This Couple Has Been Restoring Poplar Hall for Over a Decade

Come December, homeowners Greg and Dawn Shelton maintain holiday traditions while also creating new ones.


Published:

Dawn and Greg Shelton//Photo by Joe del Tufo

 

When the winter winds blow, Poplar Hall is drafty. As the curtains flutter, so does the heart of the master of the house, who is smitten by the aged bricks and beams of the manse.

Greg Shelton and his wife, Dawn, have been restoring Poplar Hall for a decade, sinking cash, sweat and occasional tears into the property.

Only a stone’s throw away, suburban Newark has sprung up where livestock once grazed on a 180-acre farm. The land has been whittled down to seven acres, but the Sheltons maintain many of the traditions of the landed gentry, growing herbs and flowers in formal gardens, tending horses, keeping bees and stacking firewood for their home’s fireplaces, which is fashioned in the holz hausen style, a decorative, rounded configuration.

“Living in a historic house is a totally different experience,” he says. “Although most people don’t want to live in one, they certainly enjoy visiting, especially during the holidays.”

Greg is a marketing consultant, musician and lifestyle ambassador, who is developing a gracious home-and-garden concept for television. Dawn is a passionate advocate for animals.

The Sheltons are only the fourth family to own the house, which was built by James Boulden the Younger in the Georgian style in the 1780s. Its red brick facade was crafted in a blend of running bond, English bond and Flemish bond, indications of wealth and planning.

Marble fireplace mantels are decorated with magnolia leaves and oversized cones from California redwoods.//Photo by Joe del Tufo

This old house

In 1988, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The report relates that the manse evolved over the centuries, nearly doubling in size. Elaborate ornamentations, including lavish moldings and marble fireplace mantels in the Greek and Egyptian Revival styles, were added during a renovation around 1850. A two-story stone wing was built around the same time.

“A house like this tells a story from start to finish,” Greg Shelton says.

Documenters note that the parlor’s dimensions were similar in size to the 20-by-26-foot log home inhabited by the typical Delawarean of the day.

“The exuberance and ostentation of the parlor, a room the size of many contemporary houses, powerfully conveyed the degree of wealth and style of the Bouldens,” they wrote.

By the time the Sheltons found it, once-grand Poplar Hall had been empty for years. Outside, two Victorian porches that had been added in the late 19th century were sagging. Inside, the house showed the impact of both weather and intruders. Brown paint obscured wide-planked wood floors.

“The doors were open,” Shelton recalls. “But the marble mantels were still here.”

Looking beyond the wear and tear of nearly 250 years, the couple found other charms. Graceful, dog-eared moldings surrounded raised-panel doors. In the center hall, an open staircase featured a turned newel post and grained and turned balusters. And the property boasted five outbuildings that could be repurposed to suit the lifestyle of a young family who enjoys entertaining.

The homeowners hold a wreath-making party in the corn crib each December.//Photo by Joe del Tufo

Home for the holidays

Each year, early in December, the Sheltons invite family and friends to gather in the corn crib for a wreath-making party. It’s a farm-meets-fabulous event, where everyone congregates around long wooden tables lit by chandeliers suspended from the rafters.

In decorating the house, Shelton turns to the land for inspiration. A magnolia tree offers exquisite leaves, lustrous green on top and soft brown on the underside. He fashions a wreath with the leaves positioned upside down to create the appearance of rustic velvet. He is fond of junipers with subtle blue berries.

“I love things that are handmade and natural,” he says. “I can’t stand anything that’s resin.”

A wooden Colonial-style bowl, crafted by woodworker Scott Gold of Oxford, Pennsylvania, is carved in a nautilus shell design, inset with a silver S. It was made from a black walnut tree that was taken down because it was intruding on the house. “It’s a favored wood and Scott traded us the bowl for a length of wood,” Shelton says.

A family room

Shelton displays lots of greenery on the exterior of the house, partly because it’s festive, partly because it’s practical. “If used outside, greens have a much longer shelf life,” he says.

Indoors, the formal parlor now has the relaxed elegance of a country family room where the couple enjoys hanging out with their young son, Alex.

“We chose to have the smallest TV we could find, because the emphasis isn’t on TV. It’s about gathering around the fireplace,” he says.

The Christmas tree is a tall, full Fraser fir, chosen because of the nuanced colors of its needles—green on top and steel blue on the bottom. To keep the tree looking fit, Shelton gives it a tall drink of warm water every two to three days.

The tree is decorated with ornaments that reflect the home’s refined country aesthetic, including pheasant feathers, Gorham silver snowflakes, Reed & Barton sterling pieces, oversized cones from California redwoods and Winterthur bunny figurines.

