You are here


-A A +A
c. 1798. c. 1914 portico at rear, terraces. 151 King's Hwy.
  • Woodburn (Delaware Postcard Collection, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Del)
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)

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.

Writing Credits

W. Barksdale Maynard


What's Nearby


W. Barksdale Maynard, "Woodburn", [Dover, 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, 250-250.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.