Friday, August 21, 2015

Two Lost Houses from the Brandywine Sanatorium System

Nurses' Home on the move, 1941. From the
collection of James and Anita Brady
I'm going to group together here stories and photos of two different houses, both of which were owned by the Brandywine Sanatorium, later renamed Emily Bissell Hospital. They go together not only due to geographic proximity, but because in each case a new piece of information has shed some light on a long-standing mystery. Unfortunately (as often seems to be the case), in neither case, however, is the mystery completely solved. But in both cases, though, I was excited to see these new images and find this new information.

The first case has to do with the picture above, which was sent to me a while back by James Brady III. It was taken from one of his grandmother's photo albums, but at first neither he nor I knew anything more than was readily obvious. It's from 1941, of a house being moved, and has something to do with the Edgewood Sanatorium. The only thing I could add at first was that Edgewood was the "Colored" facility, for African-Americans with tuberculosis. It was located not far from Brandywine, on the bend in Hercules Road, at the top of the hill.

I've recently come across some information that changes my perception of Edgewood, so until I can nail everything down we'll eschew delving into a full history of the facility for now and come back to it in a later post. For our purposes in this post, it's enough to know that at the time it was a decent, but still a segregated, "separate but unequal" facility. And certainly by the late 1930's, in a Northern state like Delaware (well, at least New Castle County was a Northern state), places like this were being called into question. In fact, even this article from 1947 still refers to it as a "Jim Crow" institution. Finally, in 1941, the facility on Hercules Road was closed and a new Edgewood building was erected on the same grounds as the Brandywine Sanatorium. Although better than the original facility built in 1915, it was even this new sanatorium that the 1947 article referred to.

Edgewood Sanatorium on Hercules Road
So knowing this much of the facility's history helped to answer the Why? of the house's moving (Because it was closing), but it didn't help with the questions of What exactly was it? and Where was it going? These questions were answered by the sheet below, part of the 1941 insurance valuations of government buildings. In other posts I've only put up the photographs and not the entire sheet, but I include the entire document here because of one line, a little more than halfway down.

"These buildings are to be moved to Brandywine Sanatorium within the near future." When I saw the picture of the house, I was fairly sure that the moving building was the Nurses' Home. When I saw that line, I was sure. The valuations appear to have been done in early 1941, judging by the snow on the ground. The new Edgewood was built by then, but not yet opened, and can be seen below. I think it stood towards the north side of the property, beside a now-unused parking lot. It appears to have been demolished sometime between 1997 and 2002.

The "new" (1941) Edgewood Sanatorium

In looking at the photographs, I don't think there's any doubt that the house on the move was the Nurses' Home. It originally stood just behind the main Edgewood building, on its north side. The aerial photos below should help place it. Hercules Road can be seen in both pictures. The only unknowns now are 1) Where exactly on the Brandywine grounds was it placed? and 2) When was it torn down? If I find answers to either of these questions, I'll be sure to let you know.

Edgewood from the rear, Nurses' Home in upper left

Edgewood from the side, Nurses' Home at the top

Now on to the second not-as-much-of-a-mystery house. A few years back I did a post about the Bailey Family, which eventually came to live in the area right along Newport Gap Pike where Emily Bissell is now. My research on the topic all began with a simple question from a reader about stories of an old woman named "Miz Bailey", who lived in an old house in the woods up into the 1950's. I figured out who she was, and even thought I had identified her house in an old aerial photograph. Then I saw the picture below, and knew I hadn't been, well, exactly right.

Old Stone Farm House
This was included in the 1941 insurance valuations, along with other buildings owned by the Brandywine Sanatorium. It's on the same page as the sewage disposal plant, which I knew was across the road along Hyde Run. When I went back and looked at the photograph I had used to identify the house originally, I could see that most likely, the house I thought was Margaret Mabel Bailey's was this one, label "Old Stone Farm House". Below is basically the original shot from 1937 I had seen before.

Brandywine Sanatorium in foreground, Old Stone House near top middle

Of course, if this house is listed as it is in the valuations, it means it was owned by the sanatorium, which means it wasn't the home of old Miss Bailey. (Unless they continued to let her live there, but the story states she refused to sell her home, so I don't think that was the case.) So if she didn't live there, then where did she live? My best guess can be better seen in a close view.

Is  Margaret Bailey's house on the right?
Towards the right of the frame, there is a smaller building of some sort. I had assumed it was a barn, but it could be another house. It may have been a tenant house earlier in the Baileys' tenure, and perhaps Margaret held on to this smaller home for herself. In studying the picture, I don't see any other houses that could have been "back in the woods". If she didn't live there, then where? She was living somewhere near there when this picture was taken, so I think that smaller house must be hers. Another mystery unsolved, then maybe solved. Again it goes to show, it pays to pay attention to the details.

1 comment:

  1. there is a fence line that is just inside where the small building is and was, it may have been to seperate her from the property. There is also a home site a 100 yards or so from that spot, you can't see it from the picture.It had a largestone wall and several outbuildings. Dave Z