The Log House Pairs du Pont History With Natural Design

When Sabrina du Pont-Langenegger inherited her late father's Rocky Hill Estate, she reimagined his nearly 300-year-old rustic hunting cabin as a cozy gathering space for friends and family.

“At Whitely Farms, we strive to see our guests into the best stands.”

The old wood sign hangs above the inglenook fireplace of the late William K. du Pont’s log cabin, where he would gather with relatives and friends around a roaring flame in the Spring Room, sipping cocktails and telling tales after their daylong deer hunts on his Rocky Hill property in Newark.

A history buff and voracious antique collector who was fascinated with the Pennsylvania German way of life and material culture, Bill was looking for a passion project. He purchased the cabin, built in 1745 by Swiss Germans, from a farm in northern Lancaster County in 1989, after looking at more than 50 others with his friend Steve Smith, an architect he sometimes used.

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The subterranean kitchen juxtaposes whitewashed quartz walls and an old trough sink with a wood-paneled refrigerator, butcherblock countertops and a gas range. A dining table is flanked by Windsor chairs that Sabrina du Pont–Langenegger had upholstered with a plaid sport coat that belonged to her father, William K. du Pont.
The subterranean kitchen juxtaposes whitewashed quartz walls and an old trough sink with a wood-paneled refrigerator, butcherblock countertops and a gas range. A dining table is flanked by Windsor chairs that Sabrina du Pont–Langenegger had upholstered with a plaid sport coat that belonged to her father, William K. du Pont.

“They scoured the Pennsylvania countryside looking for the best one,” his daughter Sabrina du Pont-Langenegger remembers. “He liked this one because it had a pent roof all the way around—not something you’d typically see on a cabin from that era.”

After disassembling the 1,122-square-foot structure, Bill brought it back to his 400-acre farm and rebuilt it using original materials: chestnut logs, cedar-shake shingles and glass-paneled sliding windows. He and friend Thomas Groff, a builder, added a 310-square-foot subterranean level consisting of a bathroom, a wine cellar and a kitchen, repurposing cornerstones from 11 different barn ruins across the property. He aptly called it The Log House.

Through the main entryway, the Spring Room features overhead beams, an inglenook fireplace and her father’s Moravian chairs covered in reindeer hide.
Through the main entryway, the Spring Room features overhead beams, an inglenook fireplace and her father’s Moravian chairs covered in reindeer hide.

Bill inherited Rocky Hill from his father in the 1960s. Decades before, it had been a country escape from their home in Greenville, “where he and his two brothers could run amok as young boys,” Sabrina says. Her uncles inherited adjacent lands, much of which has since been sold or gifted to White Clay Creek State Park.

The cabin was used for socializing between hunts, says Sabrina, remembering how her father and his company would commune around a tavern table for lunch and hang their field-dressed deer in the yard. After inheriting Rocky Hill upon her father’s sudden death in 2020, Sabrina and her family needed a comfortable place to “hang out” while meeting with contractors about renovations to the main house.

“DAD kept it RUSTIC and FURNISHED it with ANTIQUES from the 1700s and 1800s.”

“Dad kept it rustic and furnished it with antiques from the 1700s and 1800s—as my 6-year-old son once said, ‘Everything is wood, and hard,’” Sabrina says with a laugh. Enlisting designer Jessica Farnan (of Jessica Love Design), they softened the upper three floors with area rugs, upholstered seating and window treatments. They also added wall sconces, throw pillows and modern conveniences like Wi-Fi, all the while trying to preserve the “old feeling.”

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Adding to the whimsy of sycamores, tulip poplars and a canopy of Osage trees along the main drive, Cotswold Gardens in West Chester sowed gardens of daffodils, ferns, hydrangea, hellebores and lily of the valley outside the cabin. On one side is a small dogwood tree Bill planted.

Past the little garden and an antique boot scraper, a massive door with period hardware opens to the Spring Room, named for a walled spring in the corner once used for refrigeration—where one of Bill’s hunting buddies once toppled over. “That’s why it’s covered with glass now,” Sabrina jokes, pointing to an underground light that illuminates the quartz boulders. “Plus, frogs and other little critters were coming in through the hole where water used to run out.”

Opposite the fireplace are Bill’s 300-year-old Moravian wingchairs covered in reindeer hide. “I kept them because they remind me of him,” Sabrina says.

