This Federal house was built as Charles Hillyard's country seat well outside of town. The date of construction is unknown, but a diary of 1798 refers to “Hillyards New Brick House.” Brick side-passage dwellings were popular at the time. Some features are conservative, such as the extensive interior paneling with dog-ears. Nineteenth-century owner Daniel Cowgill, a Quaker, allegedly made the place available as a stop on the Underground Railroad, as dramatized by a scene in George A. Townsend's novel, The Entailed Hat (1884). But Cowgill actually lived on another farm and rented the house, and the tunnel that supposedly helped slaves escape from the cellar to the St. Jones River is merely imaginary, though at least one Doverite today recalls playing in it as a child, and published sources continue wishfully to refer to it. The ivy-covered house was illustrated in Marion Harlan's More Colonial Homesteads (1899). At the behest of Governor Charles Terry, the state bought Woodburn in 1965 and restored it for use as the official mansion for the state's governor, the first Delaware ever had. Gubernatorial events find a handsome backdrop in the unusually large Federal stairhall (forty-one feet long), which Harlan found as spacious and shadowy as “an ocean cave.” The early-twentieth-century portico has grouped Doric columns.
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