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The People's House

A restoration of the governor’s mansion shows off a successful marriage of history, elegance and comfort, as well as First Lady Carla Markell’s emphasis on volunteerism.



(page 5 of 8)

A painting of Delaware’s Commodore Thomas MacDonough is a highlight in Woodburn’s airy living room—and its Chippendale mahogany sofa is as comfortable as it is elegant. Photograph by Jared CastaldiAs stodgy as all these historic artifacts can make a room feel, the living room is a place where someone in casual attire would feel comfortable. (You’ll often find Carla Markell in jeans.) The mood is accomplished with its lack of clutter. There is only one painting per wall, and though the room measures just 385 square feet, its tall ceilings diminish any feeling of confinement. The standout feature in the living room is the Persian carpet by Castelli, which features calligraphy and inspires the color palette in all three rooms. The carpet lived in the main bedroom upstairs during the Minner days.

The 366-square-foot dining room is the only room with curtains, but the gold silk panels are graceful. Above its gas fireplace with white marble hearth is a portrait of Caesar Novemberus Rodney. Furniture is intentionally sparse, which makes the standouts truly stand out, especially the Chippendale mahogany and marble serving table, a Hepplewhite mahogany and tulipwood sideboard—a gift from Governor Carvel—and a gilded wood looking-glass that belonged to A.N. Spanel, founder of Playtex (one of Dover’s largest employers).

Prominently featured in a small inlay painted in coral is the famous silver that was once hidden behind a Plexiglas cover. The coral makes the silver pop, so it’s easy to gaze with envy at objects like the soup ladle that belonged to Governor Hall, the lidded water pitchers from the Saulsburys, or the tea service owned by Governor and Mrs. Hunn.

Few would argue that the main event of this room is the N.C. Wyeth painting “Walden Wood Revisited,” which depicts Thoreau standing in a wooded area. Thoreau bears a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln.

Page 6: The People's House, continues...

Woodburn Gallery

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