The Perfect Fit
A historic home in a historic city neighborhood proved just right for the Burke family.
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During the 1960s, the house had been carved up into apartments. But many of the original features remain, including a staircase with a finely carved newel post and graceful spindles. The interior wall shared with the neighboring home is exposed brick. The other walls are plaster. Ceilings soar 10 feet above the original yellow pine floors.
In the dining room, a window with a panel that lengthens the opening into a door is still intact, an amenity designed to make it easy to bring caskets in and out, in keeping with the Victorian tradition of hosting wakes at home. Original stained glass in vibrant jewel tones glistens in the windows.
Joanne bought the circa 1920s dining room suite for a house in Philadelphia. She was delighted to find it was a seamless match for the Wilmington home. The glass-front cupboard holds glassware and dishes handed down by her mother.
The parlor fireplace was designed to burn coal, the fuel of choice in 1889.
“Back then, wood was outdated,” Harold says. “Coal was the latest thing.”
He converted the fireplace to a gas-fueled unit, adding a raised hearth in slate. He also installed an ornate wooden mantel that he and his wife discovered at an auction of property confiscated by the U.S. Treasury.
“We think it was taken from a drug baron’s home,” Harold says.
The living room is spacious, an ideal gathering space for socializing. It also is large enough to accommodate a 19th-century organ, made by the Estey Organ Co. of Brattleboro, Vermont. The instrument was a gift from businessman and neighborhood booster Kevin Melloy. “He wanted it to have a good home, and we had just the right place for it,” Joanne recalls.
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