Thursday, September 30, 2010

John Bishop House

John Bishop House
 This past weekend, I and my family had the pleasure of riding the Wilmington and Western Railroad -- something we try to do at least a couple times each year (our daughter, especially, loves the train). In addition to being a pleasant, quiet ride through the scenic Red Clay Valley, the whole trip oozes with history. You really never go more than a couple minutes without passing some historic house, the ruins of a mill, or the remnants of a mill race. To anyone who has ever taken this trip, the house to the right should look very familiar. This picturesque gem (one railroad volunteer told me this view was his screen saver) is the John Bishop House, and it sits just west of Barley Mill Road, near where the road crosses Red Clay Creek north of Wooddale.

The Bishop House is one of those wonderful old homesteads that's tucked quietly away from all of the noise and hubbub that is much of New Castle County these days. If it weren't for the train, in fact, very few people would probably even know it was there. And though it was never a particularly prominent or important property, the Bishop House (and its accompanying barn) is a great example of one way old structures can last for two hundred years or more -- by growing. The oldest part of the house, in the center around the middle chimney, was built by John Bishop probably not long after he purchased the property from Charles Springer in 1805. Springer had erected first a log, then a frame house on the property, but it was Bishop who had the core of the current house constructed. Bishop's original home (built sometime between 1805 and 1816) is a two-story, fieldstone house of the one-room plan common in the eighteenth century. It has a full basement which, because the house is built on a hillside, is accessible through an outside door on the rear of the house.

The next part of the house added on was a two-story frame addition built on the east end of the stone section. With this addition, the original one room home came more into line with the nineteenth century Georgian style of having a symmetrical facade and a central staircase. This addition was in place by the middle of the century, but it's not clear who built it. It may have been Bishop, it may have been J. Dilworth, who is shown as owning the home on the 1868 Beers map, or it may have been an intermediate owner. Whoever the builder, this is how the house stayed for more than a century, until the last addition, a frame section on the west end, was put in place in 1970. Currently, the central stone section is covered in white stucco, while the frame sections have aluminum siding.

As the Bishop Farm's piece of the national register entry shows (it is one of seventeen sites grouped together in a thematic nomination of agricultural buildings in MCH), the house was not the only structure enlarged over the years. The barn, too, started out rather small and was enlarged several times over the years. It's likely that the barn needed to be enlarged to keep up with the changing needs of the farm, which started as a general, mixed farm but converted to a dairy operation. With increased livestock comes the need for increased feed storage.

Bishop Barn and possible second dwelling

In addition to the main house and barn, there are a few other structures of note on the property. First, there is a small stuccoed stone spring house at the base of the hillside. Also, a stone retaining wall, apparently contemporary to Bishop's home, runs behind the house and probably helps to shore up the foundation. Lastly, a fieldstone building now covered in siding (seen to the right of the barn in the picture above) may be as old as the stone section of the main house. It seems to be an auxiliary building now, but clues like the windows and the interior end chimney suggest that it might be the second stone dwelling listed for John Bishop on a 1816 property assessment. Taken all together, the John Bishop Farm is a beautiful piece of history in the scenic Red Clay Valley.

1 comment:

  1. Scott, Thank you very much for posting the pictures of the John Bishop Farm. He was my GGGGrandfather from my mothers side of my family.John Bishop Jr inherited the property from John Bishop Sr., who died Intestate sometime before March of 1786. John Sr's widow, Elizabeth Jordan Bishop then petitioned the Orphans Court for an allotment of 1/3 of the land tract.This included the Dwelling House, Barn and Stables and amounted to 74 Acres.160 Acres were remaining. This allotment was granted on 17 July 1787. On the plat map for the survey it shows Charles Springer's property on the East side of Red Clay Creek.I'm uncertain as to which Charles Springer he is.
    There have been two occasions where the property, or a part of the land, had been put up for sale for debts owed.
    John Bishop Sr inherited the land and Plantation from his father Nicholas Bishop by his Will written in 1745. Nicholas Bishop had originally purchased 100 Acres from Joseph & Catherine Stalcop Hedges in August of 1725. Nicholas then purchased another 100 Acres, located on the North West side of his original acreage, from Thom Penn. There was close to 250 Acres at one time. Nicholas Bishop son, Henry Bishop, married Maria Hedges, Joseph and Catherine Hedges niece. Nicholas's daughter Mary Bishop married James Springer, a son of Charles Springer and Maria Henrickson. In 1826 John Bishop Jr had issued 5 deeds for each of his children. I assumed that this broke up the total property. Again thank you for the photos. I've wondered for several years where the Farm was located and what it looked like. Now I know.