Centreville’s Dauneport property listed in National Register of Historic Places

Dauneport, which was once the former 1932 country home of industrial heiress and philanthropist Amy du Pont, has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places as of fall 2022.

Dauneport is New Castle County’s only known example of a private dwelling designed and constructed as a replica of Mount Vernon, the historic home of George and Martha Washington south of Washington, D.C.

California-based architectural designer Mary McLaughlin Craig, a personal friend of du Pont, designed the estate near the unincorporated community of Centreville in Christiana Hundred. Dauneport is locally significant as a late expression of the American country house movement, and one of the last du Pont family country houses constructed in an area of northern Delaware. Dauneport also is significant for women’s history, since it was designed by Mary McLaughlin Craig, one of the most prominent architectural designers during the 1920s and 1930s in Santa Barbara, California, in collaboration with her patron and friend, Amy E. du Pont. It represents Craig’s only known architectural commission in the state of Delaware, and it represents the only known architectural collaboration between a female patron and female architect for a country house in northern Delaware during the early 20th century. 

Dauneport retains key exterior design features that reflect its Mount Vernon design inspiration. In 1958, physical changes to the house were made by subsequent owners, including the addition of a central cupola, the removal of brick chimney stacks and the replacement of some original shutters.

Researchers found that the well-preserved property is an architecturally distinct example of a country house or “country place” movement during the late-19th century. During that time (roughly between 1880-1940), which also aligned with the Gilded Age in America, “the wealth of industrialists and corporate titans skyrocketed – but at the same time, the cities where their industries were typically located grew increasingly crowded, dirty, and noisy.” Wealthy builders were able to escape those scenes and settle in more rural locations with “sprawling country estates.”

Dauneport was built during the waning years of the Brandywine region’s du Pont country house culture, built for the great-granddaughter of French émigré and gunpowder manufacturer E. I. du Pont de Nemours, founder of Du Pont de Nemours and Company. Amy du Pont was born in 1875 and died in 1962.

The home is designed in a Colonial Revival style with more than 8,000 square feet of living space. It was “characteristically designed for entertaining, with large, highly-ornamented formal rooms, service areas for domestic workers, and spaces for outdoor leisure and recreation — including a two-story piazza, a large in-ground swimming pool, expansive lawns, and a terraced side yard with ornamental plantings,” according to the nomination.

Over the years, the estate hosted various philanthropic and social events, including the Fairfield Farms Horse Show in the late 1930s. The National Register nomination was prepared by the University of Delaware’s Center for Historic Architecture and Design on behalf of New Castle County and the property owners. The work was supported by the Historic Preservation Fund sub-grant program for certified local governments, managed by the State Historic Preservation Office.

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