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By Madeline Dunn, Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ National Register coordinator-historian
The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ State Historic Preservation Office has recently announced two new additions to the National Register of Historic Places, both from New Castle County—the Florence and Isaac Budovitch House, listed on Jan. 30, 2020; and the Newark Union Church and Cemetery, listed on Feb. 6, 2020.
Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and administered by the National Park Service, the National Register is the United States’ official list of historic places worthy of preservation. Listing in the Register is an honorary designation that is part of a national program designed to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect America’s historic and archaeological resources.
The nomination process, guided by the State Historic Preservation Office, provides opportunities for private property owners, organizations and consultants, as well as volunteer researchers and governmental agencies, to strengthen working relationships and document eligible historic properties.
National Register nominations for the two newly listed properties were written by the University of Delaware’s Center for Historic Architecture and Design. Funding for this preservation project was provided by the National Park Service through a Historic Preservation Fund sub-grant awarded to New Castle County, one of Delaware’s seven Certified Local Governments, and managed by the State Historic Preservation Office.
Prior to submitting these nominations to the National Park Service, members of the New Castle County Historic Review Board and the Delaware State Review Board for Historic Preservation reviewed each nomination and determined that they met eligibility requirements and nomination standards.
Located at 4611 Bedford Blvd. northeast of Wilmington, the Florence and Isaac Budovitch House embodies distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction, and represents the work of a master architect.
Constructed between 1955 and 1956, this Contemporary style dwelling was designed by New York architect Edgar Tafel, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, and features distinctive Prairie School/Wrightian influences. The Budovitch House is significant at the local level as the only known Tafel-designed commission in the state of Delaware and as an excellent example of well-preserved mid-20th century Contemporary residential architecture.
Its Contemporary design is realized through the open planning and multi-level zoning such as in the sunken living room, master suite situated a half-story above the main level and second floor bedrooms linked via an open hall and central stairway. The Prairie School and Wrightian roots of the Budovitch House are evident in its massing and form; low-pitched, hipped roof with deeply overhanging boxed eaves; and bands of plywood board and batten, all of which emphasize the horizontality of the dwelling.
Tenets of organic architecture are manifested in the successful integration of interior and exterior spaces of the home, especially through the many large windows and sliding glass doors on the main level that allow for abundant natural lighting and visual continuity between the indoors and outdoors.
Located at 8 and 20 Newark Union Public Road approximately one mile east of the Budovitch House, the Newark Union Church and Cemetery served a wide range of religious groups for a total of nearly 300 years including Quakers, Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans and non-denominational Christians. Both the cemetery (founded in the late-17th century and still accepting burials) and the surviving Newark Union Church (built in 1845 and remodeled in 1906) represent the evolving religious demographics of residents north of Wilmington.
Its stone construction in 1845 represents a common choice of building material found in the Delaware Piedmont region during the 19th century. The 1906 renovations reflect the Late Gothic Revival style thereby representing local and statewide patterns of change characteristic of rural Methodist churches in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The church is 28 feet wide by 40 feet long with stuccoed stone walls, a gable roof and a projecting frame vestibule on the east elevation. A rectangular marble date plaque high in the east gable reads “Newark Union 1845.”
The interior of the church has remained largely unchanged from its 1906 appearance. The vestibule’s interior is faced with stained wood wainscoting on the lower section and taupe-pink-painted plaster on the upper, matching the interior of the nave. The lancet windows are decorated with a three-part tracery in the upper, pointed sash. Below this are two panes. The lower sashes are divided into four panes. Windowpanes are of a clear pressed glass with a small starburst pattern.
The pulpit is a low wood platform with a knee-level wood chancel screen—essentially a balustrade—with turned spindles topped by a rail and set back several inches from the platform lip. A framed, calligraphic verse of scripture decorates the altar wall, reading, “That in all things…Christ might have the preeminence Col 1:18.” Though worship services are not currently held in this historic edifice, the building is in the process of being restored.
The cemetery, which remains active, lies on approximately two acres of ground north of the church building. It is enclosed by a parged, uncoursed fieldstone wall. It contains about 500 marked burials dating from the mid-18th century to the present, as well as unmarked burials associated with the initial period of Quaker settlement in the late-17th and early-18th centuries. In general, these are laid out in parallel rows running south to north. The earliest burials are concentrated closest to the church building and are slightly more irregular in their spacing.
Throughout all but the earliest section of the cemetery, headstones face east or west in no discernible pattern. In the old section, the southernmost area closest to the church building, west-facing headstones cluster at the east of a central aisle and east-facing headstones cluster to the west. Grave markers range from plain, upright stone slabs, to stones set into the ground, to stone slabs carved in Baroque style, to bedstead markers, to Egypto-Classical Revival styles. More recent burials are concentrated in the upper acre and are often topped with granite markers.