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Red Lion Inn Facade

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c. 1830. 1947–1949 elements installed at Winterthur, Thomas T. Waterman
  • Red Lion Inn Facade (Delaware Postcard Collection, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Del.)

Fragments of several old Delaware structures were reincorporated into Winterthur. Frank Silver, who owned the brick tavern once known as Red Lion Inn in the Delaware town of that name, offered to sell pieces to Henry Francis du Pont in 1946, prior to demolishing the building. The place was historic: “At Red Lyon we gave the horses a bit of hay,” Washington's diary had read in 1791, referring to a predecessor building. For $995, du Pont got 700 feet of “shelving” and cornice, 465 feet of white pine flooring, three doors and their frames, two stairways, and other elements. Parts were used by Waterman to create a mock-facade very different from the original in an interior badminton court in 1948 (where the ancient inn sign is displayed), and other pieces were creatively employed in adjoining rooms.

Other Delaware architecture at Winterthur includes elements of Mordington (KT32), purchased in 1930. Pine paneling from an abandoned log farmhouse near Red Lion was obtained by 1938 for the “Delaware Room.” The Wilmington house, Latimeria (best known for the garden structures it provided), also gave interior woodwork, installed 1948. Finally, parts of the Thomas Shipley House in Wilmington (c. 1770, demolished 1957) were added in 1962–1964. In all cases, these were merely pieces of paneling and decorative trim plus, perhaps, doors and windows, which du Pont reassembled, often in a very free way, in his museum rooms. The guiding principle was aesthetics and convenience, not archaeological accuracy; the front door of Mordington became, for example, the entrance to “Massachusetts Hall.”

Writing Credits

W. Barksdale Maynard


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W. Barksdale Maynard, "Red Lion Inn Facade", [Wilmington, Delaware], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Delaware

Buildings of Delaware, W. Barksdale Maynard. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008, 61-61.

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