Thursday, November 17, 2011

Josiah G. Hulett's House -- Found

Josiah Hulett's old house, 1939
Over the summer, I did a post about Josiah G. Hulett which included information about a house that he and his family resided in for about ten or fifteen years. Thanks to Josiah's great-granddaughter, Jeanne Jackson Dell’Acqua, we knew a little about the house, but not everything. Jeanne was fairly sure that the house stood somewhere near (or most likely, on) the Hercules property off of Lancaster Pike and Hercules Road, but we didn't know for sure exactly what its location was. Now, we do. It was exactly where I thought it was -- I just couldn't find any proof until now.

The picture above is a close-up of an aerial photo taken in 1939 by the Dallin Aerial Survey Company, many of whose pictures can be found on the Hagley Museum website. Luckily for us, probably due to its connection with the DuPont Company, the site includes several pictures of the Hercules property dating to the late 1930's. Luckily, again, the pictures are of a fairly high resolution, which allows you to zoom in pretty tight. To refresh your memory, the picture below was the one of the house provided by Jeanne, and taken about 1920.


Here is one other close-up of a 1939 aerial shot.


The left one of the 1920 pictures is the front of the house, which faced towards the barn, and towards Lancaster Pike. The righthand picture is of the far side of the house (from the perspective of the aerials). To the left of the front view, you can see the side porch. If you want to explore the aerial pictures yourself, you can find them here and here.

And just to give a bit of perspective as to where the house actually sat, below is a modern aerial shot showing Lancaster Pike, Hercules Road, and the golf course. The blue outline indicates the former site of the house. The barn still stands (as far as I know) just above it.


In my mind, these pictures are pretty definitive in placing the Josiah G. Hulett House (or the R. Smithurst or John Peoples House, as it appears on the 1868 and the 1881 and 1893 maps) in the middle of what was the Hercules, and then for a time, the Delaware National, golf course. Since the house is still shown with the name John Peoples during and after the Huletts' living there, it seems likely that they rented the house from Peoples. This also fits, as Josiah's only surviving son was named Byron Carlton Peoples Hulett. All in all, and considering that this style of house doesn't seem too common in this area, I'm confident that the house shown in the aerial photos is the same as the one in the 1920 photos. It just took the luck of stumbling across the pictures to prove it.

20 comments:

  1. Good find, but a descriptive error in your write-up.

    Delaware National Golf Course is no more- it closed last winter and is now waiting for development into high-end homes and townhouses. The southern portion of the golf course is already being transformed into McMansions.

    Speaking of the houses along Lancaster Pike near the old Hercules property, do you have an history on the beautiful field stone house that sits on a hill overlooking Lancaster Pike? At one point it looked like it was destined for destruction but it now looks like it has been saved.

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    1. don't go up there old couple redoing home they call cops quick marra doing town homes next to lot they taking lot trees out old hole #13 its damn shame sad see it all go and old red barn went with the country club only one barn left back by little falls hole #9 dates back to late 1800 early 1900 still standing I walk a lot every day there and old pump station from Emily p Bissell anyone need imo im the man thanks ERIC

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  2. Bill -- Thanks for pointing that out. I made a slight edit to the post. That also brings up another point -- what's the future plan for the area around the house site and the barn? You're right that the southern part is already being developed. I admit that this is a fight I haven't particularly kept up with, outside of I think there have been questions about soil contamination on the site. Does anyone know if there are plans to develop the northern part?

    As for the stone house, which direction is it in? I can't think of one closer than to the east on the other side of Centerville Rd. Is that what you mean?

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  3. OK, I think I might know what you mean now. There's a house on the south side of Lancaster Pike not far over the creek. I don't know what it is right now, but I can look into it.

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  4. Scott-

    Yes, that is the house I was thinking about.

    The entire former golf course is closed and slated for development into housing with the Research Center smack dab in the middle of it. Aside from the traffic and environmental issues, we will also be losing another piece of our historical heritage. Perhaps the history of this acreage could be the subject of a future article of yours.

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  5. Bill -- I think I have an answer for you about that house. From the evidence I've seen, I think it's "only" about 75 years old. A DelDOT report that covered this area never mentioned it. Old maps (up through 1892) don't show anything in that area. According to the county land use site, the house was built in 1936. This makes sense, because the property was purchased in late 1935 by Hattie and Mahlon Milliken. They probably built the house. The lot was sold in 1960 to Hercules.

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  6. There was land, I believe owned by Hercules, adjoining the golf course and reaching nearly to Newport Gap Pike. It included a woods (where Miss Bailey lived), an area with an old carriage road and a small stream, flowing behind the Home for the Blind.
    When I last looked at a map site (I live overseas and haven't been back to visit for over seven years) - it seemed as the whole forest was gone.
    I spent a lot of time wandering and hiking in that woods as a child and it went right up to my parents' property.
    M.S.
    Is it really gone?

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  7. To the best of my knowledge, there is still some woods there. Not too long ago I went wandering back there, along Hyde Run (the stream you mentioned, also the same stream that goes through Brandywine Springs park). I think there's still a wooded area along the stream, and right behind Camp Sunnybrooke (which is now the hq for the DE Assoc. for the Blind). A lot of it has been cut down, though. I think all that's saving what's left is the fact that some of it's owned by the DAB, and some by Emily Bissell Hospital.

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  8. Hey that is my house.

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  9. I took care of Mahlon & Hattie Milliken until they passed away back in the 70's. They did build and live in a home on Lancaster Pike that they called Beech Bower. I was blessed to get a tour inside back around 1978.

