Presbyterian Ministers Restore New Castle County Farmhouse
Heaven on Earth: A Presbyterian minister couple faithfully restores a home built in 1735.
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In furnishing the house, the couple drew on their personal history. They call a guest bedroom the Matriarch’s Room because it is furnished in Victorian-era pieces handed down by women on both sides of their family. The centerpiece of the room is an elaborately carved bed with a towering headboard.
“John’s grandfather was born in that bed,” Pringle says. “Having things that come from the family gives us a sense of history, a sense of connectedness.”
His grandmother, Laura B. Carr, was a celebrated elocutionist, an authority in the study of formal speaking in pronunciation, grammar, style and tone. A flyer announcing one of her public appearances is framed and displayed on the bedroom wall.
Potter is the only grandchild on both sides of his family. That makes him a natural caretaker of heirlooms great and small. The decorative stone fireplace mantel in the dining room was salvaged from a Victorian house in Linden, N.J., where his grandparents once lived.
The distinctive brass-and-glass chandelier was purchased from a fellow aficionado of the past, an electrician on Long Island, N.Y., who restores gas-fired lighting fixtures. The portrait of a woman, luminous in pearls, is a mid-life rendering of Pringle’s mother, Barbara Lindsay, who retained her sense of style until her death at 97 in January 2013.
A Cozy Feel
Pringle spent time in England and brought home the William and Mary chest-on-stand that is now in the parlor. An antique square piano was converted into a desk. The pair of chairs with intricately carved arms and nailhead trim were passed down from her aunt, who bought them at auction from the New York apartment of the acclaimed tenor Enrico Caruso.
The result is a relaxed and inviting mix of various vintages that’s in keeping with a home steeped in time.
Simple exterior changes rendered a welcoming feeling. White stucco was repainted in cream. The industrial style metal front door was replaced with a wood door painted bottle green. Purple clouds of wisteria arch above the porch roof.
The couple commissioned Wilmington architect Joseph Carbonell to design a two-story detached garage that is compatible with the existing smokehouse and springhouse.
“Joe did a wonderful job,” Potter says. “People look at the garage and think it is a barn or other outbuilding that is hundreds of years old.”
Soil excavated for the garage foundation was deposited in terraced gardens behind the house, where mock orange, iris and peonies flourish.
Over the years, various people with a connection to the house have come by to visit. A miller’s son brought a copy of his father’s lease. An elderly matron recalled her girlhood days in the parlor.
The house was rechristened: Plas Mawr, Welsh for Great House because, as Pringle says, “It really is a wonderful place to live.”
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