It all started last November, with a question in a comment on the post about the Josiah G. Hulett House. Bill Harris asked if I knew anything about a nearby stone house that overlooked Lancaster Pike. It sits on the south side of the road, on the left just before you cross Red Clay Creek and the railroad tracks if you're coming from Centerville Road or 141. It's made of fieldstone, and at first glance looks as if it could be 18th or 19th Century. I didn't really know anything about it at first, and some quick research gave me only the barest of facts. County information stated it was built in 1936, on land purchased the previous year by Hattie and Mahlon Milliken. An anonymous commenter stated that he/she cared for the Millikens late in their lives, and that they called the house "Beech Bower".
The real break, though, came recently when an even more closely connected source kindly filled in most of the gaps for us. I don't think I can tell the story any better, so I'll just repost the entire comment, then add a few thoughts of my own. This is what V Milliken B had to say:
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.Thank you, V Milliken B, for sharing your family's story with us. That's certainly more of a story than I expected that house to have. I want to mention that I did try to find the newspaper story about the house, but it must not have been in one that has been digitized and posted online yet. Pity. I'd love to see that story. The house sounds like it was the perfect grandparent's house to visit and play at, and it sounds like there were lots of fun times there.
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.
I also did some quick research into Hattie and Mahlon, and found a few interesting things (VMB, feel free to correct anything I've gotten wrong). Harriet "Hattie" Fuller Milliken was born May 1892 in Snohomish, Washington to William B. and Carrie S. Fuller. William was from Massachusetts, and Carrie was Canadian (naturalized in 1881). The family moved around a lot, undoubtedly due to William's job. Harriet, born in DC, had siblings born in Minnesota, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. As VMB stated, William was a civil engineer, and apparently a rather accomplished one (I'd expect no less from an MIT grad). His specialty seems to have been in the use of concrete, as this ad, in a book he helped write, shows. His moving around to various projects I'm sure explains the variety of birthplaces for his children. And as this 1913 New York Times article shows, his job could even be potentially dangerous at times.
As VMB noted, Harriet's brother, Bernard R. Fuller also graduated from MIT, and followed in his father's footsteps as a civil engineer. And also like his father, Bernard became a prominent builder of dams and water control facilities. This 1957 article at the time of his retirement has a good recap of his career, including some thrilling additions to the 1913 Mexican story. And on a personal note, that Mt. Morris dam mentioned is located on the Genesee River in NY, and helps to protect Letchworth State Park. It's a gorgeous park I've had the pleasure of visiting, so thank you Mr. Fuller for helping to protect it.
I guess the point of all that is that it shows that it's no surprise that Hattie designed such a beautiful house. It's a shame that she didn't get to attend MIT, too. Who knows how many other wonderful buildings she would have designed.
As a final note, I should also point out that VMB cleared up the connection to Hercules, too. It was clear that the property was linked to the site next door, and Mahlon Milliken was that link. As stated, he was an engineer and later a VP with the DuPont spin-off. It's no surprise then that the property and the house were eventually sold (or given) to the company, before recently returning to private hands. Thanks again to V Milliken B for giving us this great story, and thanks to the current owners for saving and restoring Hattie Milliken's dream house.