Historic Jehu M. Reed House fades into the past

LITTLE HEAVEN — The historic Jehu M. Reed House could have been the perfect centerpiece for the Little Heaven overpass, which will eventually carry Del. 1 traffic over Bowers Beach Road.

However, years of neglect and deterioration have led to the once majestic house, which is located at the junction of Del. 1 and Bower Beach Road, being on the verge of demolition.

Mother Nature, unfortunately, has already taken care of much of that process as a Nor’easter this winter caused significant damage to the front facade of the house. A gaping hole now gives passersby a glimpse into the upper floors.

Gwen Davis, deputy state historic preservation officer, said it is sad to see the state of the crumbling historic home, which once sat on a vast tract of land that encompassed 950 acres.

“Of course, it’s heartbreaking to see a property that was considered very significant go through such a period of loss,” Ms. Davis said.

The Jehu Reed house viewed from Bowers Beach Road and Route 1 near Little Heaven. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“Unfortunately, it does happen. I would be hard pressed to say how common it is but when it does occur, it is very heartbreaking.”

For more than 200 years, from 1685 until 1912, the property in Little Heaven maintained an association with the Reed family, a well-known and prominent Central Delaware family.

The house is now owned by Jeff Pardee, who has said he would have loved to restore it, but lacked the funds to do so.

The original portion of the house was built in 1771 by Henry Newell. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The house was eventually expanded in 1868 by Jehu M. Reed, an agricultural pioneer and benefactor whose advances and techniques in farming helped foster Delaware’s peach and apple industry.

According to J. Thomas Scharf’s “History of Delaware,” Mr. Reed was an “enterprising merchant, agriculturist, and horticulturist of Kent County” and a “man of considerable force of character, [who] obtained some notoriety in his day.

“He is said to have been the first person who introduced the culture of the peach in this country for profit by putting out a large orchard in 1830, and adding thereto from year to year.”

The Jehu M. Reed House, a three-story Italianate brick structure, is a breed of rural architecture that melds the original fabric of a Georgian structure with a Victorian plantation house.

However, it is now being overrun by vegetation and is falling apart following years of neglect.

It is not just Mr. Reed’s historic home that has undergone damage on the property. All of the outbuildings associated with the property have either deteriorated or were removed.

Once a vibrant part of Little Heaven’s past, the Jehu M. Reed House does not seem to have much of a future.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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