Weiner - New Castle County Councilman
Bob, who is a friend of mine, seemed to
have given up on the idea of saving the house, but he
set me off on the right track by forwarding to me emails
from various people who had blazed the trail ahead of
me. He encouraged me with these words:
Thank you for your interest. I attach
my prior email exchange. I estimate a minimum $300,000
is needed to temporarily stabilize the Murphy House.
Nemours, the owner, has not allocated these funds. Now
others need to take leadership. The email below provides
you with the names of others who care and can join you.
Permit me to observe that substantial money and broad
based determination is needed. At this juncture, I don't
see either ingredient. Thank you for your leadership.
Mike Castle - Former
Delaware Governor and U.S. Congressman
Mike responded quickly to
my plea for help, called my home and gave me his direct
line to his desk. I was very impressed with that,
but when he spent over a half hour discussing
possibilities with me, I felt he helped out a lot.
A fine gentleman who has the best interests of
Delawareans at heart.
Mike also felt that the
deed restrictions could be enforced. He gave me
what I felt was the best suggestion yet for use of the
house: as a reception area for the hospital
complex, for visitors to get information about the
various buildings and services in the hospital area.
The Ron McD house is down the street, the Nemours
mansion grounds, and various agencies within the
hospital can all be represented by this information
center. Also, the house sits exactly on the path
of the Greenways of Delaware and can be used as a stop
for runners, walkers, and bikers on the trail.
Mike wanted to see
details of the deed and agreements, which I sent to him.
He suggested that I see a lawyer who specializes in
property law who would be willing to pro bono some time
on this project.
John Cartier - New Castle County
John sent me an email back in response to
I am happy to participate in an effort
to try to save the Murphy House. However, we don't have
much time and limited county government powers and
resources, but I will always try to help preserve the
community's historical buildings from destruction.
Hello Mr. Hoover,
I have reviewed your great website dedicated to the
preservation of the Murphy House. Your detailed and
organized volunteer advocacy to save "Little Murph" have
impressed me a great deal and I want to work work with
you to develop to new policies and incentives to save
our historical buildings. Here are my are observations
after studying your "Little Murph" website. Nemours must
purchase and file a demolition permit with New Castle
County before they can begin to destroy the house. Its
not clear to me that they have actually filed that
paperwork. I will check with Land Use to see the status
of the demolition permit. My read of the deed
restrictions, and for the record I am not an attorney,
seems to give Deldot the authority to prevent the
demolition. The would need to file for an injunction in
court to prevent the demolition. The local district
elected officials need to pressure Deldot for a court
action. What about getting an attorney to file the
action pro bono. Council Pres. Kovach is an attorney. He
has shown some interest. Any court ordered delay to the
demolition is valuable to give more time to work on
other preservation strategies for "Little Murph."
New Caslte County Council District 8 (Eastern Brandywine
Debra Heffernan - Delaware State
Contacted 04/13/11 met 05/24/11
Debra was very excited to help out with
the project. We met in person and also spoke on
the phone and discussed options for use of the house.
In addition to some very good suggestions for use, she
made the very important point that in the plan to save
the house, we should have a deadline for finding a use,
so that the house does not follow the example of the
Weldon House which was saved, but still does not have an
occupant years later. Debra also suggested
contacting the Ronald McDonald House to see if they
could use it as an annex to their facility, since they
are just down the street.
My Legislative Aide received this response from DELDOT.
Rep Deb Heffernan
Delaware House of Representatives
The Murphy House is no longer the property of Del DOT.
It now belongs to Nemours AI DuPont Hospital. We would
have no involvement in a deed restriction issue.
Jack Markell - Governor of Delaware State
Contacted 05/10/11 responded 06/01/11 by Dawn M.
Director of Constituent Relations
Gov. Markell's office sent me back an
email in response to mine stating:
Thank you so much
for contacting Governor Markell with your concerns for
the Murphy House. You raise some interesting
points in your letter and I would like to share this
with the Governor and his Executive Staff for
At this time, I just wanted to let you know that your email
has been received and will be addressed. Please feel
free to contact me if you have additional information to
add. Again, thank you for writing.
I haven't heard from them since 06/01/11 and will
contact Dawn soon.
Brown - Reporter, News Journal - Wrote article on the
house. Link to article.
Dear Mr. Hoover,
I'm sorry to say that I don't really have any
information about the Murphy House aside from what was
in the article. I know Preservation Delaware asked for a
delay, but the Nemours Foundation refused. The
foundation placed a few advertisements in The News
Journal offering to donate the house to "a qualified
applicant" able to relocate the structure by June 30.
I have heard from many people who say they would rather
it be saved or saying it should be saved by Nemours
because the foundation promised the Department of
Transportation and the public that it would be. But so
far, I haven't heard of anyone able to move it.