Designer Jessica Farnan (of Jessica Love Design) warmed up the living area with a Stark indoor-outdoor rug, Quadrille moiré curtains and a Schumacher Indian Arbre fabric on the swivel chair. On the side table, a brass lamp by Vaughan blends with old and modern accents
Designer Jessica Farnan (of Jessica Love Design) warmed up the living area with a Stark indoor-outdoor rug, Quadrille moiré curtains and a Schumacher Indian Arbre fabric on the swivel chair. On the side table, a brass lamp by Vaughan blends with old and modern accents

Her father’s preference for natural elements is evident in his concealment of any modernity, like a small slab of stone covering a floor outlet. Low ceilings expose barnwood beams overhead, while original wide-plank hardwood floors run underfoot. They continue up a narrow set of spiral stairs into a living area with another fireplace, a leather couch and American antiques from Bill’s collection.

Open, the massive door to the Spring Room frames Rocky Hill’s pastoral beauty.
Open, the massive door to the Spring Room frames Rocky Hill’s pastoral beauty.

“This used to be the room where they’d have their lunches,” Sabrina notes. Nodding to the wall-mounted television, she adds lightheartedly, “My dad would roll over in his grave.” But he’d likely smile at the sight of a table he had commissioned but didn’t see finished: “It’s made from his favorite tree on the property, a 400-year-old Penn oak [an ode to William Penn] that fell during a storm.” On another side table is a book titled Rocky Hill, a chronology of photographs of the farm through the four seasons and Bill’s many deer hunts. One image captures the friend who fell into the downstairs spring.

“He loved WATERFOWL so much that he’d warm the PONDS with bubblers so that the GEESE wouldn’t leave for the WINTER.

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A red barnwood door, which Sabrina likes to leave open to invite in “fresh air and natural light,” now contains a screen door facing the side yard between the cabin and main house.

The A-frame bedroom loft, up another spiral staircase, is a “blend of old and new,” she says. Modern bedside lamps and faux sheepskin rugs (“Costco’s finest”) complement a William & Mary daybed and a velvet mallard-print headboard that Sabrina fashioned from pillows and a hanging rod. “We had to get creative because a queen-size headboard wouldn’t fit up the stairs,” she notes. It’s also a nod to her father, a former vice president of Ducks Unlimited, who had a near obsession with migratory birds and duck hunting.

A living-room table holds an old photograph of Bill and Sabrina
A living-room table holds an old photograph of Bill and Sabrina

He loved waterfowl so much that he’d warm the ponds with bubblers so that the geese wouldn’t leave for the winter—the property housed about 13 ponds at the time, but the Langeneggers have filled in seven for easier maintenance. “Now we use border collie ‘geese chasers’ to clear them out, because he [conditioned] them to stay,” Sabrina chuckles.

The A-frame bedroom loft mixes old and new. Pierre Frey café curtains in checked silk, modern bedside lamps and faux sheepskin rugs complement an antique chest and a William & Mary daybed. The headboard—fashioned from a rod and Mulberry mallard-print velvet pillows—pay homage to Bill, who had a near obsession with migratory birds and duck hunting.
The A-frame bedroom loft mixes old and new. Pierre Frey café curtains in checked silk, modern bedside lamps and faux sheepskin rugs complement an antique chest and a William & Mary daybed. The headboard—fashioned from a rod and Mulberry mallard-print velvet pillows—pay homage to Bill, who had a near obsession with migratory birds and duck hunting.

The subterranean addition, imagined by Bill and Groff, slopes from the Spring Room beyond a recessed wine cellar and bathroom (complete with a millstone shower) into the full kitchen. Water from the bathroom sink, a small splash stone, empties into the kitchen sink, an old trough, by way of a wall spout. Juxtaposed against whitewashed quartz walls are a wood-paneled refrigerator, butcherblock countertops and a gas range. A dining table is flanked by Windsor chairs that Sabrina had upholstered with one of her father’s plaid sport coats.

The Log House has evolved into a relaxing autumn staycation, where the Langeneggers invite friends over for cocktails, enjoy firing pizza in the beehive oven and host intimate holiday parties. This past fall, in honor of Sabrina’s father, they hosted a deer hunt and supper for his old hunting buddies.

Related: The Pete du Pont Papers Are Available for Viewing in Delaware

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