University of Delaware Environmental Soil Chemistry Members In The News


Cooperative Extension

University of Delaware

College of Agricultural Sciences



Plant and Soil Sciences
152 Townsend Hall
Newark, DE 19717

PH: (302) 831-2532

FAX: (302) 831-0605


February/March 2000

Volume 8 Issue 4

Newly Renovated Farmhouse to House College Offices


The Farmhouse in 1907 when women gathered on the porch for a Cooperative Extension home economics demonstration.

The Farmhouse as it looks today.

Photo by Stefan Hunger.

The new home for Environmental Soil Chemistry graduate students and post-docs.


Built more than 140 years, long before Townsend and Worrilow halls were constructed, the Farmhouse, with it's wraparound porch and three-bay window facade, has stood grandly, serving any number of purposes since 1907--the year the farmland and buildings became the property of the University of Delaware.

Now the Farmhouse has undergone yet another metamorphosis. With renovation completed in January 2000, the Farmhouse is being used primarily for offices for department of plant and soil sciences graduate students and research associates. The remaining space is for faculty and staff offices and a small meeting room.

Known in the Delaware historical registry as the Edward R. Wilson House, the Farmhouse is located on South campus, a quarter mile southeast of the intersection of Route 896 and the railroad tracks. The Delaware Historical Society states that the building's structure is "notable for its usually large size and uncommon number of rooms" and for the "architectural impressiveness of the building's exterior."

A large three-story frame house with a stone foundation, the UD Farmhouse was for many years a family residence. In the 1960s, it was converted into a dormitory for 9 to 12 men enrolled at the College. When a vice-president of UD maintenance was recruited from Utah, the Farmhouse was turned back into a residence to house the man's family of seven children. Five years later, the building was once again a dormitory, this time co-ed. In recent years, the building has been used for farm offices and storage space.

No one knows for certain how old the Farmhouse is, although its architectural features suggest a building date circa 1860. According to deed records, a grant for 1,244 acres passed from William Penn to James James in 1703. Part of this property now constitutes the university farm, on which the Farmhouse is situated. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the property changed hands several times. The house was owned by Edward R. Wilson in 1907--the time of transfer of property in to what was then called Delaware College.

Dr. George Worrilow, dean of the college from 1954 to 1964 lived in the Farmhouse with his wife and daughter, Stephanie Worrilow Dann. Dann says they moved into the residence when she was a junior in high school and lived there until the year before the house was turned into a dormitory.

"It was a fun house to live in--my bedroom had a fireplace," says Dann with a sigh. "It was a big house. I think my mother was one of the few deans' wives who actually liked living there."

Pleasure evident in her voice as she warms to her subject, Dann speaks by telephone from her home in Florida.

"Once a year, my mother held a tea for the college faculty and their wives. It was the kind of event that went along with my father's job," she recalls. "The tea was always in the spring, and Mother decorated with fresh flowers from our garden. It was not a catered event as functions are today, so on the day before teas, I helped her make the tea sandwiches."

Dann says the Farmhouse had a "pretty backyard" with a formal garden, as well as another garden on the side of the house by the railroad tracks, where strawberries and asparagus were planted. Her summer job was on the farm: she set up a stand every summer behind the house and sold apples and peaches.

For all it's size and formal architecture, their home was still definitely a farmhouse, Dann reminisces.

"One morning, dad went down to the basement, where he found some possums hanging by their tails," she recalls. "And once, when we had a big ice storm, the cows got out during lunch. Because all the farmhands were on break, I had to round up the herd. I had to chase them off the bridge there in front of the house."

The dairy herd still grazes the pasture across the lane from the house, a comforting remnant of days passed.

Although things change, others stay the same. The Farmhouse will remain a treasured part of the UD Newark farm&emdash;for both its historical significance and genteel beauty.

"We at the college value what the Farmhouse means to our common heritage," says Greg Rumsey, assistant dean of operations. "The newly renovated space preserves the essence of the Farmhouse while serving as functional office space for the College."

Copyright © University of Delaware, 2000.


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