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Foxwood Estate Offers Glimpse of Mid-Century Country Life

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Seldom does one get to visit a country estate in Delaware, an estate in the true sense, a place where the land dwarfs the manor house.

Foxwood farm in Chateau Country—even those who once lived here don’t know the origin of its name—could be a dictionary illustration for the classic estate. The 178-acre site, long a working farm, straddles the state line, stretching into Kennett Township at points.

The main entrance is a discreet, narrow drive partially concealed by trees at a bend in the road. Stately oaks line the lane as it curves up to the secluded house. With its mature shrubbery and quarry stone exterior, the 80-year-old house offers a sense of tranquility.

The home has been vacant since the recent passing of its owner, but it still conveys a sense of luxury, comfort and pride. It could use some paint and waxing, but even without the Oriental carpets and furnishings—images of which remain in family photos—it’s obvious the house has great bones. 

These family photos show how the house could easily showcase
contemporary furnishings and family heirlooms.

The five-bedroom, five-bath main house was built at a time when people had an eye for detail, including wide-planked floors and stone fireplaces. The floors and walls are solid. The house offers expansive views and an opportunity for comfortable entertaining. It could easily showcase contemporary furnishings and family heirlooms.

The main dwelling includes an attached greenhouse, a stone guest cottage and seclusion. Think rolling hills, boxwood and Kousa dogwood trees.

Surviving family members delight in sharing the glory of Foxwood.

In the mid-20th century this estate was home to a loving and vibrant family of six, one says. The father, an attorney, and the mother, an artist, “were active and interesting people,” she says. The couple enjoyed traveling, lifelong learning and entertaining, and they were respected as influential, active members of the community.

Both parents were gardeners; on his passing, the father’s bonsai were donated to Longwood Gardens. “This was his domain,” she says, standing inside the greenhouse. “The orchids came later.”

He was also a renowned connoisseur, a leading member of the La Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, an international organization whose mission is to promote quality wines through elaborate dinners.

The house offers many spaces for entertaining and relaxing.

“When he was a member, it was mostly an all-men group, but later on she was inducted into the Chevaliers after she presented an amazing dinner party,” she says. Their connection to the club led to many travels and adventures.

The lady of the house was known for her many artistic endeavors. She designed more than 400 needlepoint kneelers for Christ Episcopal Church in Greenville. The images and history of those sacred designs were cataloged in a book titled “Needlepoint Kneelers.”

Another book, “Captured Light,” details her Lucite sculptures. She painted in acrylics, and she also designed and hooked a rug that depicts the history of the du Pont family. It is part of the collection at Hagley Museum.

She also designed and illustrated a cookbook of her favorite family recipes and took up knitting at age 93 to delay the onset of arthritis in her hands. “She was in the last years of her life and had health problems, but she tried new things.”

The couple were proud of their four children, but only the youngest spent much time at Foxwood. When the family moved in, the older children were away at boarding schools.

The 178-acre site, long a working farm, straddles the state line, stretching into Kennett Township at points

The home and its surroundings elicit fond memories of a bucolic childhood. “This is where I learned to fish,” she says, pointing to a pond within a stone’s throw of the main house. An adjacent residence was occupied by a caretaker couple who shared their talents and love of the land with the family.

Early on, a portion of the acreage was under cultivation. The farmer’s love for his beagles was captured in a black-and-white photo that remains in the family’s archives. Elsewhere on the estate, tenant farmers raised Black Angus cattle, sheep, pigeons and fresh produce.

A step out through the back door reveals another of the lady’s legacies: expansive stands of Kousa dogwoods. When in full bloom, the white flowers look as though billowing clouds landed, providing brilliant contrast to the sap green meadows. Also known as Japanese dogwood, the trees provide beauty year-round. When the white blossoms fade, the leaves turn crimson in the fall.

“She was the Johnny Appleseed of dogwoods, and she gave saplings to everybody,” recalls the family member, providing a detailed image of how a carefully potted tree was presented on special occasions.

Nearby are a swimming pool, fountains and boxwood gardens. They, too, need a bit of care, but they are solid and sturdy.

Way behind the house—close enough to see from the dining table but far enough away for privacy—is the stone barn-studio. Built in 1965, it was a sanctuary for the artist. She designed its open space with room for a small seating area and fireplace. No phone lines were ever installed. The artist sought peace, quiet and lack of interruption there.

Then there is the view. More than 65 acres of the estate are wooded, so the vista from the studio offers a horizon created by rolling hills and woods that turn gold each fall.

Though the surviving family member is proud, she is also modest. The former owner’s obituary details active community service that benefited the former Children’s Home in Clayton, the Children’s Bureau of Delaware and Winterthur Museum. She also chaired a committee that designed the du Pont Family Chapel.

Her works are still represented in numerous private and permanent collections. “She said this was the most beautiful view in the world.”

As someone who traveled extensively and possessed an artist’s sensibilities, she knew what she was talking about.