Couple Leaves Yorklyn; Creates Jewel in the City

Footprint of the convent-turned townhouse is an entire city block.


Published:

 Larry Bryce relaxes in front of the fireplace—a new addition to the old home.

For more than 10 years, Jeanne and Lawrence Bryce lived happily in the country, in a peaceful enclave in Yorklyn.

It was a lovely home, steeped in character, built in 1908 for managers of a snuff mill. Deer frolicked in green meadows across the lane. Only one thing was lacking.

“The city,” says Jeanne. “We missed the city.”

Years before, the couple had lived in the Highlands neighborhood in Wilmington, where they raised three teenagers.

In search of the ideal empty nest, they returned to their old neighborhood, which offers both tree-lined streets and ready access to shops and restaurants.

They found their new home in a community of semi-detached houses, originally a convent built in 1893 for the Sisters of the Visitation, an order of cloistered nuns. 

“After living in homes with some history, we gravitate toward places that have unique quirks,” Larry Bryce says.

The terra cotta roof that crowned the nunnery was removed when the property was redeveloped 20 years ago. Chunks of Brandywine granite walls were transported to a new convent in rural Massachusetts when the last two sisters, age 99 and 101, moved out in 1993. 

Blessedly, most of the walls remain, defining intimate garden courtyards. The community retains its original footprint, encompassing an entire city block.

In addition to charm and history, the three-story townhouse the Bryces bought offers modern amenities, including a spacious master bath with a jetted tub. A convenient, second-floor laundry room ticked another box on the couple’s wish list. An attached, two-car garage, a rare find in the city, was an added incentive.

“We love that the rooms are large and there’s a good flow,” Jeanne Bryce says. “There’s also great storage, including three big closets in the master bedroom.”

 

Making the House Their Own

Still, there was lots of work to be done before the Bryces would achieve their vision of a gracious city townhouse. 

Larry Bryce took his designs for built-in cabinetry and bookcases to London Grove Cabinetmakers, where his ideas were translated into custom millwork. They added crown molding. They replaced wall-to-wall carpeting on the second floor with oak floors that match the hardwoods on the first floor.

Their greatest challenge was adding a wood burning fireplace to the living room, which has no exterior walls to accommodate a chimney. The solution was to run a flue through an interior wall, a task that required exacting measurements.

The couple ordered the graceful mantel from a woodworker in Alabama, who shipped it to their door.

“It was the wrong size so we had to make some adjustments,” Larry Bryce says. “But when we sit in front of a crackling fire all the hassles we went through to get our fireplace just melt away.”

 

A Recipe for Success

Jeanne Bryce is an accomplished cook and the Bryces enjoy entertaining family and friends. Installing a new kitchen was at the top of their wish list.

To come up with a plan for an attractive, functional space, the couple turned to a trusted friend, Catherine Hodgins of Kitchens by Design in Fairville, Pa.

“They wanted a timeless kitchen, with simple white cabinets and polished nickel hardware,” Hodgins recalls. “They also love to work together at the sink, so we needed a sink that was large enough for two people to use comfortably.”

For starters, the wall defining a cramped nook adjacent to the kitchen was removed, creating a huge galley, 29 feet long and nine feet wide.

The existing kitchen was short on counter space, with a large, inefficient pantry cupboard and a seldom-used closet gobbling up square footage. Tearing out the cupboard provided a place to extend the counters, as well as upper and lower cabinets for storage. The closet was replaced with a glass-fronted upper cabinet and wood-fronted lower cabinet, a staging area for serving in the adjoining dining room.

Namibian green granite counters, a distinctive species of stone flecked with silver and black, ramp up the glamour quotient. The mosaic backsplash depicting a 16th-century map of the world was a floor sample at the tile shop.

“It was glued to the display board, so Larry soaked it off,” Jeanne Bryce recalls.

After lots of research, she chose an electric induction cooktop, which works by directly heating the pots and pans used to cook food.

“It’s as responsive as gas and the smooth surface is a dream to clean,” she says.

From left to right: The bench in the master bedroom was refreshed and renewed with a silky stripe fabric and double cording; In the formal dining room, contrasting shades of blue highlight the chair rail, with light blue above and navy below; The spacious living room; The mosaic backsplash depicting a 16th-century map of the world was a floor sample at a tile shop.

 

A Spin on the Color Wheel

When the couple bought their home the interior was a blank canvas, with white walls from top to bottom, except for a powder room painted vibrant turquoise.

Before they moved in, the Bryces settled on soft yellow for the foyer and living room and a soothing, gray-tinged blue called winter lake for the master bedroom.

