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                                                      Slated for demolition on August 03, 2011  October 15, 2011
Located at 1601 Rockland Road Wilmington, Delaware 19803



  In my research to save the Murphy House, I tried to contact as many stakeholders as possible including politicians, heads of organizations, and other people interested in the project.  Below is the result of my efforts as of
August 20, 2011.  This section will be continuously updated, so check back:

Quick Links

 Bob Weiner - New Castle County Councilman

Contacted 04/20/11

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

Contacted 06/xx/11

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 Councilman

Contacted 04/25/11

John sent me an email back in response to mine:

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.

Again 07/07/11:

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."

John Cartier
New Caslte County Council District 8 (Eastern Brandywine Hundred)


Debra Heffernan - Delaware State Representative

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.

07/07/11 email:

My Legislative Aide received this response from DELDOT.

Rep Deb Heffernan

Blaine Breeding
Delaware House of Representatives
Office: 302-577-8480
Fax: 302-577-6701

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.
Andy  Bowman

Jack Markell - Governor of Delaware State

Contacted 05/10/11 responded 06/01/11 by Dawn M. Hopkins,
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 consideration.
    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.

Robin Brown - Reporter, News Journal - Wrote article on the house.  Link to article.

Contacted 05/10/11

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 Administration agrees.

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.

Mary 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 office use.

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 good luck.

Debbie 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 support.
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!
Debbie Martin

John 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 them). 

Paul Bechly, Citizen member of the Blueball Project - Recreation and Historic Preservation Committee

  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.

Paul Bechly

Tom Kovach - President of New Castle County Council

Contacted 05/09/11

Tom gave 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 long days.

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.

U.S. Senator Chris Coons' Office

Contacted by Amanda Morninghoff on 06/03/11

Amanda, 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

Contacted 04/2011

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 priority list.

Nemours statement on the Murphy House

Christine Quinn - New Castle County Historic Preservation Planner

Contacted 04/25/11 Called me 05/25/11.

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.

Email 07/07/11:


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 a permit.


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 renovation work."

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.    

Greg Lavelle - Delaware State Representative 11th district - Murphy House is in his district.

Contacted 05/24/11

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 Delaware

Contacted 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 Greenways

His email to me explains a lot:

Dear Mr. Hoover,

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 contact me.

Dan Griffith; President of the Board
Preservation Delaware, Inc.

Follow up email 07/08/11


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 Preservation Delaware

I emailed Terry, who emailed me back and recommended me to Dan Griffith:

Mr. Hoover,
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 successful.

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 Transportation

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 morning.

Shailen Bhatt