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Historic Read House recipient of $300,000 federal cultural heritage grant

The Read House in New Castle will be getting some upgrades thanks to a new federal grant.

The Read House was built between 1797 and 1804 for the son of George Read I, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.


"There was really no expense spared. It’s a very beautiful, simple but prime example of neoclassical architecture," Delaware Historical Society Advancement Officer Trudy Hansen said.


Hansen says the funds will help update the Read House’s security and fire detection systems.


The $300,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections program will help maintain the monumental house, which Read House Director Michele Anstine says was designed to emphasize verticality.


"It means the house seems to sort of reach for the sky. So the windows are elongated, there are certain facets of the architecture that really draw the eye up," Anstine said.


It’s the first time the Delaware Historical Society has received this grant, and the Read House project is one of only 14 programs nationwide selected for funding this year.


Anstine says the site is very complex, with a lot of stories to be told about it.

"We really draw on a lot of different disciplines, a lot of different fields, to create a well-rounded story of how people were living on the property, working on the property, using the property over the years," Anstine said.


Anstine adds she’s working on a book about the house featuring different scholars, PhD students and practitioners. The working title is New Stories from Old Things: Alternative History of the Read House & Gardens.


She says the house also serves as a learning laboratory for student field trips, and Delaware Historical Society interns.

Work on the house is scheduled to begin in spring 2017 and run through the end of the year. The house will be closed to the public until May 2018 while upgrades are completed.

Since it's a matching grant, the Delaware Historical Society must provide a matching amount of $300,000 to put towards the project.

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