Belmont Hall in Smyrna, the building that played a part in the American Revolution, will be open for tours on Saturday, Dec. 18 from 1 to 5 p.m. The new Friends of Belmont Hall group is hosting its first Christmas open house in tadem with the Duck Creek Historical Society which will open the Smyrna Museum for special hours on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.


BELMONT HALL OPEN HOUSE
Where: Entrance on Smyrna-Leipsic Road just west of Rt. 13 before the bridge over Rt. 1. Smyrna-Leipsic Road is between Odd Fellows Cemetery and All-Tech Automotive.
When: Saturday, Dec. 18 from 1-5 p.m.
Admission: Free, but donations will be accepted to benefit the Friends of Belmont Hall.
For more information: Call 302-264-9048 or email belmonthall.de@gmail.com.


Belmont Hall in Smyrna, the building that played a part in the American Revolution, will be open for tours on Saturday, Dec. 18 from 1 to 5 p.m. The new Friends of Belmont Hall group is hosting its first Christmas open house in tadem with the Duck Creek Historical Society which will open the Smyrna Museum for special hours on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event at Belmont Hall will feature rooms decorated from the early 19th century through the Victorian era, an antique doll display, a model train garden, and a lovely antique sleigh. Visitors can see the tools used in open-hearth cooking.

Entertainment will include the First State Harmonizers from 2 to 3 p.m, and a reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” every half hour.
Santa Claus will be available for family pictures taken by our volunteer photographer.

Light refreshments will be served.

The event is free but donations will be accepted.

Belmont Hall is located next to Odd Fellows Cemetery at 512 S. Dupont Hwy., (Rt. 13), but the entrance is on Smyrna-Leipsic Road just east of Rt. 13, before the bridge over Rt. 1.

The historic home is owned by the State of Delaware, and operated by the Friends of Belmont Hall.

Susan Wolfe is the president of the group, which is open to new members.

“We have been looking forward to the opportunity to open the house to the public since we signed the joint-use agreement with the state in July,” said Wolfe. “What better time than when the house is decorated for Christmas? We’re excited about this, and we hope people will come.”

Wolfe said the state has been making needed repairs to preserve the historic home.

One of the projects underway is adding new mortar to the stone front steps.

“They’ve had people evaluate the roof and give repair estimates,” said Wolfe. “We realize we’re in a group with all other historic properties as far as funding, but we have a better chance with the Friends of Belmont Hall pushing for it, pointing out what’s needed. We’re advocates for the home, and the state has responded to us. I’ve been very pleased.”

Important part of Delaware history

Why is the Friends of Belmont Hall interested in preserving the home?
“Because of its importance in Delaware history,” said Wolfe.

The building dates back to 1773. It was the home of Thomas Collins, a brigadier general during the American Revolution.

“He helped outfit the Delaware Militia and provide weapons, and they trained right here,” said Wolfe.

In 1777, a sentinel on the watch tower was shot by a British soldier and later died inside the house. A plaque was placed in the home in memory of that soldier by the Daughters of the American Revolution of Delaware in 1909. Visitors to the open house on Saturday can see the plaque near the front door.

After the Revolution, Delaware’s first legislature met at Belmont Hall.
Collins went on to be elected the eighth governor of Delaware and was governor when Delaware ratified the Constitution to become the first state in 1787.

Local woman lived in home

One person who has first-hand knowledge about the history of Belmont Hall is Missy Speakman Vaughn of Smyrna who lived in the house during her childhood until she was 22.

Her grandparents, Cummins and Marjorie Speakman, owned the home and invited their son and daughter-in-law, Walter and Virginia Speakman, to live with them after the birth of Missy, to help care for the new baby. So Walter and Virginia moved from Wilmington to Smyrna.

Vaughn has many fond memories of living at Belmont Hall, especially of Christmas at the home.

“We used to have the Christmas tree in the Florida room off the dining room,” said Vaughn. “In those days when you were shooting home movies, you needed a spotlight, and I remember coming down the stairs to the dining room, in pajamas with the footies, and having to squint because of the spotlight our parents were shining on us as the camera was rolling so they could see our reaction to the tree and all the toys. We always had Christmas Eve dinner around the table and when we got older, one of us would go outside with sleigh bells and jingle them, and we’d tell the younger kids, ‘That must be Santa. Santa’s coming!’”

The house has multiple fireplaces, but Vaughn remembers that her grandparents told the children that Santa would be coming down the chimney in the dining room.

“I think it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to open the house to the public and show it when it’s decorated for the holidays,” said Vaughn. “When it was sitting here, closed up, it was just deteriorating. I’m glad it’s opened up again so more people can see it, and so people who are interested in preserving it can get involved.”

The interest in history runs in Vaughn’s family. Her great-grandmother, Caroline Speakman, started the Elizabeth Cook Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and her grandmother was one of the founding members of the Duck Creek Historical Society.

Smyrna Museum open special hours Saturday

The Duck Creek Historical Society is still active today, operating the Smyrna Museum in “The Barracks” on South Main Street, the site of the Civil War draft lottery for the Smyrna-area.

The museum will be open with extended hours on Saturday, Dec. 18 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Rooms will be decorated for the holidays with the help of the Duck Creek Horticulture Society, and a variety of exhibits will be on display, including antique toys.

Light refreshments will be served.

Behind the museum, visitors can tour the Plank House, “a prime example of early Delaware architecture, being only one room with an end wall projecting fireplace, and having a loft reached by a ladder stairway,” according to George Caley’s book “Footprints of the Past.” The Plank House was moved from its original location on North Main Street to the Lindens property, and then dismantled again, moved, and rebuilt behind the Smyrna Museum several years ago.

Admission to Saturday’s event is free, but donations will be accepted.

SMYRNA MUSEUM OPEN HOUSE
Where: 11 S. Main St., Smyrna, between PNC Bank and Sayers Jewelers
When: Saturday, Dec. 18 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Admission: Free, but donations will be accepted to benefit the Duck Creek Historical Society.
For more information: Call 653-1320