New Castle’s Lesley Manor Decks the Halls for the Holidays
The Wright family spares no details when they decorate their New Castle manse for the yuletide season.
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“This is a magnificent property and it’s only fitting that we go all out at Christmas,” says Karen Wright, who owns the home in New Castle with her husband, Darren, and in-laws Barbara and Martin Wright.
Lesley Manor was commissioned in 1855 by Allen Voorhees Lesley, a prosperous doctor who served as speaker of the state senate. He hired Thomas and James Dixon, the Baltimore architects who designed The Grand Opera House in Wilmington, to draw plans for a Gothic Revival mansion in the style of castles along the Rhine in Europe.
The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been known over the years as Lesley-Travers Mansion, Deemer House, Travers House, and Lesley House, in deference to various owners.
Ultimately, Dr. Lesley added a striking five-story tower to the manse, in addition to such 19th-century marvels as electrified chandeliers, central heat, speaking tubes and an alarm system of wires channeled into the window frames. In all, the house encompasses 13,000 square feet embellished with lavish plaster moldings, ornate wood millwork, massive pocket doors and opulent marble mantels.
“It’s remarkable how much craftsmanship went into this house—and we are overjoyed that so much of it is still intact,” Karen Wright says.
Dr. Lesley died in 1881 and only caretakers lived in the mansion until 1903, when Seldon S. Deemer, a New Castle steel manufacturer, restored the house and expanded the gardens. But the mansion’s revival was short-lived. In 1930, in the early days of the Great Depression, it was sold for pennies on the dollar.
The new owner immediately began selling off land. Originally 200 acres, the estate now encompasses slightly less than two acres on the edge of Old New Castle.