Save This Old House: Delaware Georgian Farmhouse
A free farmhouse from the 1700s is facing the wrecking ball but is available for a move
Published March 2014
Update: The house is no longer available
Price: $0 (must be moved)
Location: Port Penn, Delaware
The history: In 1657, a young soldier named Peter Alrich embarked from Holland on the treacherous journey to the New World. After being shipwrecked, he arrived in what would eventually become Delaware and was tasked with helping defend a Dutch fort from the British. Later he was put in charge of overseeing local land deals, during which time he paid 1,120 guilders (about $640 today) for a 1,473-acre parcel where his grandson, also named Peter, later built this sturdy Georgian farmhouse. The circa 1760 house was home to many Alrich descendants before being sold to outsiders sometime in the 1800s.
Shown: The original structure was a single section with two rooms on the first and second floors. With two additions, the three-bedroom, one-bath house is now about 2,800 square feet.
In 1997, Delaware Wild Lands purchased the house and its remaining 340-acre parcel to protect the property from development. A caretaker lived in the house until 2011, when the septic system failed. Now it must be moved to safeguard the nearby marsh or it will face demolition by wrecking ball.
Shown: Decorative masonry details on the exterior are well preserved.
Why save it? The handsome exterior features brickwork in a Flemish bond pattern with a belt course between the two floors. Inside, original details remain, including wood mantels and wide-plank pine floors.
Shown: This early fireplace surround likely dates from the 1760s.
What it needs: Aside from a permanent plot, the house will need updates to the electrical service, new plumbing, and a heating system. Floor joists on the first level should be reinforced or replaced. Port Penn is a town of about 600, about 20 miles south of Wilmington. Lots in the area start at around $8,000. Moving and restoring the house is a big job but well worth it. After all, it's not every day you come across a house so old that it was paid for in guilders.
Shown: Square support columns in the living room were added around 1900.
A hand-milled fireplace surround on the second floor. The opening has been plastered over.
Pine floorboards measuring as wide as 12 inches can be found throughout the house. Some are well protected under layers of carpet.
A box newel post on the first floor was added during a renovation around 1900.