The Kux/Alrichs House, Port Penn, DE.
Rear view, Kux/Alrichs House.
Brickwork, Kux/Alrichs House.
On May 27, nine months and one week after the meeting I attended last August, Delaware Wild Lands demolished the Kux/Alrichs House.
The Kux/Alrichs House.
The University of Delaware's Center for Historic Architecture and Design documented parts of the house, but, as far as I can tell no fragments of the house were saved, including a dated brick near the kitchen window. Delaware Wild Lands had offered the house or portions for free to any taker with a clear plan for moving the structure. That no one was able to meet the organization's offer reflects the substantial expense of carefully moving a historic structure. Moreover, historical preservation standards, including the typical requirements for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, emphasize the importance of a building as situated in its original landscape or location.
Staff with the University of Delaware Center for Historic Architecture and Design's Mid-Atlantic Historic Building and Landscape Survey documenting the Kux/Alrichs House, from here.
We cannot and should not preserve every scrap of the built environment. Something old isn't necessarily worth saving. I'm not bemoaning progress or advocating tighter restrictions on private property rights. Some might say that the Kux/Alrichs House was not significant. No signer of the Declaration of Independence ever lived there. It was never a Revolutionary War hospital or a stop on the Underground Railroad. According to the organization's executive director, Delaware Wild Lands is in the "business" of land conservation, not historic preservation (see the comments here).
The Kux/Alrichs House and later addition.
But can we make the distinction between land conservation and historic preservation so easily? For 254 years, the Kux/Alrichs House sat quietly in the middle of farm fields, the hub of a man-made, agricultural landscape. Peter Alrichs chose the spot to built his house for the same reason Native Americans stayed in the area for hundreds of years. It sat on fertile, high ground near the river. By 2014, the house was one of only a handful of eighteenth-century structures still standing in southern New Castle County. This didn't necessarily make it the best candidate for a museum. But it also meant that people who consider themselves steward's of Delaware's land should have realized that this house was part of the landscape itself.
The Kux/Alrichs House within its historical landscape.
The expenses of preserving this structure, with no residents, in a rural area where vandalism or liability were minimal risks, would have been minor, perhaps even less than the cost of demolition. I suspect Delaware Wild Lands decided many months ago that the house wasn't worth preserving, no matter the cost. Far better to clear the land, plow over the foundations, and preserve a wild landscape.
The view from the Kux/Alrichs House.
Delaware Wild Lands leases these 250 acres to hunters.