Delaware Today 302 Home: Wesley College President's home in Dover
Presidential Sweet: Hail to the Wesley chief. His home is stately, of course, but cozy, too.
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At a Glance
Who Wesley College President Dr. William Johnston and his wife, Susan Johnston
What The Cannon House
Where South State Street, Dover
The regal Victorian manse that’s home to the president of Wesley College is an ideal place for an education on gracious entertaining.
It’s very much a home, where President William N. Johnston and his wife, Susan, live happily amid family and a golden retriever named Painter.
“We have kids and grandchildren,” Susan Johnston says. “We have a cat who jumps on tables.”
But it is also a grand property with impressive architectural features. Witness the ornate plaster moldings and marble fireplace mantel in the formal parlor. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases define a cozy library. The music room is a symphony of towering coffered ceilings, a herringbone brick floor and two pairs of French doors leading to an intimate courtyard.
“From the very beginning, we saw this house as a wonderful place to share with the college and the community,” she says. “It’s a privilege to do whatever we can to make our home welcoming, inviting and interesting to others.”
A Rising Star
Historically, the property is the Annie Jump Cannon House, named for the renowned astronomer who grew up in Dover.
“She had a brilliant, wonderful mother who also loved the stars,” Johnston says. “Together, they would go up to the roof of this house to study the constellations.”
Mother and daughter climbed out into the night sky via a trap door. In later years, Cannon would recall that her father, state Sen. Wilson Lee Cannon, fretted she would burn down the house with the candle she carried to light her way.
Cannon graduated from Wesley, then the Wilmington Conference Academy, in 1880. She fell ill with scarlet fever while a student at Wellesley in Massachusetts. As a result, Cannon lost most of her hearing. But her love for learning was not diminished.
She helped to devise a system for classifying stars, based on the colors produced by their heat. In 1925 she received an honorary doctorate from Oxford, the first awarded to a woman. She worked at the Harvard Observatory until her death at age 77 in 1941.
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