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


 Nemours Position

April 6, 2011
Dear Mr. Hoover,
    Your email concerning the William Murphy House was forwarded to me for response. First, let me assure you that The Nemours Foundation did not come easily to the decision to request a demolition permit for the house.  We first asked DelDOT to give the house to us in 2004; it was given to us in mid-2008.  During the time that DelDOT owned the house it deteriorated and that process continued, of course, during the four years we were trying to obtain control of it. As part of the negotiations with DelDOT, they shared with Nemours cost projections of approximately $1.2 million for the restoration of the building.  We felt those numbers were vastly inflated.  As soon as the property became ours, we hired John Milner Architects to study the condition of the house and to put together some rough cost estimates for its adaption to office space. Their estimates were considerably lower than DelDOT's projections, but at $885,000 still excessively high for an investment in office space in the current economy.
    In adddition, the road work conducted by DelDOT around the house resulted in "right-turn entry only" for the property on both sides.  That is not an insurmountable obstacle, but it is a handicap to the location.
    We regret that our decision to seek a demolition permit has led you to assume that The Foundation does not care about the community, but as your email rightly notes our primary mission is to provide first-class, quality health-care to children. In the current economic climate The Foundation has concluded that $885,000 would be better spent on that care rather than on the conversion of the William Murphy House to office space. I have spent more than thirty years as a professional historic preservationist and I believe that is a reasonable conclusion.
    As I hope you know, The Foundation is offering the house free to anyone willing to re-locate it.  We hope that someone will chose to take advantage of this opportunity. I also hope you know that the New Castle Historic Review Board has chosen to recommend that our request for a demolition permit be granted. They do not lightly make such recommendations, and their decision to do so in this case underscores the unfortunate circumstances that have come together to make the retention of the house in its current location so difficult.  
Grace Gary
Executive Director, Nemours Mansion and Gardens
April 12, 2011
Dear Mr. Hoover,
    I have attached the requirements for being considered for ownership of the Murphy House.  We would be delighted if it worked out for you to move the house. However, I must disappoint you by saying that I am totally at peace with The Foundation's plans for the house. I spent the first 20+ years of my career working with grassroots preservation groups to save buildings. I was regional director of the National Trust's Mid-Atlantic Region (when it was still a regional office and not a field office), I was executive director of Preservation Pennsylvania, and I was executive director of Heritage Aspen. I was also chairman of the Philadelphia Historical Commission's Designation Committee. I do care about old buildings and prefer to see them preserved (I've also been directly involved in saving quite a few), but I also feel that things must be in balance. It is my sincere professional opinion that the house has lost all context and that the costs of renovation far out-weigh the benefits, especially when you consider that The Nemours Foundation laid-off 240 employees during the beginning of the recession and now proposes to make a stretch-investment in building a large addition to AIDHC. It is always tempting to spend other peoples' money, and you are right that The Foundation has a large endowment, but I, personally, cannot justify spending double the local "per square foot" rental cost for first-class office space on a small, vernacular building that no longer has any historical context.
    The first thing The Foundation did upon finally being given title to the building was to hire John Milner Architects to conduct a condition-assessment of the building with the intent of beginning the process of adapting the building to office space. Milner's estimate was nearly 50% lower than DelDOT's estimate, which was by that time several years old. I think that fact alone should illustrate that we were acting in good faith. It may or may not be possible to reduce that cost further, but you have to remember that fire and safety codes are different for an office than for a house. One of the problems with the house, from our point-of-view, is that it has a "winder" stair. That will not meet code. Replacing it with a straight staircase, or one with a landing, will eat up a lot of the available first floor office space. When combined with the other issues involved in adapting this building to office space, I am comfortable that the expense does not justify the end result. Especially when weighed against The Foundation's mission of providing health care to the elderly and children.  
    Had the recession not occurred, I think it is very likely that we might be in a different place today.
    And, finally, in answer to your question about "why August"? That is the date when the HRB's time clock runs out. We have not scheduled the demolition, but we probably will act shortly after the time period is over. There are a couple of reasons for this: first, the last thing anyone wants is for someone to get hurt over there; and, secondly, even if we dramatically improve the way DelDot "moth-balled" the building, buildings deteriorate when they are left empty-- that's what happened to this building while it belonged to DelDot and we don't see much point in just letting it get into worse shape. Our interest in asking DelDOT for the building was to try to create an attractive entrance to the Hospital; that's still Nemours' main goal.
    Mr. Hoover, I am being completely honest with you about my own professional opinion on the preservation of the building, on the likely cost of rehabbing the building, and on the issues The Foundation faces. I feel your interest in the building is sincere, and now that I know you have the good taste to hire Edgar Tafel, I do understand that you genuinely care about buildings. Actually, The Nemours Foundation does, too. This is just a situation in which everything came together at the wrong time and in the wrong way. Should you wish to investigate moving the building, I would be happy to meet with you and to take you through it. Let's find a way to work together to make this a win for everyone.
Grace Gary 

July 6, 2011 - Upon review of the website, Grace Gary had these comments:

I would suggest two small changes. 1) It turns out that we could request a demolition permit earlier than August 3. I don't know when we will request a permit, but I do not want to mislead anyone and have them then feel they were "skunked."  At the same time, I realize that you want to motivate people to act, which requires a sense of urgency. Do you think you could change the date to reflect that demolition may be "immenient"? And, two, thank you for the kind words about me, but it isn't just me that is responsible to the Board of Directors. The entire Foundation, including the Board of Directors is responsible both to Mr. duPont and to the IRS to use our funds for the purposes set forth in Mr. duPont's Will and in our Articles of Incorporation. Preservation beyond the Mansion and Gardens is not included in either.
As to the demolition date, I will keep you informed, but, please, be aware that legally we may now request it at any time.