Interchange work doomed historic, long-neglected house. A look back.
The Jehu Reed House, which had stood in Little Heaven since before the American Revolution, is no more.
Owner Jeff Pardee of Harrington completed demolition of the old manor July 18, leaving it little more than a pile of broken wood, bricks, and dirt.
It was something he’d never wanted to see happen, Pardee said, adding that when he was a child the home was “immaculate.”
“It was my grandmother’s house and I grew up there and my father grew up there. It was a really nice house,” Pardee said.
But time had not been kind to the Italianate-style building. A 2000 survey by the University of Delaware found both the interior and exterior were “seriously deteriorated” and all outbuildings “either deteriorated or are in extremely poor condition.”
A termite infestation caused a partial collapse of the interior in 2010. Damage from stormy weather in January of this year caused part of a front wall to fall in, opening up the interior to the elements.
The property also had become the target of vandals, some of whom would climb inside and steal fixtures and other pieces of the interior, Pardee said.
“Someone even stole my ‘no trespassing’ signs,” he said.
Pardee said the fate of the home came down to money: it would have taken millions to repair the building, money he did not have.
Pardee paid $100 for a Kent County demolition permit in January; he finished pulling down the home last week, days before the permit’s July 25 expiration date. Kent County officials, he added, said they would not renew the permit, meaning they’d bid out for a contractor to do the demolition work. He’d still be responsible for paying the contractor, he said.
“I didn’t have an option,” Pardee said. “The county wanted it down. People were riding by and complaining and bitching about me. It was just a nuisance.
“People wouldn’t leave me alone; the county called and said I had to have it down.”
Sick to see it go’
The original portion of the home, which was on the National Register of Historic Places, was built by Henry Newell in 1771. He willed the property to his three daughters; after his death, one of them bought the property rights from her sisters and passed the land and home to a daughter, who in 1827 married Jehu Reed.
Reed was considered a pioneer in scientific agriculture and helped introduce the peach industry to Kent County. He also raised his own silkworms; an 1831 newspaper article noted he was offering 10,000 white mulberry trees for sale.
The leaves of the mulberry are used to feed the cocoon-creating worms.
His son, Jehu M. Reed, expanded the farm, which eventually grew to several thousand acres and included a number of outbuildings.
To reflect his growing wealth, Jehu M. Reed enlarged the original home in 1868 by adding a third floor and enlarging the floor plan. The land and the house remained in the Reed family until 1912 when it was purchased by Dover attorney Arley Magee. It changed hands several times until bought by Pardee’s family.
Most recently Pardee’s uncle, Charlie Roberts, lived in the house from 1944 until the partial interior collapse in 2010.
Roberts, now in his 80s, lives in a mobile home on the five-acre property.
More recently, the area in front of the home had become the focus of a major construction project along Del. Route 1, although the work, which includes a traffic overpass and rebuilding a road that reaches Bowers Beach, was designed to avoid disturbing the house.
Pardee currently has no plans to develop the property after the remains of the old home are removed.
“I plan to keep it and to hold on to it,” he said.
A low wall that surrounded three sides of the property, bordering on U.S. Route 13, may stay, depending on its condition, he said. His Uncle Charlie can stay in his mobile home for the rest of his life if he desires, Pardee added.
He admits it’s an unfortunate end to a piece of Delaware history.
“Nobody feels worse about this than I do,” Pardee said. “I’m just sick to see it go but I had no choice.”