A Room with a View
This Federalist treasure overlooks the Delaware—and one beautiful garden.
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It didn’t take long for John Dewey and Gary Wirt to realize that they’d found their dream home. In fact, they knew it even before they saw the second floor. The clincher was the view from the picture window at the back of the house, on The Strand in Old New Castle. “I mean, look at this,” says Wirt, standing in front of the glass.
It is hard not to. The window gazes down on a narrow lawn flanked by dwarf boxwoods and arborvitae. Like a verdant arrow, the yard stretches toward the Delaware River, which sparkles like polished silver in the afternoon sun. A cargo ship glides by on its way to Philadelphia, its weathered facade forgotten with the grace of its movement. “We always said we wanted a river view,” Dewey says. Adds Wirt, “I looked out the window and said, ‘Sold!’”
Wirt and Dewey, who bought the house in 2002, were no strangers to historic New Castle. They had lived in a house on Sixth Street for more than 30 years before deciding to move to The Strand, a street lined by some of the town’s oldest structures. Wirt and Dewey’s new home, for instance, was built in 1798, by William Aull, an Irish merchant, who also built the adjoining twin.
Aull died shortly after the house was completed, according to a Drexel University student’s research project. Aull’s wife, Rachel, continued to live in one house while renting out the other.
The Aull property and its neighbors were saved from the 1824 fire thanks to the George Read House, whose property extends to the river. The open land helped keep the conflagration from ravaging houses on the other side. That was good news for the Cooper House next door, one of the few wood structures to survive the fire.