If you find a way, PLEASE let me know right away!
Sincerely, robin brown The News Journal
Dan Griffith - President,
Preservation Delaware (continued)
Thank you for your time this afternoon discussing
preservation alternative for the Murphy House. Below is
a link to DelDOT's agreement for the Blue Ball Area
Transportation Projects wherein the Murphy House is
cited. You will see that DelDOT had specific
responsibilities with respect to the Murphy House and to
the best of my knowledge, they have carried out most if
not all of them. The problem comes with DelDOT's
apparent willingness to vacate the preservation
declaration attached to the Murphy House deed to the
Nemours Foundation. I think the question of vacating the
declaration was initiated by Nemours, but DelDOT, at
least up until recently, seemed willing to do so.
Preservation Delaware's advocacy for the property
focused on the tenants of the agreement arguing with the
Federal Highway Administration that DelDOT does not have
the sole power to eliminate one element of the agreement
when five parties were involved in reaching the
agreement. It seems to us now that the Federal Highway
Also below is a link to Preservation Delaware's web
site. I encourage you to consider membership and join us
in the our statewide historic preservation efforts.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions
about the Murphy House or want to discuss Preservation
Delaware’' statewide mission. Thank you
Dan Griffith ; President of the Board
Preservation Delaware, Inc.
DeNadai, FAIA, Senior Partner, John Milner Architects
John Milner Architects is
the de facto firm for historic preservation and
restorations. They were the company to oversee the
restoration of Nemours Mansion and Gardens. They
were hired by Nemours to do an assessment on the Murphy
House, to give an estimate of the cost to restore it for
I called them to see if they
could offer any renderings of a finished restoration and
talked to Mary, who is John Milner's senior partner, for
some time. She was interested in seeing the house
restored but gave me a dose of what it would take to do
so, about $800 K in their opinion. This was to
turn it into office space up to code. It could be
used for something else that didn't have such stringent
code requirements. She offered to help if there
was anything concrete that she could do and wished me
Martin, Preservation Planner, City of Wilmington
Debbie responded to my email
with her own, recommending me to Preservation Delaware:
Mr. Hoover: I am happy to
know of your concern for the Murphy House. Although it
is out of my jurisdiction, I am following it through
Preservation Delaware. It is my understanding that the
Memorandum of Agreement that was signed (for the
preservation of the property) is still in effect,
despite DelDOT's attempt to extinguish it.
I am directing you to Preservation Delaware, as they
have taken an active role in urging the maintenance of
the MOA and the agreement by Nemours to preserve and
rehabilitate the house that they received. They are very
informed of the situation, and would welcome your
Terry Graham is the Executive Director and can be
reached at 322-7100. I have copied PD President Dan
Griffith on this also.
I hope you are successful!
Carney - U.S. Representative, Delaware
One of Rep. Carney's
staffers, Larry Morris, responded to my email. He
was gracious enough to get involved by making some phone
calls to various State agencies. He talked to
Steve Turley and Bob King at DELdot and they reported
that DELdot has nothing to do with enforcing the deed
restrictions. (Makes you wonder why anyone bothers
putting deed restrictions in place if no one can enforce
Paul Bechly, Citizen member of the
Blueball Project - Recreation and Historic Preservation
Paul had earlier involvement with saving the Murphy House. I
contacted him and he responded 07/07/11
I think you have done
excellent work with your Murphy House website.
It is good to see that you have connected with Dan
Griffith of Preservation Delaware who has already taken
a lead advocacy role.
I think that you need to add DELDOT to your list of
interested parties, since they are the entity that is
allowing the preservation covenant to be nullified.
You may also want to notify the local media about your
Murphy House website.
I think that you are a good citizen, and our community
needs more good people like you.
The reason for my involvement is I was a member of the
DelDOT Blue Ball Project - Recreation and Historic
Preservation Committee over ten years ago, and I was
familiar with the "Memorandum of Agreement" and the
Murphy House preservation covenant. When the yellow
demolition permit sign was posted in front of Old
Murphy, I felt obligated to alert stakeholders to the
existence of the preservation covenant.
Regarding my interest in preservation in general, I am
concerned that the nullification of this preservation
covenant sets a bad example for other preservation
covenants within the State of Delaware. A lot of time,
effort, and consensus building goes into the creation of
a preservation covenant, and the same process should
take place if there is a need to nullify a preservation
covenant. At a minimum, DelDOT should have consulted
with and obtained consensus from the other parties to
the "Memorandum of Agreement" prior to choosing to not
enforce the preservation covenant.
I am hopeful that demolition of the Murphy House can be
postponed, until there is better understanding of all of
the options available, and due process takes place.
