Over the past two years, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has completed Phase III of its master planning process for the Buena Vista conference center located at 661 S. Dupont Highway in New Castle.

The mansion house at Buena Vista
Mansion house at Buena Vista

The planning process was begun in 2010 in an effort to safeguard Buena Vista’s historical integrity; improve visitor wayfinding and circulation for the existing conference and reception functions; and investigate the potential for accommodating a wider range of events. The first eight years of the process saw the completion of a wide range of improvements including structural repairs to the mansion and outbuildings, upgrades to building-automation systems, construction of an accessible pedestrian trail, horticultural upgrades and many others.

Activities completed as part of Phase III include the following:

–Restoration and renovation of the circa 1825 brick stable as a support building for the pole-shed event pavilion. Improvements to the stable included the addition of public-use restrooms, a basic catering kitchen (servery) and a workroom. The renovation required the addition of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems; water supply; intrusion and fire protection; basic communications systems; envelope stabilization; and interior space layout and finishes.

Brick stable at Buena Vista
Brick stable at Buena Vista
Pole-shed event pavilion at Buena Vista
Pole-shed event pavilion at Buena Vista

–Conclusion of a multi-year project to upgrade Buena Vista’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system including installation of a new chiller, water pumps, air separator, glycol feeder, expansion tank and other hydronic appurtenances. Previous phases of the project included the installation of new boilers; replacement of select pumps; installation of a glycol/water mixing tank; draining, cleaning and re-filling of the glycol system; installation of selected piping insulation; and upgraded controls

–In order to address numerous water-pipe breaks, the entire existing water line serving the conference center was abandoned in-place, and the conference center was tied in to an existing six-inch fire sprinkler service. A new master meter-vault and meter pit were installed connecting to the existing six-inch line

–Repairs to the property’s greenhouse which serves as the northern Delaware headquarters for the division’s Horticulture Team. The greenhouse is used to grow a wide variety of planting materials for use at the division’s museums and historic sites across the state

–Conversion of a section of the property’s garage to serve as a storage location in support of conference center functions

The main section of the Buena Vista mansion was built between 1845 and 1847 by John M. Clayton, United States secretary of state from 1849 to 1850 under presidents Taylor and Fillmore, and United States senator from 1829 to 1836, 1845 to 1849, and 1853 until his death in 1856. The home later became the residence of C. Douglass Buck, governor of Delaware from 1929 to 1937 and United States senator from 1942 to 1948. Buena Vista and its grounds were donated to the state by the Buck family in 1965 and now serve as a conference/event center administered by the division.