Greg’s late father built the farmhouse where he grew up in nearby Chesapeake City, so he provided lots of expert help in restoring Poplar Hall. Greg’s mother is Ukrainian, so her traditions are reflected in the home, especially during the holidays.

The sparkling beaded spider on the tree is inspired by the Ukrainian folktale about a poor woman who couldn’t afford ornaments for her tree. Because she didn’t harm a spider she found in her home, he spun beautiful webs that magically turned to silver and gold. “That’s how tinsel was invented,” Shelton says.

The Sheltons have their own traditions. Dawn is the family baker. Greg is the cook. They collaborate to create a big holiday spread, served buffet style. “There is always kielbasa, always pirogies,” she says.

The island in the kitchen, which originally served as a grain bin, was crafted in Indonesia. A large brass figure of a Chinese reindeer is stationed on the hearth of the fireplace. The mantel is decked with boughs of holly, pine and deer antlers discovered in the woods.

At Poplar Hall, the Sheltons will maintain holiday traditions while they create new ones. “We love the property and expect to be continually refining and redefining it,” Greg Shelton says. “This is the place we will always call home.”

The kitchen fireplace's mantel is decked with boughs of holly, pine and antlers.//Photo by Joe del Tufo


GET THE LOOK

Create an impressive entrance. Welcome your guests with a big wreath on the door. Consider framing the entry with a pair of topiaries illuminated by twinkling white lights. Craft a live pediment from garlands of magnolia leaves studded with apples and lemons. Bring the outside indoors. Gather evergreens, leafy boughs, sculptural sticks, berries and pine cones for holiday arrangements around the house. Show your sentimental side. Decorate with childhood toys and handmade ornaments. Hang baby shoes, rattles and other keepsakes on the tree. Make the feast part of the decor. Festive cakes and cookies served on pretty dishes satisfy the eye as well as the sweet tooth. More is more. Don’t worry about going over the top. The holidays are about abundance. Should you add another layer of tinsel to the tree? Absolutely.


THE CARING OF THE GREENS

Here’s how to extend the life of your yuletide boughs:

  • Start with the freshest greens you can find. The Sheltons cut magnolia branches and boxwoods on their property. If you buy, select cuttings with needles or leaves that are supple.
  • Give your greens a big drink. Prime them by standing the cut ends in water for 24 hours to maximize absorption.
  • Invest in an antitranspirant, a spray that coats leaves and needles to trap the moisture inside and prevent it from escaping as vapor.
  • Place greens in a friendly setting. Boughs and cuttings placed outdoors where it is cool will last longer than greens in the house.
  • If you keep your greens in an oasis or water, change the water every day. There’s no need to add anything.
  • Give greens a daily spritz. Misting greens with water gives them a boost.
  • Replace tired greenery with fresh cuttings. This is especially important in mixed arrangements.
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April 2018

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Cost: $10

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

Rosemary Castiglioni – Still lifes and interiors painted with a subtle palette; Jim Gears – Vibrant, impressionistic landscapes in oil applied with a palette knife; Richard Hoff – Detailed...

Cost: free

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

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

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
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE ALUMNI INVITATIONAL A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop, Artist talk at 7:30 PM The...

Cost: FREE

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


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

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

TRANSIT by Maryanne Pollock January 27 - April 26, 2018Opening Reception: Friday, February 2, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop On Art:  Wednesday, February 21, 2018 | 5:25 - 6 PM Maryanne...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

Thursday, April 26, 8:00 p.m. Gore Recital Hall David Rose was born in Regina, Saskatchewan and there began his early musical education and violin study. At the suggestion of his first teacher,...

Cost: $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

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East Coast Garden Center presents: The Spring Festival!  We love celebrating the Spring season, and we invite you to join us! The weather warms, plants break dormancy, and Sussex County becomes...

Cost: free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd.
Millsboro, DE  19966
View map »


Sponsor: Cordrey Companies
Telephone: (302)945-3489
Contact Name: Christine Justice
Website »

More information

Rosemary Castiglioni – Still lifes and interiors painted with a subtle palette; Jim Gears – Vibrant, impressionistic landscapes in oil applied with a palette knife; Richard Hoff – Detailed...

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

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

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


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

Calling all Doodles!  Pack up your owners and head for Dewey Delaware for the Annual DoodlesinDewey ~ a fun filled time on the beach at a low-key "funraiser" for Food&Friends, a DC based...

Cost: $10-25 suggested

Where:
Dewey Beach
Saulsbury St
Dewey Beach, DE  19971
View map »


Sponsor: Food&Friends
Telephone: 301.467.5523
Contact Name: Amy Scott
Website »

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 »

More information

Our thoughts and our stage turn to music, mayhem and marriage with the multi-Tony nominated "The Wedding Singer". Shows are at 8pm on April 27 and 28, and May 4 and 5.  There are 2pm...

Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-1172
Website »

More information

Night Ranger, the band that invented the power ballad of the 1980s, brings its classic sound to the SugarHouse Casino Event Center on Friday, April 27, at 9 p.m. Tickets for the band’s 35th...

Cost: $29-49

Where:
SugarHouse Casino
1001 N. Delaware Ave
Philadelphia, PA  19125
View map »

More information

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East Coast Garden Center presents: The Spring Festival!  We love celebrating the Spring season, and we invite you to join us! The weather warms, plants break dormancy, and Sussex County becomes...

Cost: free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd.
Millsboro, DE  19966
View map »


Sponsor: Cordrey Companies
Telephone: (302)945-3489
Contact Name: Christine Justice
Website »

More information

Rosemary Castiglioni – Still lifes and interiors painted with a subtle palette; Jim Gears – Vibrant, impressionistic landscapes in oil applied with a palette knife; Richard Hoff – Detailed...

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Girl Scout Junior Not just a pretty face! With the Winterthur Garden as a laboratory, earn the Flowers badge while discovering how flowers function and recording your experience in a garden...

Cost: $12

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 & 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

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

Maker Fest Enjoy a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. This event features demonstrations from area makers showcasing...

Cost: Admission is $10 for Adults, $5 for Hagley Members and Youth 6-18; under 6 free

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


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

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

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


Website »

More information

Water is Life Kenya is hosting its annual Water Walk fundraiser Saturday, April 28th at the Newark Reservoir. Funds raised will help complete Water is Life Kenya's clean water project in Kuku, a...

Cost: 10.00-25.00

Where:
Newark Reservoir
Old Paper Mill Road
Newark, DE  19711
View map »


Sponsor: Water is Life Kenya
Telephone: (302) 894-7335
Contact Name: Colleen Leithren
Website »

More information

Girl Scout Daisy Take a step on your Flower Garden journey during this fun-filled exploration of the Winterthur garden. $10 per girl.

Cost: $10

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


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 180-044-83883
Contact Name: Information & Tours
Website »

More information

Discover the thrill of printmaking inspired by nature. Using spring plants and simple materials, students will explore the possibilities of organic and geometric compositions with layered shapes...

Cost: $80 Members, $100 Non-Members

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


Website »

More information

Calling all Doodles!  Pack up your owners and head for Dewey Delaware for the Annual DoodlesinDewey ~ a fun filled time on the beach at a low-key "funraiser" for Food&Friends, a DC based...

Cost: $10-25 suggested

Where:
Dewey Beach
Saulsbury St
Dewey Beach, DE  19971
View map »


Sponsor: Food&Friends
Telephone: 301.467.5523
Contact Name: Amy Scott
Website »

More information

Saturday, April 28, 2018 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm Wilmington Country Club 4825 Kennett Pike Wilmington, DE   Guests will enjoy a four course seated dinner prepared by award-winning chefs...

Cost: Call for sponsor opportunities.

Where:
Wilmington Country Club
4825 Kennett Pike
Wilmington , DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Meals On Wheels Delaware
Telephone: 302-656-6451
Contact Name: Jennifer Halliday

More information

38th Annual Rare Plant Auction® at Longwood Gardens A benefit that enriches urban neighborhoods through the power of plants. Join us at the 38th Annual Rare Plant Auction® on Saturday, April...

Cost: $125-$600

Where:
Longwood Garden
1001 Longwood Road
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Center for Horticulture
Telephone: (302) 658-6262
Contact Name: Lenny Wilson
Website »

More information

Clark Wilson from East Liverpool, Ohio, is a favorite and master with silent films.  He is the house organist at the Ohio Theater and has recently been appointed to the Music Department staff of...

Cost: $20 Adults, $10 Students, Groups Call 302-995-2603

Where:
John Dickinson High School
1801 Milltown Road
Wilmington, DE  19808
View map »


Sponsor: Dickinson Theatre Organ Society
Telephone: 302-995-2603
Contact Name: Bob Dilworth
Website »

More information

Our thoughts and our stage turn to music, mayhem and marriage with the multi-Tony nominated "The Wedding Singer". Shows are at 8pm on April 27 and 28, and May 4 and 5.  There are 2pm...

Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-1172
Website »

More information

Saturday, April 28, 8:00 p.m. Loudis Recital Hall Cap off the day-long Steel Band Festival (in Puglisi Orchestra Hall beginning at noon) with the featured festival concert.   There is no...

Cost: Free

Where:
Loudis Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

More information

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