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Plan to demolish historic Dover house paused as community waits for Bayhealth's response

Emily Lytle
Dover Post

The fate of one of Dover’s historic houses remains in limbo after Bayhealth Medical Center’s proposal for a parking lot expansion – which includes demolishing the Scull Mansion on the east side of South State Street – was put on hold last month.

Bayhealth asked the Dover Planning Commission to defer the planned public hearing to give the hospital time to reach out to community groups and neighbors, according to an Oct. 16 letter that Gregg Moore of Becker Morgan Group sent to the commission.

"Bayhealth will be reaching out to various parties over the next few weeks to better understand their concerns," said Bayhealth spokeswoman Danielle Pro-Hudson in a written statement Nov. 17.

The deferral comes after resident Nate Attard started a Google Forms petition to preserve the Scull Mansion. It had collected more than 450 signatures as of Nov. 11.

The Scull Mansion is on State Street across from the Bayhealth Hospital in Dover. The hospital had planned to demolish the historic house as part of a parking lot expansion. The project is now deferred as Bayhealth promises to speak with community members.

Attard said he noticed the yellow notice sign on the Scull Terrace property, and when he looked up the agenda for that month’s planning commission, he saw that Bayhealth planned to demolish the house.

Having moved from Buffalo, New York, to Dover just over a year ago, Attard felt the need to say something.

“This type of thing wouldn’t happen in a place like Buffalo," he said. "You don’t tear down a building on the National Register of Historic Places." 

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With some educational background in historic preservation and a career in city planning, Attard said he knew a petition would help convince the planning commission. What he didn’t expect was the amount of support he would receive.

“That level of support shows that a lot of people in the community value the building as a landmark,” he said. 

The Scull Mansion has been a focus of the Historical Society of Dover, also known as the Friends of Old Dover, for a long time. Many of the society's members have personal ties to the building because they knew or are related to the Scull family who lived there, said President Mary Mason.

Because the group focuses on preserving historic Dover and educating the community about the stories tied to the city’s oldest buildings, the historical society immediately got on board and helped share the petition. 

“The house is very important to people who are from Dover,” Mason said. “It is just one of the finest houses in this whole town.”

No public hearing happened at the Planning Commission meeting Oct. 19 after Bayhealth asked the city to defer the hearing.

Still, many longtime residents have a sentimental attachment to the hospital, too, she said. Their children and grandchildren were born there. Some have said goodbye to family members at Bayhealth.

Mason emphasized that the society wants to work with Bayhealth and find a way the hospital can use the old building, rather than tear it down.

“That’s the most important thing, that it’s beneficial to the hospital, too,” she said.

She suggested that Bayhealth could use the Scull Mansion as housing for health care workers who travel from far away to work.

The proposal has not been rescheduled for a future meeting at this time, according to Principal Planner Dawn Melson-Williams.

She encouraged people to pay attention to the meeting packets for upcoming planning commission meetings, which are available at cityofdover.com/meetings