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The Dutch House is a rare survivor of an early artisan's dwelling

dating to the turn of the 18th century.  Our understanding of its complex history continues to fascinate historians and the public alike. 



The Dutch House’s mystique has intrigued visitors and townspeople alike for more than three centuries. The home originates from the late 17th century and is considered one of the oldest houses in Delaware. While the earliest indications of any building on the property are references to George Moore’s log house in the early 1680s, today, a turn-of-the-18th-century structure exists beneath a Federal period “skin.” The original one-story, timber-framed house (c. 1690-1710) measured 24’ x 17’, with a one-room plan. An 8’ open hearth with a four-foot-deep chimney bay ran along much of the length of the north wall. Its exterior was frame, as were the vast majority of early colonial houses. The interior framing system still exists in the contemporary house. Some exterior, horizontal wood siding also survives at the gable end of the house. Both Dutch and English building traditions can be seen in the home’s construction. The first-floor ceiling beams and posts were finished and exposed. The beams show decorative finishes from this early period. No cellar or attic existed at that time. A c. 1720 renovation added a lean-to, and subdivided the large hall into two spaces. The north room was a working hall, comprising two-thirds of the floor plan of the house, with a direct entry through a central door. A tight, winder stair behind the chimney led to a low half story above. The room to the south of this large working kitchen area was an unheated chamber, thought to be for sleeping. There appears to be more soot on beams in the north room, where the large open fire roared. In the smaller chamber to the south, surfaces on the beams show less soot and more whitewash, a technique used to lighten and brighten the space. The rear lean-to had a smaller fireplace and functioned as the best room in the house, or parlor. This floor plan follows the characteristic feature of the kitchen and best parlor being at opposite ends of the floor plan, enabling 18th-century residents to separate working and social functions. The lean-to was subdivided into two equal spaces. Throughout most of the 18th century, the Silsbee family of artisans lived here. Not long after the previous renovation, major work was done to the house in the mid-18th century. The house was raised off the ground, a cellar excavated, and the house wrapped on three sides in a brick exterior. After remodeling in 1823, a Federal style house joined the ranks of the other Federal houses along Third Street. Federal style fireplaces, woodwork, and a floor plan made the house appear as it does today. A full second floor was added at this time. In the late 19th century, the house was primarily a rental property, used as a storehouse for the Immanuel Episcopal Church, and as a home to “Miss Rachel Carter,” who reportedly operated a take-out luncheon shop and occasional speakeasy. The house was purchased in 1937 by the Delaware Society for the Preservation of Antiquities, and restoration completed. It opened shortly after as a historic house museum, “The Old Dutch House.” The assembling of the objects on exhibit was a project of Mrs. Louise du Pont Crowninshield. Mrs. Crowninshield, sister to Henry Francis du Pont of Winterthur, was a founder of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a prominent early preservationist. It was deeded to the New Castle Historical Society in 1946.

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Learn the complex history of the Dutch House as detailed in the 2003 historic structures report prepared by architectural historian Jeffrey Klee. 

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