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Welcome to This Wilmington Couple’s 18th-Century Farmhouse

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Photo by Angie Gray

A Wilmington couple begins the restoration of their 18th-century home, honoring its history while also infusing it with modern charm.

When Dea and Jamie Poston pulled into the driveway of the newly listed 1799-era farmhouse on Wilmington’s Foulk Road in the fall of 2020, Dea reminded Jamie not to utter anything unpleasant or too positive about the house in case they were being recorded. But it wasn’t Jamie she had to worry about.

“We walked into the house and I looked left toward the dining room, straight ahead to the sitting room, to the right into the kitchen—and I knew it was ours,” Dea says. “I felt like I was walking into the Dilworthtown Inn. You could feel the history in the house, the character.”

Not in the market for a new house, the Postons had lived in Wilmington’s Triangle neighborhood for the past decade but had always admired this “mysterious” older home they noticed tucked away off the busy road they would often take on their way to High Point Swim Club. It was on one of those drives that Jamie, who graduated from Brandywine High School and grew up in nearby Windsor Hills, saw the For Sale sign.

By winter, the couple and their young daughters, Adrienne and Alexis, were the new owners of what has fondly become known as the Foulk Road Farmhouse. No ordinary small country farmhouse, the house alone is 6,000 square feet with six bedrooms, four full and two half baths, and a semi-detached 1,000-square-foot carriage house.

Although the house was built before indoor plumbing, electricity, cars and penicillin, the Postons are, remarkably, only its fourth owners. The Talley family owned it for many years, then the Sinclear family. Jean and Dana Pyle, who purchased it in 1968, oversaw many renovations and expansions sometime in the 1970s, and then again in 2000 and 2009.

When the Pyles both passed away in 2020, their daughters Jocelyn McCord and Val Voge, who lived outside the area, hoped the home would go to another family that would continue its legacy and care in the manner their parents had. Both have fond memories of growing up in the home, and admire all the love that their father, who worked for many years in residential design, put into it.

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Already fond of a William Morris pattern called Strawberry Thief from 1883, Dea Poston’s vision for the downstairs powder room quickly emerged. “The wallpaper just screamed for a navy complement,” she says. They also reglazed an existing cast-iron wall-mounted sink and added all new brushed brass fixtures and plumbing. They painted the walls Midnight Dream (deep blue) and flanked them top to bottom by crown and panel moldings, then rehung the original brass and crystal chandelier. A crisp linen café curtain provides privacy without compromising light from the large, front-facing window./Photo by Angie Gray

They recall piano recitals, the playhouse their father built them in the backyard, their mother being the “dreamer” and their father the “doer.” They remember wonderful family Christmases with seven trees, all with different themes and candles in every window.

“It was very hard to think about selling the house,” Jocelyn says. “It was the final goodbye to my parents. I had been able to come home and sleep in the same bedroom for 51 years, and the four grandkids loved the house and all the wonderful memories made there too. We went into it with heavy hearts.

“However, I am so thrilled that the Postons fell in love with it and want to raise their two daughters there. Mom and Dad would be thrilled with what they have done. …Their biggest fear was someone tearing the place down. It’s great that Jean and Dana Pyle are now Jamie and Dea Poston—we should have left them the monogrammed towels!”

The home was originally the Pennrose Talley Farmhouse, and the backyard includes large stone-wall remnants of where a horse barn once stood. The house sits on 1 acre, but it’s believed that the property where the current Pembrey neighborhood now exists was once part of the original plot of land.

No strangers to renovations after doing most of the updates on their previous home themselves (including drywall, electric and plumbing), the Postons’ updates to the farmhouse began shortly after they closed.

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They started with a new kitchen, butler’s pantry and laundry room. Like many home renovators, they encountered delays with materials due to supply chain issues caused by the pandemic, as well as some unexpected repairs and maintenance issues that come with 223-year-old houses, including the need for a new roof and new windows. Opening the walls for repair to water damage led to the addition of several projects, including a downstairs powder room, the combining of two bathrooms upstairs into one large primary bathroom (offering spa-level decadence with a shower almost as large as the premier bedroom) and updating two full baths for the girls.

farmhouse-kitchen

The couple contracted out much of the work, but they also spent many nights and weekends pulling their own shifts with family and friends, all with a sense of humor. Jamie lovingly referred to adhesive used for some of the previous wallpaper as “Soviet-era adhesive they used in nuclear facilities.” After eight hours of hard work, the couple had removed 2 square feet of wallpaper and decided it was time to consult a professional.

Renovations continued into last summer and fall, with contractor Eddie Laubsch doing the majority of the interior work. As often happens in a small town, a local Facebook group in Wilmington began buzzing about what was happening with the old Foulk Road farmhouse. Thus came the birth of the Postons’ Facebook page—Foulk Road Farmhouse—to share the renovation progress in real time. Followers marveled as 2,200 pounds of marble were delivered for the primary bathroom, and new hardwood floors—the same wide-plank style as the rest of the house—were laid down in place of old carpet that they’d torn up.

farmhouse-kids-room

The Postons also had an unexpected visitor during renovations—Jim de Ford—the last living member of the Sinclear family who had resided in the home prior to the Pyles. Now retired and living only two blocks away, he, like many others, was excited to see how the Postons had reimagined the home and to share his memories with them.

The home is decorated with antiques from both Dea’s and the Pyle families, including a Mason and Hamlin baby grand in the formal living room that Mr. Pyle had given to Mrs. Pyle—a talented pianist and piano teacher—on her 21st birthday.

farmhouse-bathroom

Dea, an experienced home renovator, incorporated other vintage items that also fit with the history of the home, including antique dressers that she chalk painted, a reclaimed wood fireplace mantel from an 1800-era barn, and vintage wallpaper designs. A talented family friend constructed new radiator covers to match the existing ones. The butler’s pantry, once the home’s original kitchen, features soapstone counters and copious amounts of serving-ware storage for the Postons, who love to entertain.

And yes, like many older houses, the Foulk Road Farmhouse comes with a few good ghost stories. “Friends and family have noted there’s a ‘warm’ feeling in the house,” Jamie says. “So if there are ghosts, they are happy, loving ghosts.”

With the first phase of renovations completed way behind schedule, the Postons eagerly anticipate the next phase, which will focus on the exterior in addition to the rest of the interior spaces.

“We are looking forward to many years of happy memories,” Dea says—“celebrating our first Christmas, making Sunday dinner together in the kitchen, hearing our girls and their friends play hide and seek in all the house’s nooks and crannies, and grilling out on the back patio this summer with family and friends.”

Phase two of the renovations includes the hot tub room, a stone porch, the backyard and primary bedroom. Look for updates at delawaretoday.com.

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