Marker honors historic house at Dover’s Eden Hill

From left,  Henry duPont Ridgely, Richard Carter, Delaware Heritage Commission and Supreme Court Justice James T. Vaughn Jr., reading the Eden Hill Farm historic marker together with crowd attending the unveiling Tuesday Sept. 29, 2015.   (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

From left, Henry duPont Ridgely, Richard Carter, Delaware Heritage Commission, and Supreme Court Justice James T. Vaughn Jr., read the Eden Hill Farm historic marker together with the crowd attending the unveiling Tuesday. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

DOVER — Out where downtown Dover fades into the more residential west Dover around Eden Hill Medical Center, a historic house more than 250 years old sits off a long gravel road. Trees flank the driveway, blocking the view of the home from North Street.

Even those who take the main road daily might not know the house is there. It’s been very easy to miss.

That could change now.

The Delaware Public Archives unveiled its newest historical marker Tuesday, recognizing the Eden Hill farm house.

The Eden Hill Farm house is now used as a state office for the courts.

The Eden Hill Farm house is now used as a state office for the courts.

For centuries, the house belonged to the Ridgely family, whose members played a pivotal role in Delaware history.

About 15 people, including current and former judges, descendants of the original owner and Public Archives staff came out to witness the dedication Tuesday.

About 580 historical markers celebrating places from Deer Park Tavern in Newark to the Schwartz Center for the Arts in Dover, have been set up across the state since the 1930s.

The house and the land it resides on were first owned by Nicholas Ridgely, who bought it in 1748. Ridgely served as a justice of the colonial supreme court of the Three Lower Counties on the Delaware River.

After his death, the property passed down through the family until it was purchased by the state in 2004 and turned into chambers for Supreme Court justices. Paintings of past owners hang on the walls inside, a reminder of the residence’s long and storied past.

The marker, located a few yards off the main road, tells the story of the house and the farm.

“From the 18th through 21st centuries, successive generations of the Ridgelys worked hard to keep Eden Hill a productive farm and family home,” reads one sentence at the end of the text.

The Eden Hill marker was unveiled Tuesday.

The Eden Hill marker was unveiled Tuesday.

While the origin of the name Eden Hill is unknown, the name itself continues to see usage in Eden Hill Medical Center and the Eden Hill Farm development.

It’s not just the house that is historic, Public Archives Director Stephen Marz said. The trees around the residence date back to the mid-1700s. When Eden Hill Medical Center was being built, the flora was left alone for that reason.

The Ridgely name is generally seen as one of the most recognizable and important in Delaware. Members of the family have served in Congress and on the state Supreme Court. One of those justices, Henry Ridgely, was present for the occasion Tuesday. He had an office in the house until his retirement earlier this year, at which point Justice James Vaughn Jr. moved into the historic dwelling.

Nicholas Ridgely, the original owner of the farm, became the guardian to Caesar Rodney after the then-teenaged Rodney’s parents died.

“There are very few, if any, families in the state of Delaware who have contributed as much,” Delaware Heritage Commission Chairman Dick Carter told the assembled group.

It was his idea to put a marker in place, he said. Two state lawmakers from Dover, Rep. Sean Lynn and Sen. Brian Bushweller, were able to arrange public funding for the sign.

Afterward, several members of the Ridgely family who attended the dedication toured the house, reminiscing about their visits when it was owned by a cousin.

“This is where the Christmas tree was,” observed Robert Horsey.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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