This website is based on the research of one concerned citizen
and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the people or
organizations quoted here.
Little Murph sits outside the entrance gates of
Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.
The Nemours bell tower is visible just over Murph's
A view from the back showing the porch. Note the
pink stucco over brick.
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Save The Murphy House Group.
Open to everyone.
Slated for demolition on
August 03, 2011
October 15, 2011
DEDICATED TO SAVING THE WILLIAM MURPHY HOUSE
Located at 1601 Rockland Road Wilmington, Delaware 19803
LITTLE MURPH - OUR MISSION
July 4th, 2011
is the fourth of July, 2011, 235 years since the birth
of our nation. In one month, Delaware's Murphy House,
built in 1840, is scheduled for demolition. Today the
little house sits on it's stone foundation at the
entrance of the Nemours complex for it's 171st year,
that's 73% of the entire time our country has been
declared an independent nation.
The Nemours foundation is the sole beneficiary
of the A.I. duPont Testamentary Trust which was
valued at $3.4 billion in 2009.
Standard and Poors
Standing next to Little Murph one can see the stone
wall that surrounds the Nemours hospital and mansion and
the carillon bell tower that A.I. DuPont is buried in.
You can also see the gigantic Astra Zeneca complex a few
hundred yards away. One can imagine a former occupant of
the house sitting on the front porch watching the
construction of the massive Nemours wall in 1909, or
pondering the scaffolding around the bell tower
construction site in 1932.
Why is this old house scheduled for demolition? It
hasn't been occupied since the 1980s and the inside is
in deplorable condition. But it is structurally sound
and the outside is respectable, and can be renovated and
put to many good uses. The ground that it occupies does
not have any planned use; it will become a grassy lot.
Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) owned
the house until 2009 when it gave it away to Nemours
gratis as part of a deal to restructure the whole area
to accommodate expansion of the Astra Zeneca complex
changing the roadways, adding parks, expanding the golf
course and so on. Nemours accepted the house along with
the deed restriction and agreements to preserve the
house for Delaware history.
Now, in spite of the deed restriction and agreement
to preserve, Nemours is planning on wiping the lot clean
and hauling the pile of sticks and stones off to the
landfill. How can this happen? Some people seem to care,
but few care enough to take any action to prevent
this from happening. So unless Nemours is challenged,
one of the oldest structures in New Castle County,
Delaware will meet the fate of countless other historic
buildings around the state, and disappear into the back
pages of musty books on Delaware history.
(continued below) ...
Values: Nemours stated Mission and Values
We believe that our shared values inform and
inspire our activities, helping us build and
sustain a culture
Excel, Respect, Serve, Honor, Learn
We are committed to doing "whatever it takes" to
insure our patient-families, visitors,
experience a uniquely satisfying experience
each time they
interact with Nemours.
Now this particular house is not a shining example
of any stunning style of architecture. It is simply
a vernacular farm house, typical of it's day at a
time when our state's population was thin and houses
were few, but those houses were built to last, even
a simple farm residence. The builders of the house,
just common men, put together wood, brick, mortar,
and stucco using building techniques of the time
erecting a structure that stands solid 171 years
Saving the Murphy House, restoring it and
putting it to good use would represent more than
just saving one old house. It would represent
displaying the good values of a community, showing
respect for our past, the good things of our past,
something that Europeans do routinely, something
that Americans rarely do. Our quick buck mentality
steers us to get rid of old things and replace them
with flimsy short lived commercial throw-aways that
has resulted in miles of fast food joints and dollar
stores servicing acres of plastic monopoly houses in
the surrounding neighborhoods. Little Murph, sitting
lonely at the gates of Nemours, awaiting it's fate,
is one of the last representations of a past age in
our county and state.
Residents of the house probably marched off to the
Civil War. Everyone who was alive when it was built
is now dead, along with all of their children and
grand children. That's how old the house is. It's
hard to put it into perspective any other way and
appreciate it's age. Isn't the fact of it's age
alone worth the effort to preserve it?
It does seem ironic that it will be the Nemours
Foundation, whose very reason for existence is
to preserve the DuPont mansion, grounds and out
buildings, who will sign the check to demolish
Little Murph. When Alfred I. DuPont gave his
property and fortune
to the people of Delaware with the stipulation to
his trustees to preserve the building and grounds
for the benefit of the people, one may extrapolate
that he would also have wanted the smaller buildings
in the area preserved as well.
What would it take to preserve it? Money. What is
money? A representation of work. "We don't have the
extra money now in this recession, so we'll demolish
the house". Later, when we do have the money, there
will be no house to spend it on. If we don't spend
the money on the preservation of the old house, what
will we spend it on? Something, assuredly. Something
more worthwhile? Is it really truthful to say that
if money is spent on the house, children will not
get the care they deserve at the hospital?
I read about the fate of Little Murph several months
ago in the News Journal, in an
article written by
Robin Brown. For decades I've been reading articles
in this newspaper about various historic structures
being demolished for malls and housing developments.
When preservation groups try to stop this from
happening, and are close to success, it's uncanny
how a squatter gets inside the building and
accidently sets fire to the property until it is
beyond repair and must be demolished for safety's
I took it upon myself to draw the line at the gates of
Nemours. If a responsible, dedicated, philanthropic
organization like Nemours can get away with ignoring
their promises to preserve, and no one objects, then
no historic building is safe in Delaware.
SaveTheMurphyHouse.Org consists of one member, one
citizen who cares, me. I decided to check around
with various politicians and preservation groups and
put together an overall picture of the attitudes of
various stake holders towards historic preservation
in Delaware. This is a synopsis of my research.
version of this article