In 1975, the Delaware Historical Society took on a new dimension with the acquisition of the Read House and Gardens in historic New Castle after the death of Lydia Laird, fulfilling a commitment made in 1965 (see blog entry for that year). Her generosity expanded the Society’s reach beyond Wilmington and gave it a new way to present Delaware’s history.
Philip and Lydia Laird’s purchase of the house in 1920 added another layer to its history, after its use by the Read and Couper families. The Lairds furnished the house with antiques in the fashion of the colonial revival. They added a swimming pool in the garden and tap rooms in the basement to make it a center for entertaining. They also installed modern plumbing. As mentioned in our blog for 1920, their interest in historic preservation led them to purchase other properties in New Castle, and they were also involved in the New Castle Restoration project of the late 1940s.
The house came with most of the Lairds’ furnishings, so it opened to the public in an as-is condition soon after the Society acquired it. The Society also began extensive research on the house and made plans for a thorough interior and exterior restoration, completed in 1986. But historic houses are like all houses, only more so—they always require more work and money, so the maintenance of the Read House is an ongoing saga.
The Society is proud to share this architectural treasure with the public in a way that honors the three families who have lived there. Continuing research is always adding new layers to our understanding of the house and property. The best way to experience the Read House is to visit it—go to http://www.dehistory.org/hours-a-fees/166-home-page/read-house-gardens/161-read-house-gardens for more information.