Dawn Buckworth's Home, Called Leftovers, Is One of The Historic Houses of Odessa: A Community of Homes Preserved by H. Rodney Sharp
Here’s what happens when you respect tradition yet embrace innovation.
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Sharp Dressed House
Long before he became a philanthropist, H. Rodney Sharp was a 20-year-old schoolmaster in Odessa.
The once-thriving grain port had already slipped into a long nap in 1902, when Sharp left town after only two years for life above the canal. He would marry a du Pont heiress, prosper at the DuPont Co. and donate a fortune to his alma mater, the University of Delaware.
But he never forgot Odessa, a microcosm of architecture of the 18th and 19th centuries. “Mr. Sharp loved Odessa,” says Dawn Buckworth, who has lived in the town almost all of her life. “His devotion shows through in the wonderful architecture you find here.”
Sharp set about creating a living history lesson with a settlement of 10 historic buildings and a Colonial Revival garden.
He famously purchased wallpaper hand-painted in 1770 off the walls of an English manor to install in the Corbit-Sharp house, the centerpiece of his park. A swarm of restorationists opened up beehive ovens that had been cold for a century and painstakingly analyzed paint scrapings to duplicate the vivid pinks, blues and wintergreens on the original plaster walls.
Over time, some of the properties, including the January House, where Buckworth’s parents live, became private homes.
Sharp died in 1968. The next year, Winterthur took over the operation of the houses that remained open to the public. The Historic Odessa Foundation has been the keeper of the town’s historic flame since 2005, offering tours of five meticulously preserved houses, outbuildings and gardens, including its celebrated Holidays in Odessa event.
It’s a wonderful opportunity to view firsthand how Delawareans lived—and decorated—in centuries past. A few tips to take home: Create a still life with bowls of fresh fruit, dress windows with simple swags, polish the silver, display it on a sideboard and enjoy it every day.
The Historic Houses of Odessa are open to the public March through December, Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m.–4:30 p.m. Guests may visit Monday through Wednesday by reservation. The houses are closed January and February, Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Adults $10; groups, seniors and students $8; children under 5 are free. Visit historicodessa.org, or call 378-4119. —Eileen Smith Dallabrida