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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To the Manor Reborn
When the Wrights pooled their resources to buy the property in 2006, the manor had been for sale for four years. The previous owner, who operated a bed-and-breakfast inn, had made significant upgrades but there was still a lot of heavy lifting to do.
Since then, the family has been going at it hammer and tong—and trowel and sander—to complete the restoration. So far, they have had custom storm windows made for 60 of the more than 100 windows, each made individually in a different size. Marty Wright is working his way up five flights of stairs, meticulously priming and staining each spindle as he goes. He also has taught himself such time-honored skills as plastering walls and repointing bricks.
He and Barb, who operated an antiques store in southern New Jersey for many years, now run Manor Antiques out of the former kitchen in the mansion’s cavernous basement.
Restoring an old house requires the skills of an architectural detective. By looking at old plans, Karen Wright discovered what was essentially a secret attic. Inside, was hidden treasure: a cache of original shutters, spindles and millwork.
Over the years, parts of Lesley Manor were carved out as rental apartments. What was originally the butler’s pantry was outfitted with appliances and repurposed as a compact kitchen.
The space proved cramped and dysfunctional as a place to prep and cook food. But restored to its status as a butler’s pantry the galley serves the homeowners with efficiency and style, with wine storage, an ice maker and an auxiliary dishwasher. A cabinetmaker crafted additional raised-panel cupboards to match the original china closets.
Today, what was once rental space has been reabsorbed into a home for the extended family. That includes a small, vintage kitchen for Karen and Darren Wright, as well as a new, expansive kitchen that can accommodate caterers installed by Barb and Marty Wright several years ago.
“With a house this large, we can be together as a family, yet still have complete privacy,” Barb Wright notes.
Many years ago, a previous owner sold private memberships to neighbors who wished to take a dip in the manor swimming pool. By the time the Wrights bought the property the pool was in a state of disrepair. Marty Wright converted it to a koi pond and tranquil Asian garden. Neighbors are still welcome, but there’s no charge.
In fact, the Wrights frequently share their home with the public, hosting fundraisers for good causes and opening their doors for the Spirit of Christmas tour of churches and historic homes in New Castle.