New historic site recommended for National Register of Historic Places

By Madeline Dunn, Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ National Register of Historic Places coordinator and Emily Whaley, cultural preservation specialist and architectural historian

The Delaware State Review Board for Historic Preservation recently recommended the Robert Mitchell House for listing on the National Register of Historic Places during its first meeting of 2022.

The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of historic places deemed worthy of preservation. The program, established by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 as amended, is administered by the National Park Service.

The state review board, a volunteer board composed of professionals and citizen members, met on January 19 virtually and at the Buena Vista Conference Center to adhere to state guidelines for public meetings during the pandemic to review the new nomination and other updates and guidelines related to the program.

During the January meeting, Michael J. Emmons, assistant director of the Center for Historic Architecture & Design at the University of Delaware’s Biden School of Public Policy and Administration, summarized the Center’s research conducted on the Robert Mitchell House in Hockessin. This private residence, constructed in the 19th century and modified during the post-World War II Colonial Revival era by owners Robert and Patricia Mitchell, represents a historic 19th century New Castle County dwelling transformed during the Early American-style movement of the 1950s and 1970s. 

Photo of the Robert Mitchell House
Robert Mitchell House

Robert Mitchell, a self-trained practitioner of the Early American-style movement established a successful construction business and renovated historic properties in eastern New Castle County and nearby Pennsylvania as well as his own home. Mitchell incorporated national practices and trends by installing salvaged historic materials and using quality reproductions materials (such as bricks, moldings and hardware) to create historically inspired designs. Surviving character-defining features remaining intact at the Mitchell House are Mitchell’s reproduction paneled exterior shutters, door and window moldings and trim, his incorporation of historic and/or reproduced hardware and building materials into interior spaces, as well as his custom-built colonial style bookcases and cabinets, and the installation of fashionable brick flooring in the kitchen and porch areas.

Acknowledging a local level of significance, the building’s association with the post-World War II Early American-style movement and Mitchell’s artisanship, the board unanimously recommended the submission of the Robert Mitchell House nomination to the National Park Service for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Authorized by the Historic Preservation Act of 1966, this board functions in an advisory capacity to the State Historic Preservation Officer. The board is primarily responsible for making recommendations regarding whether a nominated property meets eligibility criteria for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The board is comprised of 10 members, including is an archaeologist, architect, architectural historian, historian, a preservation planner and citizens interested in history and historic preservation.