Thursday, December 17, 2015

Capturing the Spirit of Christmas in New Castle


The New Castle Historic District is fascinating any time of year 
but special things can happen at Christmastime.


The Amstel House was built in the 1730's by Dr. John Finney. It was later home to Nicholas Van Dyke, the seventh Governor of Delaware, during this time period George Washington was known to have visited for a wedding, which is acknowledged in the hearth of the fireplace in the parlor. Also on the outside brick wall there is a tribute to George Washington.


The small Dutch House has been on my list to visit since the first time I went to New Castle.  It represents how the common family would have lived. According to the Dutch House website, the first records refer to the house on this property as George Moore's log house in the early 1680's. Unique articles to the house and its property are its size first of all that intrigues. It is usually the big houses that stand out.


The gardens are original in that there are three parts, a Colonial Revival Garden, a Dutch Kitchen Garden and a Arasapha Native Plant area.


Inside it is equipped with the items a Dutch settler would use including a Dutch yoke, sitting by the fireplace. I have never seen one in person and if you have never seen one, here it is.


Live Music was held throughout town. we were able to join in the sing along at the 1707 Meeting House.


We could not get into the Cab Calloway Jazz concert at the Court House, both sessions were pack.


We were able o enjoy a street musician as he played harmonica.

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Many characters dressed in period clothing enhanced the environment to give reflect the time of ole E.S. himself.


 No one seemed to attract the crowd more than the ole miser, Ebenezer Scrooge,  He was cranky.



Several private residents had opened there homes to visitors and each possessed something special about them. I wish I could show you the inside of the original Dr. Lesley Mansion, but it is privately owned. By viewing the outside you can just imagine how beautiful it is inside and magnify that tenfold. They start to decorate in October and it shows. For me it is always a struggle what furniture to move to fit the Christmas Tree into the room.  They have the perfect room. When I hit the lottery I may just have to get a room like that.  It is magnificent.


Dr. Allen Voorhees Lesley had the house built in 1855. The butler answers the door to take you on a tour of the first two rooms of Lesley Manor. Saint Nicholas is your next guide, these people obviously have connections. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. There are far too many interesting features about this house you will just have to wait till next year when the owners, the Wright Family, graciously share their home for the holiday open house tour.


The Mayor's modest house sits just across the street and you think it is almost unfair to have it next on the list after visiting the mansion. Once you get inside, however you see the richness.  I have never seen such a large collection of snowmen and the mayor is such a jewel.  He greets each guest as if they are the most important person that walked through the front door, a real nice guy.  Something else they have that I have always wanted was a train running around the track outlining their furniture in the living room. I see now it is possible and I am going to try it.


I learned two new things today,as you always learn something when you get the opportunity to see where history was made.The Old Library now a museum was designed by Frank Furness in 1892.



George Read II House, was erected 1797-1804 it still stands next to the site his father's, George Read I's home, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, his advocacy enabled Delaware to become the first state ratifying the declaration. 






The site of the George Read I House is now the Read House Garden next to his son's home and the landscape changes throughout the season. Currently in December 2015, you can find a tall holly tree in bloom, winter berry another holiday favorite, as well as a pretty pink rose.  It was 68 degrees on Saturday, December in New Castle, Delaware.








Also along The Strand The Presbyterian Manse House, pastors home was open for tours. According to our guide at the door, the property originally belonged to a Mr. Cooper. In his will he stated that as long as a pastor from the church lived in the house it belonged to the church, if that were to change the house would go to a family member. I believe the house was built in the early 1800's.


It was was not until visiting a private residence on Fifth Street.  Sleeper Stomes were early railroad ties used before wooden rail tiles. They are found all over New Castle, some people them for decoration and many front stoops are made of "sleeper stones".



The backyard of a home open on the Spirit of Christmas in New Castle featured a lovely older home from the early 1800'sthat was moved across the street and addition was made from the old Post Office. That was fascinating in itself but the replica of the once New Castle Frenchtown Railroad.  See if you can find the sleeper stones.





Another home on Fourth Street had a beautiful collection of antiques and needlepoint work and then you were invited to the backyard to see the garden with Cherry Trees in bloom and look what else...




I do not recall how old these homes were but a contractor purchased the whole block of these homes and renovated and the townhouse we got to see was beautiful.  The kitchen was in the basement which is a little unusual but it worked.



One of my favorite houses, that I believe is only open during the holiday tours is the other Van Dyke House. I cannot tell a lie, I like it for its notoriety. It has rockstar status. I walked through the front door that Lafayette walked through when he attended a wedding of Charles duPont and Dorcas VanDyke. That is a story to tell the grandkids, Lafayette attended my wedding, as a matter of fact he gave your grandmother away.  Can you imagine? Now they have St. Nicholas hanging out on their front steps.  This is a special house in New Castle.




Each year on the second Saturday in December, New Castle has their Spirit of Christmas celebration.  Put this one on your list for next year, it is worth the trip.  Go early if you want to see all the houses and take advantage of all the festivities. There is a lot to see.






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