The Delaware Historical Society’s Read House & Gardens dominates the streetscape of The Strand on the New Castle riverfront in the heart of the old city. The 22 room, 14,000-square-foot historic house was designed for George Read II, the son of a Delaware signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and highlights the distinctive Federal period design.
Both inside and outside, the home is carefully curated to reflect how residents from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century would have decorated and utilized the home. Many of the objects displayed are original pieces, while others are careful reproductions that add to the interpretation of this stunning historic house museum.
To that end, after fifteen years, and hundreds of thousands of footsteps by visitors, students, and staff, the main staircase at the Read House & Gardens has been adorned with a brand new carpet. Staff members from the Delaware Historical Society’s Education and Inspiration Group recently took a field trip to Family Heirloom Weavers in Red Lion, PA to see the new runner in the making.
Family Heirloom Weavers has been in business since the 1980s, and the workshop itself can be considered a museum. The mill is abuzz with approximately forty historic looms that weave textiles in traditional fashions. Because of Family Heirloom Weavers’ attention to historic detail, their woven goods have been commissioned by museums, movies, and historic presidential homes. Individuals can also commission pieces in styles ranging anywhere from post American Revolution to urban country.
The care given to assure textiles are woven in historically accurate styles and processes is important for display at the Read House & Gardens, where documentation of the furnishings of the primary rooms is quite rich. The 1836 estate inventory indicates that bare floors were covered with carpeting, including Scotch carpeting in the front parlor, and rag carpets in the front hall, Mrs. Read’s bedchamber, and the kitchen. Carpet also commonly covered stairs and stair landings in the nineteenth century. It is not explicitly listed in the inventory and no other documentation has yet been found which details what type of carpet covered the stairs at the Read House.
Previously, the main staircase had a Scalamandre Venetian Stripe carpet, in which the colors are complementary to the colors of the home’s decor and in the style of the time. The Venetian Stripe style was a popular rug choice in the first half of nineteenth century America, and it is characterized by bold stripes woven in bright, rich colors. Family Heirloom Weavers created a similar covering, which you can see in progress in the photos below. It has certainly brightened up the home.
Recognized as an “American Treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Park Service, the Delaware Historical Society’s Read House & Gardens reopens on April 1st.