1985: The Read House reopens

Three years after Lydia Laird bequeathed the Read House and Gardens to the Historical Society of Delaware, the Society undertook major architectural renovations to restore the house to its original 1801 appearance. In 1985, those projects came to an end and the house was reopened to the public.

Furnishing the interior of the house was the last step in this long process. However, unlike other house museums, the interpretation of the Read House needed to represent two distinct time periods and owners. The dining room, master bedroom, and basement taproom were furnished to show the lifestyle of the last owners, Philip and Lydia Laird. These rooms were furnished with original objects from the 1930s almost exactly the way they appeared in photographs of the period. First floor spaces including the parlor were furnished to reflect how the house appeared a century earlier, during the life of George Read II. The Society’s curators used Read’s 1836 estate inventory to find and purchase items that resemble what he would have had in his home during the early 19th century.

After its reopening, the Read House attracted large numbers of tourists. The Society reported that between March 1 and August 15, 1986, nearly 8,500 people visited the historic site, including over 4,500 school children. The house was also used for special events and receptions for the Friends of Viellies Maisons Francaises, the Delaware Valley chapters of the Association for Preservation Technology, and the Museums Council of Greater Philadelphia. Today, the house and gardens continues to serve as a popular tourist attraction.


Curators hang a mirror in the newly renovated Read House.
Curators hang a mirror in the newly renovated Read House.

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