“I am a believer in staying away from trendy colors because your room will look dated when the next trendy color comes along,” Jeanne says. “We pick colors because we like them, not because they are the latest style.”

In the formal dining room, contrasting shades of blue highlight the chair rail, with light blue above and navy below. 

In the kitchen, the walls are painted in Kitty Gray, a shade by Benjamin Moore that plays a cat-and-mouse game with changing light throughout the day. 

“Sometimes it’s charcoal, sometimes it’s green and sometimes it’s blueish,” she says.

 

Furnishing the House

In the living room, an elegant camel-back sofa upholstered in a subdued print of golden yellow and slate blue set the tone for the design.

“Start with one thing you love and then go from there,” Jeanne Bryce advises.

To give their home a sense of history, the Bryces have mixed antiques, reproductions and high-quality furniture discovered at second-hand and resale stores. Oriental rugs—“they go with everything,” she says—add a layer of warmth and color. 

The brass-and-glass cocktail table and Russian architectural renderings in the living room came from a favorite resource, Fabulous Finds in Centreville. The antique brass chandelier in the dining room, resplendent with etched-glass globes, reflects an era when Americans were transitioning between gas and electric light.

Larry Bryce is a bibliophile who loves having books around him. He organizes them, literally, by the book. The volumes in his collection of English literature are arranged chronologically on bookcases that flank the living room sofa, from ancient Irish sagas to the 20th century works of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. 

Jeanne Bryce, a gifted seamstress, sewed the pillows on the sofa in the living room and the floor-to-ceiling drapes in the dining room. The upholstered bench in the master bedroom was refreshed and renewed with a silky stripe fabric and double cording, the work of Jim Stafford at Creative Coverings in New Castle.

 

A Sunny Outlook

The couple enjoyed the screened porch on the back of the house, so much so that they decided to convert it into a sun room for year-round relaxation. Taylor Builders of Newport transformed the jot of a room, 11 feet by 12 feet, into a cozy retreat with heated tile floors. 

To maximize the view and access to the garden, the Bryces researched options at Chapman Windows and Doors in West Chester, ultimately combining products from three different manufacturers to get just the right fit.

“In the summer, we can open the casement windows and it’s very much like a screened porch,” Jeanne Bryce says.

Completing a series of projects requires hard work, patience and a willingness to endure the bumps in the road that accompany renovation. Larry Bryce recalls sitting among the boxes, eating his morning corn flakes with a plastic fork, the only utensil he could find. 

In the end, the couple created a home they treasure, their jewel in the city.

“If you are buying a house you will renovate, do as much as you can before you move in,” Jeanne Bryce advises. “And buy a good vacuum cleaner.”    

The antique brass chandelier in the dining room reflects an era when Americans were transitioning between gas and electric light.

Get th​e Look

  • Borrow light from adjoining spaces. With walls on both sides, the Bryce living room had only the doorway leading to a sun porch as a conduit for natural light. Their solution was to widen the doorway, add transom windows and install skylights in the sunroom, instantly brightening the living room and offering a view of the walled garden beyond.
  • Designate rooms to suit your lifestyle. As empty nesters, the Bryces don’t need lots of bedrooms. So they repurposed two guest rooms into spaces they can enjoy on a day-to-day basis. One room is now a spacious sewing room for Jeanne; another is a cozy den where the couple can read and watch TV.
  • Take a page from the classics. For a timeless look, embrace elements that never go out of style, such as Oriental rugs, fine art, subtly patterned fabrics, chairs arranged in pairs, crown moldings and hardwood floors. 
  • Create a master retreat. A pair of wing chairs or a settee tucked into the master bedroom will provide a comfy place to enjoy morning coffee, a relaxed setting for a couple to begin the day.
  • Optimize your space. The Bryces removed the wall defining a tiny breakfast nook adjacent to the kitchen, providing them with both room for casual dining, as well as a built-in desk and home office area.
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May 2018

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Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
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Cost: free

Where:
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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Cost: free

Where:
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
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More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
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View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

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Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

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Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
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Cost: free

Where:
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View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
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View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
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View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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View map »


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Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

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View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

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Cost: free with admission

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Alexi Natchev: Prints and Drawings will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from May 4-25, 2018. A free opening reception to meet the artist will be held on Friday, May 4 from 5-7 p.m. Alexi...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
2nd Floor, Carvel State Office Building
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8283
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Try practicing yoga in a beautiful garden setting, strengthening your body and spirit. Our yoga class is open to all levels. We will practice slow, easy motions to get into the rhythm of nature....

Cost: $10

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

A newly acquired cabinet at Winterthur and related objects in the collection emerge as tools in the lucrative business of transatlantic trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Curated by graduate...

