Delaware Home and Garden: Ellen Passman of Washington, D.C., renovates a Victorian house in Milton, Sussex County
A D.C. transplant rescues a Victorian in Milton.
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The town that won Passman’s heart was founded in 1672 and originally called Head of the Broadkill, an ideal site for the shipbuilders and captains who would build grand homes there. Just before the first cannon blasts of the War of 1812, the town was renamed in honor of John Milton, the English poet who authored Paradise Lost.
For Passman, Milton proved to be Paradise Found. The locale offered unspoiled architecture of the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as a budding gay and lesbian community. In short order, she became active in the local chamber and president of the board of the historic Milton Theatre. She made friends with other old house aficionados, who shared tools and restoration tips.
She joined Barbara Lilien, her partner in life and interior decorating, in establishing a signature style for the house. Both women brought antiques and family heirlooms to their home, pieces that blended seamlessly to create a sense of relaxed formality.
“I’ve been able to take everything I’ve loved and treasured and make it work wherever I have lived,” Passman says. “I’ve been carrying the same books and furniture with me since the 1970s.”
In the formal parlor, there is a large Empire-style end table that came from her childhood home in Chicago. In fact, she was photographed standing next to it when she was 10. Her mother bought the tall ceramic table lamp soon after Passman’s parents married in 1937.
“Because we have never gone with fads, nothing ever goes out of style,” she says.
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