The Allee House: An Historical Treasure
Currently closed to the public and awaiting funds for rennovation
The Allee House, which is located on refuge property (Point 11 on the Virtual Tour map), is the refuge's historic treasure. It was built in the mid-1750's by Abraham Allee, the son of a French Huguenot (followers of Calvinism who were persecuted in France for their religious beliefs), and is considered to be among the finest examples of an early Delaware farmhouse.
The house remained in the Allee family for several generations before it was sold in 1828 to pay off a legal debt. It was owned by several prominent Delaware families before being sold to the United States government in 1962. In 1971, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The original dwelling consisted of the two-story rectangle, which measures forty-two by twenty-two feet.The one-story kitchen addition on the east end of the house was built sometime before 1790. A granary, corn crib, log kitchen and two stables were built nearby; nothing remains of these buildings, which are identified in a 1795 inventory. The outbuildings surrounding the house today—the barn, the ice house, and the smokehouse—were built in the early nineteenth century. The house was modernized in the mid-twentieth century— electrical service and indoor plumbing were added, a heating system was installed, the kitchen was modernized and a bathroom was constructed upstairs— to accomodate the 'caretaker' families who lived there.
For many years, refuge volunteers and members of Friends opened the Allee House for tours on spring and fall weekends. The tours, which were open to the general public, were conducted by a docent clad in a period costume who discussed the architecture of the house and the history of its occupants. Other special events were held in the house from time to time.
Following decades of neglect, the house has fallen into disrepair. Except for some minor cosmetic restorations made by the state of Delaware in the 1960's, little had been done to repair the structural damage or address its causes. The public tours were discontinued several years ago when the house was deemed to be unsafe for occupancy due to sagging floors and chimney damage.
An architectural and structural assessment commissioned by the USFWS found that the house remains in remarkably good condition, but needs immediate remediation to save it from settling further into the marsh. Without remediation, the foundation will continue to settle until the house collapses. In addition, much else needs to be done inside and outside to restore the house. Needless to say, all this work will cost a great deal of money; the estimate for remediation and restoration of the Allee House and the ice house is about $1.1 million.
The structural renovation of the Allee House has been completed. This work stabilized the house, replaced the roofs and repaired other structural details that allowed water to enter the house. Structural work included the temporary removal of part of the back wall which was bowed in. A footer was installed to provide proper support for the wall. The rear wall was rebuilt after the footer work had been completed.
Next spring the work to improve the drainage will be completed. Unfortunately there is no funding for the remaining work that needs to be completed before the house can be reopened to the public. Needless to say, we are unable to project the renovation completion date until funding is made availble.
Read the following articles to learn more about the history of the Allee House and the Allee family. They were written and researched by Dr. Robert Mayer, a charter member and Past President of the Friends of Bombay Hook.
This material may be used by others provided the author and source are credited.