By Ken Mammarella
Special to Delaware Business Times
Three dates highlight the storied history of the Crooked Billet Estate in Greenville: 1682 (construction of the first home), 1777 (George Washington visited there) and 1864 (the du Ponts purchased it).
This year marks another watershed year for the sprawling 28-acre property.
Crooked Billet LLC, a subsidiary of Dewson Construction Co, bought the estate in 2016 and in May broke ground on 19 luxury homes. These will form a 55-plus community in the heart of the historic property.
The firm devoted 22 months of working with county and state officials to craft a plan that set aside half of the estate for residential development and the other half for open space.
"We wanted to do the right thing: Keep some semblance of open space and not take away the history," said Laird Bunch, owner/agent at Brandywine Fine Properties Sotheby's International Realty of Centreville.
The project includes an additional seven lots on Kent Road for custom houses called Westover Hills F and four acres for the historic estate home, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Design and features
Lighted walking paths connect the property and lead down to Kennett Pike, Centre Road and the community's only road, Brindley Way. The open space also has bird boxes and "above and beyond" the number of trees and shrubs required by the county, Bunch said.
Bernardon of Wilmington designed the homes for the 55-plus community. Dewson and Brandywine will work with customers to develop the custom houses.
The Bernardon homes range from 2,500 to 3,900 square feet, with customizable interiors. The exteriors are uniform, Bunch said, with a similar color palette and usage of Chester County stone, wood clapboards and brick. The properties also boast buried electric lines and no wells or septic systems.
The Crooked Billet homeowners associations bundles multiple services, including storm water management, trash collection, grass-cutting, gutter cleaning and mulching.
Lots in Crooked Billet are $395,000 to $575,000, and lots in Westover Hills F are $475,000 to $525,000.
The estate home is $2.495 million. The listing cites period details (such as hand-forged iron strap hinges and 12-inch heart-of-pine flooring), nine bedrooms, three stairways, a pool house that can function as an in-law suite and a four-car garage topped by a two-bedroom apartment.
The site's history goes back to a deed from William Penn. Adam Stedham built the first house, and his son William expanded it in 1702 to become a tavern called Crooked Billet.
A crooked billet is a bent stick hung over tavern doors to advertise refreshments and lodging to illiterate travelers. George Washington visited the tavern two days before the Battle of the Brandywine on Sept. 11, 1777.
The property also involves a century-old decision that modern businesses can appreciate. In 1811, Kennett Road became a new toll road called Kennett Pike, leaving the tavern about 2,000 feet from potential customers. The Brindley family, which owned the inn at the time, decided to get into farming.
The family expanded the farm and in 1864 sold 180 acres to Henry, Lammot and Ã‰leuthÃ¨re du Pont. Multiple generations of du Ponts lived there. The property's last du Pont owner, Marion McConnell, also ran a horse farm.