is much love for the house itself, which stood empty for many years before the Lyons carefully restored it to its former glory. A hidden treasure for the Lyons was the discovery that, under the carpeting were the original floors, which were never sanded or stained. Mrs. Lyons’ decorating style throughout the house is, to borrow a French kitchen term used to describe a perfectly cooked dish, “à point.”

Another du Pont family home on the tour was “Squirrel Run,” built in 1926 for S. Hallock du Pont. The house, tucked into the site of a former DuPont workers’ village near Hagley, was designed by famed architect R. Brognard Okie, and features Okie’s signature fieldstone exterior, spacious fireplaces and stunning woodwork and wrought iron details. The present owner’s family passed down the lovely blue china owned by Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes, the first American president’s wife to be called first “First Lady.”

“Hod House,” the original name of the home built in 1936 for Margaretta du Pont and her husband Crawford Greenewalt, is a drop-dead gorgeous 22-acre estate surrounded by natural vistas. The present-day owners, Richard and Sharon Struthers, have added personal touches with a nod to Mr. Struthers pride in his Scottish heritage. At the end of the Scottish village display is a movie screening room that would rate a “10” on anyone’s scale of measurement. Beyond that are a series of rooms with game tables and arcade games for kids of all ages. The vast rooms and terraces seem to cry out for Noel Coward and his friends to come and party all summer long. The infinity pool overlooking the countryside is simply heavenly.

For those who really wanted to see gardens, the contemporary homes of Nora Sadler and Charlie Banks and Lynn and Bob Woods did not disappoint. Nora is a 26-year veteran gardener at the Brandywine Conservancy and a dedicated proponent of native plants. Since 1910, she and Charlie have transformed their four-acre property into a wonderland of carefully planned specialty gardens. Lynn Woods somehow carves time out from caring for her multi-leveled gardens to volunteer at the Brandywine Museum & Gardens. Her floral arrangements for the Museum’s annual Antiques Show are always beautiful. The centerpiece of her dining room table, set for tea on the day of the tour, was an example of her fine creations.

To make the tour even more pleasurable, there were food and drink tastings provided by local restaurants at several of the houses and local artists painted “en plein air,” contributing to the  relaxed pace of the day.

The Kennett Public Library staff and board are extremely grateful to the volunteers who worked so hard all year long to present this wonderful community event. Planning for next year’s tour has already begun. If you have an interesting house to recommend, the special events committee would love to hear about it.

Be on the lookout for information on the 2019 Kennett Library Home and Garden Tour in early April by visiting www.kennettpubliclibrary.org or by calling the Library at 610-444-2702.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Lora B. Englehart

Lora has a passion for art, gardening, yoga, music and dancing. She continues to research the life of locally born abolitionist and 1998 National Women's Hall of Fame inductee Mary Ann Shadd Cary. She is a dedicated community volunteer, working with the American Association of University Women, Wilmington, DE branch (programs chair), Chadds Ford Historical Society (former board member) and Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art. Lora lives in Birmingham Township with her husband Bill and son Brad. Daughter Erika lives in Pittsburgh with husband Bob and baby Wilhelmina. She is a former French, Spanish and ESL teacher, bilingual life insurance underwriter and public relations coordinator for Delaware Art Museum and Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art.

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