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National Historic Landmark STONUM

Location: New Castle County, on the northwest corner of Ninth and Washington Streets, New Castle.

Sometimes also called Stoneham, this was George Read's country retreat, though today it is within the city limits of New Castle. The house is the only extant one associated with him. His principal residence, which he built in 1763 and lived in until his death in 1798, was destroyed by fire in 1824. The site is situated on The Strand in New Castle Historic District, about a mile away.

Stonum estate had been granted by William Penn to William Houston, and was subsequently owned by various others before Read purchased it, apparently in the 1750's. The earliest section of the building, the present rear part occupied by the kitchen, is a flat-roofed, two-story structure with an interior chimney. It dates from about 1730.

When flood damage on his marshy land led Read to sell the property in 1789, the main wing had already been built, but whether prior to or during his ownership is not certain. This section was attached to the south, or front, of the older building to form an L-shaped residence. Its panoramic view of the Delaware River has long since been obscured by industrial development.

The four-bay main wing is constructed of brick on a stone foundation. One room deep, it stands 2-1/2 stories high over a basement. There are two interior chimneys, at the southeast and northwest corners of the gable roof. Two gabled dormers face to the front. An original wood, dentiled cornice extends the length of the building. Shutters, paneled on the first floor and louvered on the second, flank the tall windows.

Stonum. (National Park Service (Boucher, 1975).)

All that now remains of the estate is a plot of less than an acre on the outskirts of New Castle. The building is in fair condition, but has been altered considerably. In 1850 a two-story, flat-roofed addition was erected in the northwest corner. This filled in the crook of the ell. To avoid blocking the north window of the main wing, the new section was curved away from that portion of the wall. In the 1920's a large cinderblock porch, stretching the length of the facade, was attached. Most of the brick superstructure has been stuccoed and painted yellow. Sheet metal has replaced the original roofing.

The only interior structural modification of the south wing, sometime prior to 1943, has been the removal of the east wall of the entrance hall so that the front door opens directly into the enlarged southeast corner room. A smaller room is to the west. Opposite the present front entrance is a 9-foot door, probably the main entry to the earliest portion of the building. The ground floor of the old part of the house contains the modernized kitchen and the narrow axial hall. The latter also gives access to the dining room, which is on the main floor of the northwest addition.

The stairway, located toward the east wall in the east front room, has an open stringer, sawed brackets, molded handrail and balusters, and paneled wainscoting. Other original features of the main wing are detailed woodwork, corner fireplaces, elegant mantels, and red-pine flooring.

Stonum, a private residence, is not open to the public.

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Last Updated: 29-Jul-2004