The intent of the committee that I served on was to
preserve the Murphy House for future adaptive reuse,
just as was accomplished for the Blue Ball Barn and the
Husbands House. The Murphy House was stabilized with
taxpayer dollars so that it could wait many years, if
need be, for an opportunity for adaptive reuse.
The Nemours Foundation and the A.I. DuPont Hospital are
very important members of our community, and they have
needs and vision that may require the use of the land
that the Murphy House rests upon. I believe that the
best solution for all concerned would be to find both a
new location AND an adaptive reuse for the Murphy House.
Tom Kovach - President of New Castle County Council
me a lot of help and encouragement. He met with me
at my home for two hours going over the documents that I
had assembled, and gave me good advice. He seemed
to think that the deed restrictions could be and should
be enforced. He came up with some excellent
suggestions for use of the house, including letting a
non-profit agency involved with the hospital renovate it
or rent it and use it as an outpost office. He
also suggested seeing if the Ronald McDonald House could
use it as a respite house for parents visiting their
children in the hospital who may be waiting around for
Tom had his aide, Grant
Firestone look into the possibility of using some of the
$35 million that the Markell administration allocated
for restoring Delaware's historic properties.
Senator Chris Coons' Office
Contacted by Amanda Morninghoff on 06/03/11
who is on Sen. Coons' staff called me and she expressed
that Sen. Coons was very interested in historic
preservation and may have some ideas for saving and/or
use of the house. As of July 4th, I haven't heard
what those ideas are, but I hold hope that they will
contact me again soon.
Grace Gary, Executive
Director of Nemours Mansion and Gardens
Grace represents the
interests of the Nemours Foundation. After meeting
her, I could quickly see why she has such a position of
responsibility. I've never met such a gracious,
honest, knowledgeable, and helpful executive as her.
She played straight with me concerning Nemours'
intentions and offered me every opportunity to conduct
my research and to find a use for the Murphy House.
I met with her several times including at my home, at
the mansion, and for a tour of the inside of the Murphy
House. She is an Architectural Historian and
certainly knows her business.
In a nutshell, she gave
me Nemours' position: The house, they feel, has
lost it's "context" to the area and is not worth
spending the large sum of money it would take to bring
it up to modern code for office use. It has a
narrow stairway leading to the second floor, it has
small rooms, low ceilings, and would need all utilities
redone. Nemours would rather spend their resources
on the hospital for saving children's lives, rather than
on restoring an old house. She has to
answer to the Board of Directors of Nemours with
decision making that pertains to the good of the
organization as a whole. There are other
properties within the wall that also need work to
preserve and the William Murphy House is not top on the
Nemours statement on the Murphy
Christine Quinn - New Castle County
Historic Preservation Planner
Contacted 04/25/11 Called me
Christine said she was all
for saving the house but is pessimistic as to being able
to. She said she can't take sides due to the nature of
her job. She said the Historic Review Board declared it
as historic, thus the nine months to wait for
demolition. She referred me to Preservation Delaware.
The demolition permit has not been issued, and Nemours
may not demolish the house "at any time". Doing so prior
to release of the permit would be a violation of the
law, and Nemours would be subject to penalties for
demolishing a historically significant structure without
U.S. Senator Tom Carper's Office
Contacted by Josh Magerik, Projects
Director on 06/09/11
Josh contacted me by email. He
called Amanda Morninghoff of Sen. Coons' office and
together they suggested that I:
" submit a letter to both Nemours and
DelDOT requesting a delay in demolition so you can work
on raising the financial support needed for the
Pam Cornforth - Executive
Director, Ronald McDonald House
Contacted by 06/01/11 met
06/02/11 at R McD
Pam contacted me immediately
after receiving my email and she very graciously
scheduled an appointment for the very next day. We
met at the Ronald McDonald House and I told her my plan
to save the Murphy House and presented her with the
suggestion that her organization may be able to make
some use of the building. I suggested a Respite
Area or an annex to the main McD facility. She
told me that she was at capacity at times of the year
and they have to turn over 1,000 families a year away
Their current facility has about 50 rooms.. They looked
at renovating the Bird-Husbands House when it was
available a few years ago and decided against that since
it was too expensive.
Her main reluctance to taking my suggestions was in the
on-going cost to maintain and man the facility.
All of their buildings must meet handicap code, and must
have paid McD personnel on site whenever it is open.
She felt this would be too cost prohibitive.
Lavelle - Delaware State Representative 11th district -
Murphy House is in his district.
Greg called me in reply to
my email. He seemed to take the realistic rather
than the idealistic approach. He was concerned
about costs and where the money would come from.
Dan Griffith - President, Preservation
05/25/11 and 06/23/11
Dan is my
biggest hope for saving the house. His
organization has done the most to help preserve the
house. I talked to him twice on the phone, he even
took my call early one morning when he was in
California. Dan gave me links to DELDOT documents
including the deed restrictions and agreement between
interested parties in 2001.
