Lovers of southern Delaware history undoubtedly know how lucky we are to live in an area of the United States that features so many historic buildings, so many timeless tales and so many larger than life characters of years gone by.
At the Oldfather Group, we’re beyond honored and pleased to be representing one of these historic buildings, a home that dates back nearly two centuries and can be traced to two of the most prominent and influential inhabitants of Sussex County.
Additionally, a famous family tied to the American Revolution and the early days of the United States also comes up when researching this one-of-a-kind home and property.
Located at 228 South Front Street in the Sussex County Seat of Georgetown, this home has a history as rich and detailed as southern Delaware itself. It can be traced to 1841, when it was constructed on land that was once part of the sprawling real estate empire of General John Dagworthy, according to documents obtained from the Georgetown Historical Society.
The one-time commander of the Sussex County Militia who became famous in the late 18th century for his feud with George Washington, once owned more than 20,000 acres of land in southern Delaware. This includes the area that was eventually named in his honor, the town of Dagsboro.
It also encompasses what was known as Clayfield Farm in the mid-19th century, which is where the historic four bedroom home resting on one-and-a-half acres in Georgetown was constructed in 1841 by Edward Wells and Elizabeth Dagworthy Aydelotte Wells.
Foster daughter of the renowned military man, Mrs. Wells inherited much of the general’s land upon his death in 1784 and is the reason why many locals have long referred to the property as the “Old Wells Home.”
But whether “Clayfield Farm,” the “Old Wells Home,” the “Gardiner Wright Mansion” or any other name it’s gone by through the years, the connection of 228 South Front Street to the early days of Sussex County cannot be denied.
In addition to the esteemed General Dagworthy, other famous names connected to this Regency style home include Judge John H.H. Paynter, grandson of a former Delaware governor and a member of one of the most famous Sussex County families ever, as well as Doctor Rowland Paynter, Delaware Supreme Court Justice James M. Tunnell, Jr., and Martha Custis Washington, wife of the first president of the United States.
It’s unlikely Martha Washington herself ever stepped foot in the Georgetown home, but America’s original First Lady was once married to Daniel Park Custis. Her first husband is a direct relative of the Wright family, which owned the historic home for a time.
“This home is undoubtedly significant to Sussex County because it was once owned by probably the most famous and influential family the county will ever see,” says 89-year-old local historian Pete Okie, who has researched the history of 228 South Front Street extensively over the years. “Doctor Paynter himself was the most important man who will probably ever live in Georgetown; he was the top dog in the area for many, many years.”
The home itself was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and offers a rare look into the history of central Sussex County.
There are eight fireplaces, including one in each of the four bedrooms, as well as a two-story brick hall that runs the full depth of the house and many other features representative of that time in the United States.
Because of its size and central location in Sussex County, the home was also briefly used as a hospital around the turn of the 20th century. There is no compelling evidence, however, that it was also used as a hospital during the American Civil War, which has long been rumored in local circles.
This historic property in Georgetown is currently on the market, represented by the Oldfather Group of Ocean Atlantic Sotheby’s International Realty. It can be personally viewed by calling 302-260-2000 and scheduling an appointment with a member of Sussex County’s number one real estate sales team.
Don’t miss this unique chance for viewing, and possibly owning, an important piece of southern Delaware history!