Gloriously Reborn

A couple turns a well-known mansion in Camden into a stately office building.

The Nowaks retained the Buckson Mansion’s
original grand staircase and 12-foot ceilings.

Photograph by Greg Sachs

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Iconic Buckson Mansion has been home to history, grandeur and hard times—and, most recently, rebirth. A stately presence on North Main Street in Camden, the manor was built in 1848 for Hunn Jenkins in the Grecian Revival style, with three stories, a balanced facade and a columned portico over the front door. Called Spruce Acres, it sat on a verdant slice of Kent County in a rural community then known as Pickadilly Mifflin’s Crossroads.

The house was part of the Underground Railroad, in which homeowners sheltered slaves making their way to freedom. By the early 20th century, the house had changed hands several times. B.F. Hartman added a number of improvements in the early 1900s, including a sun porch and elegant plaster moldings.

But as the mansion approached the 21st century, time began to weigh heavily on the house. It began to deteriorate sharply after the previous resident, Judge David Buckson, a governor, sold it in 1997.

Soon, all the once-proud home had to offer was potential. Enter Andy and Jen Nowak. He’s an engineer looking for a challenge. She’s an attorney on a quest for more office space for her law firm.

The couple figured they could put the house right and transform it into business offices. Part of the Camden Historic District, the manse, previously known as Hartman-Miller House, has been listed on the National Historic Register since 1974. “All we wanted to do was to breathe life back into it,” Andy says.

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And they did. The Nowaks installed new systems, brought back the shutters, repaired water damage and restored the cracking paint on the facade. They retained original swag stenciling, the grand staircase and 12-foot ceilings, as well as the bell system once used to summon servants.

Restored to its former glory and now known as Spruce Acre Suites, the mansion is on to its new life as a center of business.

Visit more than 170 exhibitors at HBAD’s Delaware Home Show.
Photograph courtesy of Home Builders Association of Delaware

The Show of Shows
Delaware’s best home expo features a star-studded cast of home and garden experts.

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Never underestimate the power of duct tape. It can close frayed wires, hold up hems and keep a beauty pageant queen’s assets firmly in place. “It is amazing what you can do with duct tape,” says Steve LeFebvre, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Delaware.

Find out for yourself when The Duct Tape Guys—Tim Nyberg and Jim Berg—visit the HBAD’s Delaware Home Show, scheduled for March 8-9 at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington.

The authors of seven books, The Duct Tape Guys have determined more than 5,000 uses for the silver sticky stuff, some of which they’ll demonstrate during their show “Taping Spaces,” a parody of the popular TV program “Trading Spaces.”

Other scheduled guests include Mike McGrath from WHYY’s “You Bet Your Garden,” who will hold question-and-answer sessions on such topics as organic gardening, pest and weed control, and discouraging pesky critters like deer and slugs from dining on your prized petunias.

In a repeat performance, antiques and collectibles guru John W. Bruno will appraise small antiques and collectibles. The first item is appraised free of charge. Each additional item will cost $1 each. (There is a limit of five items per family.)

There will also be children’s activities, so Mom and Dad can feel free to peruse the more than 170 exhibitor booths that will feature the latest in landscaping, home design, materials and everything else having to do with updating your abode.

For more information, visit

—Pam George

This wrought-iron motif is available at
Yves Delorme-Palais Royal in Greenville.

Beneath the Sheets
Thread count isn’t always the best measure of quality.

Bedding is big business. From Macy’s to Target, retailers tout sheets with 200-plus thread counts. But higher thread count does not always equal higher quality.

Thread count stands for the number of strands in a square inch. So, 150 threads lengthwise plus 150 widthwise is a 300 thread count. Some manufacturers, however, twist two yarns together to make one yarn and count them as two.

“You could have a 300-thread count, single-ply fabric that is the same as the 600-thread count [double-ply] sheet,” says Shari Kline, president of Traditions, whose bedding is sold locally at Somethings Unique (3834 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 426-1950).

The length and quality of the yarn also determines quality. “If you’re using sub-quality cotton, thread count is of no importance,” says Terri Sisson Truono, owner of Simply Home (3628 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 477-0999). Bella Notte’s Deluxe Marie line, a cotton-silk blend, is sold at Simply Home, along with Pine Cone Hill and Elizabeth Allen Atelier bedding.

Finishes also make a difference. Mercerized cotton has a sheen. Percale is silk-like. Sateen is satiny. Jersey is a knit, not a weave, and flannel is made from thick yarns.

Specialty shops, including Yves Delorme-Palais Royal (3801 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 656-3700), offer consumers knowledge and a key advantage: You can touch the fabric.

“At the end of the day, the most important things is to feel it,” Kline says. “And if it feels good, it is good.” —Pam George

Thousands of people will enjoy the work of amateur competitors during the week. The theme of this year’s flower show is “Jazz it Up!”
Photographs courtesy of the Philadelphia Home Show

Rooting Interest
Delaware artists plan to take Philly’s famous flower show by storm.

For most horticulture enthusiasts, the Philadelphia Flower Show is a don’t-miss event that offers ideas for spring. But for amateurs competing in divisions such as tables, arbors, window boxes, entryways and miniature settings, the show occupies their thoughts for months. As soon as the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society announces the next year’s theme, many participants are off and running.

“We put in that week for the ‘tables’ class,” says Mary Davis, chair of the flower show committee for the Garden Club of Wilmington.

The theme of this year’s event, scheduled for March 2-9 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, is Jazz it Up!, a tribute to New Orleans. Davis and friends have modeled their entry after a jazzy supper club. Only two plates and two glasses are required for the table division. The focus is on the flowers. “It’s very loose, but artistic,” Davis says.

Nancy Grube of Bear started planning for the miniature-setting division in May. With help from her husband, John, she’s doing a water garden. Grube has won two first-place awards and one second place at the show.

Cathy Olson of Hockessin grows the plants that she and partner Dot Milsom of Newark use in their miniature settings. This year they’ll do a contemporary home and garden with a guitar theme. In 2005 they created a miniature Frank Lloyd Wright home, which earned a second place. They won a first place for Machu Picchu in 2006.

In the miniature settings, the detail is incredible. In 2005 Grube and friend Deb Mackie created semi-detached homes and front gardens. “I am the Martha Stewart-perfectionist type,” she says of her home, which has a tiny birdhouse and wicker furniture on the porch. Mackie’s side showed a “looser” approach, with a motorcycle in the front yard and sagging steps.

For more information, visit

—Pam George

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