He is trying
hard to enforce the
covenant from DELDOT and there were 5 parties who
signed the agreement to preserve the house in 2002 when
the whole exchange idea was conceived. He suggested I
contact Bob Vaalahara of CCOBH and Mark Chura of the
His email to
me explains a lot:
Preservation Delaware is actively pursuing the
preservation of the Murphy House. We have gone on record
with the New Castle County Historic Review Board
requesting both to the Board and the owners of the
Murphy House, The Nemours Foundation, to withdraw the
application for demolition and to meet to discuss
preservation alternatives. The New Castle County
Historic Review Board was not willing to call for the
withdrawal of the application as that is the applicants
decision. The Nemours Foundation has not withdrawn the
application to date and we have not received a written
response to our letter asking them to do so.
As you may know, the Murphy House was one of historic
properties protected under a 2002 Memorandum of
Agreement among the Delaware Department of
Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, the
federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the
state Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs,
Preservation Delaware, Inc. and the state Department of
Natural Resources and Environmental Control. One
stipulation of the agreement was that DelDOT was to
place legal restrictions on the deed for the Murphy
House to insure its long term preservation in the event
they disposed of the property. DelDOT did place this
restriction on the property prior to their transfer of
the property to the Nemours Foundation. Even with the
restrictions in place, Nemours decided for their own
reasons to pursue demolition of the property. The New
Castle County Historic Review Board claims they have no
jurisdiction with respect to restrictions on the deed
placed there by others, so cannot take that into account
in their decisions.
Meanwhile, I met with the Federal Highway Administration
to alert them to this issue as, in our view, the request
to demolish the property is in direct violation of the
2002 Memorandum of Agreement. The Dover office of the
Federal Highway Administration expressed concern and
consulted with their headquarters office in Washington,
D.C. who also consulted with the federal Advisory
Council on Historic Preservation. The Advisory Council
instructed the Federal Highway Administration to
investigate this matter and convene all the consulting
parties to the 2002 Agreement to reach an agreement on
the Murphy House. Preservation Delaware will be one of
those consulting parties and will advocate for the
preservation of the property. We have not yet received
notice about when this consultation will occur, but
expect a notice from the Federal Highway Administration
in the near future. We hope to reach a resolution prior
to the potential demolition date in August as permitted
by the County review process.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to
Dan Griffith; President of the Board
Preservation Delaware, Inc.
Great website! I shared your e-mail and web site link
with my contact at the Federal Highway Administration
and they were quite impressed with the site and the list
of interested parties. As you know, Preservation
Delaware's position is that the restrictions should be
enforced and that is a key element of our consultation
on July 13. FHWA is also interested in a list of "third
parties" (i.e. parties not signatories to the MOA) and I
gave them your name, CCOBH and Delaware Greenways. If
you know of other organizations, please let me know by
July 13. Thank you for your great work.
FHWA is first calling together all singatories to
the MOA for a discussion and PDI will be there (me and
Terry Graham). Nemours will be there too. After that, I
expect more consultations and I will push for an open
meeting for all interested parties.
Terry Graham, Executive Director of
Terry, who emailed me back and recommended me to Dan
I did receive your email and forwarded to our board
president, Dan Griffith who has been working behind the
scenes on behalf of Preservation Delaware to stop or
delay the demolition of the William Murphy House. I am
certain Dan will be in touch as soon as he is able.
We appreciate and certainly share your concern for this
historic structure and we are perplexed by Nemours
Foundation's wish to see the Murphy House demolished.
Best regards, Terry
W. Barksdale Maynard, Architectural
Historian and author of several books on the subject
including "Buildings of Delaware"
I have known Barksdale for several years, including
attendance at our presentations by Edgar Tafel, Frank
Lloyd Wright apprentice. He wrote back:
Thanks for writing,
Larry. I thought about you when I read about the death
of Mr. Tafel. It was such an exciting experience to meet
him and I appreciate your including me.
I sympathize with your fight re the Murphy House. Andy
Wyeth's last painting, practically, was painted while
sitting in front of it. Maybe his only painting ever
done in Delaware?
I have just finished a fight to save Osborn Clubhouse at
Princeton University (1890, to be demol 2011). Not
Sorry I don't have any suggestions beyond what you have
tried already-I am actually more worried about the "other" Murphy House, on the grounds of the hospital,
which looks much older to me.
Do save the boot scraper from beside the front door!
Shailen Batt, Delaware Secretary of
I sent an
email to the head of DelDOT and got an instant response:
Thanks for your email. As a former member of the Board
of Advisors for Preservation Kentucky, I am always
interested in trying to preserve, where possible,
properties of historic significance. It is important to
work with all stakeholders. Let me look into this this