If you’re ever lucky enough to go historic house hopping in Delaware, Rockwood Mansion would be a nice addition to your list. That is, if you’re in the mood for strolling the surrounding park grounds and admiring the architecture. To be brutally honest, this house museum is best appreciated from the outside…
The Gothic Revival mansion was built in 1851 as a retirement home for Quaker merchant Joseph Shipley. From what I recall, the house contains the original furnishings of Shipley’s descendants – the Bringhursts – and is arranged as they lived there in the 1890s.
It’s a beautiful house, but I wasn’t inspired to take any photos of the interior, which I found to overly refurbished, if that makes any sense. It just felt…I don’t know, too clean. Plasticized. And the interpretation of the site is kind of cheesy. It’s difficult to explain – you’ll just have to see for yourself. It didn’t help that tours begin with a corny introductory video that features an Irish maid who frequently acts startled every time she’s in a scene, like so:
::maid looks up, startled, in the middle of dusting:: “oh why hello there! Let me show you the English garden!” (paraphrasing – I don’t remember the script, but you get the idea)
I love historical architecture and wouldn’t call this experience a waste, but I was a little disappointed. I felt like I was touring a grandmother’s house and found the interpretation a little weak. It also seems to be the sort of organization that puts more effort into offering ghost tours , which I realize is, unfortunately, how many museums stay standing. I love haunted history as much as the next person (my blog title might be a metaphor, but I love all things macabre!), but I find it sad when it seems that’s all a museum relies on. But then again, who can blame them? In almost every historic house tour someone usually asks, “is it haunted?!” [And on that note, stay tuned for a book review exploring America’s seemingly haunted architecture…]
Anyone else ever been disappointed by a historic house museum?
October 18, 2017 at 10:26 am
It’s too bad the interior was such a disappointment, because the outside does look really cool. And that video sounds awful! It also seems weird that the interior would be overly refurbished if they’re aiming to make most of their money from ghost tours…surely a sort of neglected looking interior would feel much spookier (then again, while I too love all things creepy, and like the idea of ghost tours in theory, most of the ones I’ve been on have been really lame, so it would probably fit right in). And yes, I’m disappointed by historic house museums on a fairly regular basis, as you probably know, so you’re not alone!
October 21, 2017 at 11:41 pm
Yeah, ghost tours are often pretty lame, but sometimes they’re the only sort of tour offered. I guess the general public is more intrigued by that than the architecture/interiors/context. It was once the only way I could see Belcourt Castle in Newport, for example. Anyway, historic houses are so numerous, they can’t all be winners, right?