In 1920, a Wilmington couple, Philip and Lydia Laird, purchased the mansionand property. Inside the house the Lairds installed electricity, central heat, and modern plumbing. They also introduced a series of taprooms in their basement for informally entertaining family and friends. Outside their yard included a swimming pool in the old kitchen garden and a yacht basin on the river. They erected a brick wall to enclose their garden, laid brick over original gravel garden paths, and replaced the house’s original front granite steps with marble.

Philip Laird purchased several houses on The Strand, hoping to facilitate creation of a historic tourist site like Williamsburg. Although the financial investments to fund this project did not emerge, the Lairds were involved in preservation efforts throughout the town. In 1975, twenty-eight years after Philip Laird’s death, Lydia Laird was honored with a citation from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for her preservation work. Before her death, also in 1975, she made arrangements for the Delaware Historical Society to assume ownership of the Read House property.


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The Delaware Historical Society is the statewide, non-profit organization that explores, preserves, shares, and promotes Delaware history, heritage, and culture to strengthen our community.