Cost: free with admission

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Story Time Thursdays 10:30 - 11 a.m. Enjoy fun animal stories read by our own zoo story-telling team! Story time takes place in the otter circle, in the main zoo, and may include a craft,...

Cost: $7 - $0

Where:
Brandywine Zoo
1001 North Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Telephone: 302-571-7747
Website »

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Charity Golf Event to benefit Children's Beach House A great way to start your Memorial Day weekend a day early! Make sure to register as a single golfer or register your foursome ahead of...

Cost: $225 Single Golfer / $900 Foursome

Where:
Peninsula on Indian River Bay
26937 Bay Farm Rd.
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Sponsor: The Ocean Atlantic Companies
Website »

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Crooked Hammock Brewery is celebrating the unofficial start of summer all Memorial Day weekend! The festivities kick off on Thursday, May 24th with the release of their two summer seasonal beers,...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
Crooked Hammock Brewery
36707 Crooked Hammock Way
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Crooked Hammock Brewery
Telephone: 302-644-7837
Contact Name: Jon
Website »

More information

Join us on The Patio, voted Best Outdoor Dining by Delaware Today readers! Happy hour 4PM - 6:30PM, live entertainment 6PM - 9PM, local craft beer, handcrafted cocktails, creative gastropub menu,...

Cost: menu items vary

Where:
Hilton Christiana
100 Continental Dr.
Newark, DE  19713
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Relax and unwind after a long day with the Museum’s popular Happy Hour series. Enjoy live music on the terrace with friends or tour the galleries indoors. Special themed nights will be scheduled...

Cost: Museum galleries are open with free admission every Thursday from 4–8 pm

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

More information

  Join Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant as they open their doors to the public on May 24, 2018!  

Cost: Free

Where:
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
19815 Coastal Hwy
Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971
View map »


Sponsor: Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant

More information

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Alexi Natchev: Prints and Drawings will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from May 4-25, 2018. A free opening reception to meet the artist will be held on Friday, May 4 from 5-7 p.m. Alexi...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
2nd Floor, Carvel State Office Building
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8283
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

A newly acquired cabinet at Winterthur and related objects in the collection emerge as tools in the lucrative business of transatlantic trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Curated by graduate...

Cost: free with admission

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through a story reading followed by an interactive tour of relevant works of art and a studio art project. This program encourages...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

Crooked Hammock Brewery is celebrating the unofficial start of summer all Memorial Day weekend! The festivities kick off on Thursday, May 24th with the release of their two summer seasonal beers,...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
Crooked Hammock Brewery
36707 Crooked Hammock Way
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Crooked Hammock Brewery
Telephone: 302-644-7837
Contact Name: Jon
Website »

More information

  Join Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant as they open their doors to the public on May 24, 2018!  

Cost: Free

Where:
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
19815 Coastal Hwy
Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971
View map »


Sponsor: Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant

More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

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Sixth annual St. Catherine of Siena Community Garage Sale held in Church parking lot. One-stop shopping! Approximately 25 homes gather in one location to make your garage sale shopping...

Cost: $25/Consignors ONLY

Where:
St. Catherine of Siena Parish Parking Lot
2503 Centerville Road
Wilmington, DE  19808
View map »


Sponsor: St. Catherine of Siena
Telephone: 302-239-1699
Contact Name: Mary Gispert
Website »

More information

The 11th annual Artisans Fair, featuring unique handcrafted art objects, will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 26, at Lord Baltimore Elementary School on Route 26 in Ocean View, DE. ...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lord Baltimore Elementary School
Route 26
Ocean View, DE  19970
View map »


Sponsor: South Coastal DE AARP Chapter
Telephone: 302-732-6336
Contact Name: Ida Crist
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

A newly acquired cabinet at Winterthur and related objects in the collection emerge as tools in the lucrative business of transatlantic trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Curated by graduate...

Cost: free with admission

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Crooked Hammock Brewery is celebrating the unofficial start of summer all Memorial Day weekend! The festivities kick off on Thursday, May 24th with the release of their two summer seasonal beers,...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
Crooked Hammock Brewery
36707 Crooked Hammock Way
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Crooked Hammock Brewery
Telephone: 302-644-7837
Contact Name: Jon
Website »

More information

Science Saturday – River Rangers River Rangers learn how to gauge the health of our local waterways by observing the variety of critters living in it. Visitors of all ages are invited to...

Cost: Activities are included in regular admission and free for members.

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE
View map »


Sponsor: Hagley Museum & Library
Telephone: (302) 65802400 x 238
Contact Name: Jessica Eisenbrey
Website »

More information

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