The Todd House: Home of the Delaware State Historic Preservation Office

The Todd House: Home of the Delaware State Historic Preservation Office

The Todd House, located at 15 The Green in Dover, was built in 1859 by Henry Todd. Mr. Todd owned the two brick buildings on the northeast side of the Green, now known as the Kirk and Short Buildings, for seventeen years. Both properties are listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Dover Green Historic District as well as the City of Dover Historic District.

Henry Todd was born December 24, 1802, and was a prominent agriculturist, a member of the Delaware Legislature and the Town Commissioner of Dover from 1837-1838. He was appointed Surveyor for Dover in March of 1829. Todd purchased the property on January 25, 1837, from Martin Bates, a prominent attorney of the time. At that time there was a small building on the property occupied by James Allee which was used as a clock and watch shop. Bates acquired the property from the estate of James Schee. Mr. Schee owned several properties in the downtown area including property on what are now Water and State streets. At the time of his death, Schee had three minor children: Elizabeth, James, and Mary. Elizabeth Schee later married Henry Todd on February 1, 1836.

In 1859, Henry Todd tore down the small house located on the Green and built the current building. The Italianate-style house is an imposing, three-story, brick building with a two-story rear ell. Capped by a low hipped roof above a bracketed cornice, the building has a five-bay facade that is symmetrically arranged. The pressed brick of the facade is laid in a running bond with fine mortar joints, known as butter joints. Most of the front windows exhibit a four-over-four light configuration (paneled shutters, of which three sets are original, adorn the first floor windows); the front entrance consists of a paneled double door with an etched-glass transom set in a Greek Revival surround. The building facade rests upon a marble water table and is served by a set of marble steps. The interior retains its original floor plan and has most of its original detailing, including two marble mantelpieces, plaster cornices, molded window and door surrounds, baseboards, paneled doors, and staircases. Also of interest on the interior is the cross-passage stair hall, which removes the vertical-circulation function from the first floor main hall.

Shortly after Todd built this magnificent house, the attached office building (now known as the Short Building) was built as the home to John Kirk’s print shop. The cost to build both properties was $12,000.

In the 1930's, demolition contractors dynamited the old Kent county jail, which was located on the north side of the old State House. In the rubble was found a tin can, which contained a letter Henry Todd wrote chronicling his times, along with samples from John Kirk’s print shop, a train fare chart for agricultural products and a public notice of an auction. Mr. Todd was involved in the building of the jail and created his own time capsule and placed it on the second floor of the jail in hopes that some day his history would live on. On September 29, 1871, Mr. Todd wrote of the political circle in Delaware and how he felt as though he had been an outsider in town since he moved to Dover on August 7, 1827. Mr. Todd expressed in this letter that he felt "the opposing party had made efforts to starve him out." Mr. Todd was a devoted Democrat and he felt his views were not always welcomed. Mr. Todd continued in the letter saying that he felt had it not been for his reputation as a surveyor he would not have been able to hold on. Mr. Todd was not only a surveyor, but he tells of owning over 15,000 peach trees and having a worth of approximately $50,000. Mr. Todd also stated that at the time of the letter the population of Dover was about 2000 and growing.

Henry Todd and his wife Elizabeth had four children. Mr. Todd wrote of his children and their accomplishments. Their only daughter, Annie, was the wife of Professor Wm. A. Reynolds of the Classical School of Wilmington; of his sons, James Henry Todd was a farmer and fruit grower; Robert Wild Todd was a graduate of Yale College and a member of the New York bar; and Frederick W. Todd who was attending the Classical School of Wilmington in preparation for college.

Henry Todd lost both of his buildings when they were sold in 1876 to settle his debts. Henry Todd died September 5, 1883, and was preceded in death by his wife Elizabeth, who died Christmas Day, 1869. The Todd House has been used for offices since the late 19th century. After first housing law offices, the State of Delaware purchased the building in the 1940's. The Banking Commissioner and the Insurance Commissioner have occupied the property. In 1987, the building became the home of the Bureau of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, now known as the Delaware State Historic Preservation Office.

Cherie Dodge
Delaware State Historic Preservation Office

Molded Plaster Cornice in Main Room
Todd House First Floor Window with Shutters
Molded Plaster Cornice in Downstairs Hallway