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    1. Thanks for confirming that for us. (This is refering to the stone house on the south side of Lancaster Pike, just east of Red Clay Creek, mentioned in above comments from Nov 2011.) Thanks also for giving us their name for the house. That, I would not have been able to deduce.

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    2. Do you know who was living there in 1978?

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    3. Short answer is: I don't know. According to online county records, the Millikens sold the property to Hercules in 1960, but only for $10, so there was obviously some sort of deal. According to the commenter above, they continued to live there until the 70's. In 2001 it transfered to the "Woodale Country Club LLC", then back into private hands in 2007.

      If the Millikens had passed by 1978, then there's no way for me to know who was living there. Presumably there were tenants there between the Millikens and 2007, but if there were, I don't know who. Sorry.

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    4. The person who visited and took care of them would know.
      Does that person?

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  10. Can you advise who was living there in 1978?

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  11. My grandmother Harriet Fuller Milliken designed the house when she was a young girl aspiring to go to MIT and study architecture. (Her father and brother had graduated from MIT in civil engineering.) That didn't happen, but she kept her plans and was able to build her dream house in 1936. It was featured in the local newspaper when it was built.
    I grew up in Wilmington where my father, the eldest son of Hattie and Mahlon, worked for Dupont and Mahlon worked as a VP for Hercules. I spent many weekends there, we always went sledding on the golf course and walked in the woods attached to the property. The house was fabulous inside with lots of space to play and three porches. The grounds had a huge lawn for croquet, rows of flowers, a huge vegetable garden, paths through the woods, gigantic fallen trees to play on, and a swing strung by ropes way up high between two beech trees on which we would swing way out over the hill which descended to the little marsh between our grandparents house and the Hercules golf course. I spent a great deal of my youth there between 1946 and 1963. At that time it had a lovely long curved driveway descending down the hill to Lancaster Pike before they cut away half of the hill widening the highway.
    The Millikens moved out in 1963, I believe that was the year that we moved their furniture into Lancaster Court apartments (they had a house in Dunedin, FL where they spent most of their time) and it became the Hercules guest house. Later a family named the Browns, I believe, rented it. It fell into the hands of vandals and vagrants for many years until some wonderful people bought it in 2007, saved it from demolition, and have renovated it and made it exactly the way it was when it was built in 1936. Our family is forever grateful to them for saving my grandmother's dream house.

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    1. I believe that I should have used the verb "restored" instead of "renovated" for what the new owners have done to save the house from vandals who had destroyed a great deal of the interior.

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  12. Hi, I wanted to clear up a few things about Beech Bower (Hattie Milliken House), the reason online records showed the $10.00 price is when the buyers do not want it public knowledge of the selling price. I am aware of this because I am the private owner of this house currently. I have done extensive research on the Milliken family, the people that rented in the years after the Milliken family left. Harriett Fay Fuller Milliken was born in DC 6/30/1891 and died in Delaware 3/3/1979. Don't know when she married Mahlon G. Milliken, but he was born 5/15/1890 and died in Florida 10/28/1976, they are both buried in Silverbrook Cemetery located on Lancaster Pike and DuPont Rd. in Wilmington.

    I have met Margaret, the only living child of Hattie & Mahlon's and her son Jay and they have filled in the gaps, and provided me with many wonderful pictures. I was also fortunate to me VMB and her sister to shared some extraordinary stories.

    I have been restoring Beech Bower since 2008, and think if Hattie were alive she would be very happy with the results. I always wanted an older home, and when I saw this beautiful home falling into disrepair I was angry. I became a person possessed to know everything about this house and try to purchase it! It had been left vacant for over 12 years with many people going in and out trashing it!

    After it was sold in 2001 along with the Golf Course, this is when the most vandalism began. There were no attempts to secure the house, and with every hit, the house lost something else. Copper, shutters, stairs, lights, switch plates and even the fireplace mantle were gone! Radiators were blown out and most of the windows and mirrors were kicked in. I was so sick when I saw what the house looked like in 1936, and what the previous owner had left it become.

    Craftmanship that you find in older homes is becoming a dying art! Each generation wants to go things a new and easier way to make the most money and do the least work. I wanted this home to be of the period, not close enough, so finding the right people had been difficult.

    I found an old picture from a family that had rented in the 1980's till 1997 and they gave me some insight into what the inside looked like before the vandalism. Hattie had done a wonderful job of designing this home. Each room was designed with a person in mind, each closet had it own purpose, and even the third floor was designed for live in help. I was surprised that there was a Bathroom in the basement, just in case people needed to wash up or use a Bathroom, they wouldn't have to go through her home if they were dirty.

    In the 30's people were happy to work because of those depression years, and the Milliken's were fortunate to hire the best of the best. The beautiful stone came from the Woodsdale Quarry, which was located off Lancaster Pike. They had many knowledgeable craftsmen working on their home who were proud tradesmen of the time.

    When the work was completed they had an article written in the local paper showing the beautiful finished job. Hattie was so proud to show off every detail of her beautiful "Beech Bower". and so am I!

    Thank You letting me share.
    SRL

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  13. Hi again, this is SRL, current owner of Beech Bower and I wanted to ask anyone this question? If Hattie and Mahlon sold the house back to Hercules in 1960, when did they move back to Florida? The reason I am curious is that in a previous comment, someone said they had caried for the aging Milliken's in the 1970's? Where was this care done, as Mahlon passed away 1976, and Hattie passed in 1979, was it in Florida or here in Delaware? Also, does anyone know when they left Delaware for Duneiden, Florida?

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  14. red barn gone 2011 just stone foundation now lawn guys back there and poachers use caution

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