Delaware Historical Society Names New Director of Read House & Gardens

April 12, 2024 — The Delaware Historical Society has selected Laura Earls, Ph.D., as the new Director of the George Read II House & Gardens in New Castle, DE.  

Earls, a museum professional and historian of gender and material culture in early America who most recently served as lead researcher and associate producer for an upcoming history podcast, has worked in collections management and interpretation at institutions including the Nemours Estate, the Museum of the American Revolution, and the Winterthur Museum. She formerly served as a graduate assistant and contractor at Delaware Historical Society’s Research Library.  

The National Historic Landmark Read House & Gardens was built for George Read II, the son of a Delaware signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. This historic house museum, located on the riverfront in the heart of Old New Castle, features twenty-two rooms that tell the stories of the three families who occupied the house and those who worked there, making it invaluable for the study of early American social, cultural, and architectural history.   

The Read House & Gardens had formal gardens installed in 1848, and the organization is poised to embark on extensive reimagination and renovation of the grounds. According to Delaware Historical Society Executive Director Ivan Henderson, “We are delighted to welcome Dr. Earls at this important juncture for the Read House & Gardens. Her expertise will spur our continued efforts to raise the profile of this magnificent and historically significant home. We look forward to her vision and leadership as we further the garden restoration project.”  

Earls holds a Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization and a Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies from the University of Delaware. As a speaker, teaching assistant, and instructor of record for history and museum studies courses at the University of Delaware, she encouraged students of all ages to engage critically with the past.  

Earls has been passionate about the interpretation and outreach possibilities for historic houses since beginning her museum career in Delaware.  

“As the new Director of the Read House & Gardens, I’m excited to guide the stewardship and promotion of this incredibly special place as part of the Delaware Historical Society. I’m looking forward to bringing some of the lesser-known stories to the forefront of a cohesive interpretation plan that includes the gardens, the programming, and the tours. Most important, I want the house and grounds to continue to be a highlight of Historic New Castle and a place for the community to gather and engage with the past,” she said.  


About the Delaware Historical Society 

The Delaware Historical Society is a non-profit organization that preserves, promotes, and shares Delaware’s history in a welcoming environment to educate, inspire, and empower people and communities. The Delaware Historical Society owns and operates the Delaware History Museum; the Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage; a nationally recognized Research Library; Old Town Hall; Willingtown Square, four 18th-century houses surrounding a picturesque urban courtyard located in downtown Wilmington; and the National Historic Landmark Read House & Gardens located in New Castle. For more information, call (302) 655-7161, email, or visit

Facebook: @dehistory
Instagram: @delawarehistoricalsociety

The Read House & Gardens Announces a Transformative Landscape Partnership

August 5, 2022 – The George Read II House & Gardens, a National Historic Landmark owned and operated by the Delaware Historical Society, has announced a transformative campaign to revivify its grounds, creating a socially, environmentally, and financially sustainable landscape for the next generation. Planning will encompass the entire 2.5 acres of grounds surrounding the 1804 Read House, which is situated within the town’s historic core with substantial Delaware River frontage. Ultimately, the project will reconcile the gardens’ multi-layered history with Old New Castle’s legacy of beautiful design, while centering the Society’s contemporary mission to “educate, inspire, and empower people and communities.”

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About Read House & Gardens

The Read House & Gardens site is situated in Lenapehoking, homeland of the Lenape people for tens of thousands of years. Since the 1990s, teams of archaeologists led by Dr. Lu Ann De Cunzo of the University of Delaware have unearthed more than 70,000 objects that reveal a complicated past, including conquest by the Swedish, Dutch, and British empires during the seventeenth century. The present parterre section of the garden was once occupied by the home of George Read I, signer of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution and an early governor, senator, and chief justice of Delaware. From 1766 until his death in 1798, Read joined a century of prior inhabitants in continually improving the house and yard.

As Dr. Emily T. Cooperman confirms in a recent report on the Read House cultural landscape, it cannot easily be defined by one single period of significance. George Read II (1765–1836), longtime U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware, erected the present Read House next door to his father’s between 1797 and 1804, but landscaping of the grounds remained incomplete during his lifetime. The garden plan that exists today dates generally to 1847–48, when William Couper, a New Castle native who amassed a fortune in the East Asian trade, returned to purchase the property from the Read family. Robert Buist, a prominent Scottish nurseryman in Philadelphia, is understood to have been the designer.

Yet the gardens continued to evolve during the Couper years and again the 1920s, after the Read House was acquired by Philip D. and Lydia Chichester Laird. The Lairds, both cousins of the extensive du Pont family, were inspired by the Colonial Revival movement in transforming the historic house and grounds into a social hub. Hardscape and plantings were altered, the back kitchen garden was replaced with a swimming pool and poolhouse, and a yacht basin was installed at the riverfront. The Lairds went on to lead the efforts to transform New Castle from a declining town into a noted destination for preservation tourism. The Read House, its gardens, and the rest of the town appeared in dozens of mainstream lifestyle publications, such as House & Gardens and Town & Country, during their tenure.

DHS assumed ownership of the property upon Lydia Laird’s death in 1975 and has operated it as a museum since then, undertaking a comprehensive restoration of the house in the early 1980s and a garden restoration in the 1990s and early 2000s. As is inevitable in such projects, the Society made choices as to which existing elements it would preserve and which evidence it would rely on to recreate past elements—eliminating, for instance, the Laird-era swimming pool but retaining their brick hardscape and reintroducing plantings from the 1880s.

DHS and Land Collective have embraced this complexity. In the spirit of past generations, this fresh project offers an opportunity to balance preservation with contemporary needs. With community input, the result is expected to deepen the historical meaning of the Read House & Gardens site for present and future visitors, neighbors, and admirers. For more information, call (302) 655-7161, email or visit

National History Day in Delaware Competition Brings Students Grades 6-12 Together Over Shared Appreciation of History

Delaware Historical Society Sponsors National History Day in Delaware Students on Their Journey to National Competition, Developing Key Skills Along the Way

April 30, 2022 – The Delaware Historical Society (DHS) announces that National History Day in Delaware (NHDDE) will take place at Newark High school on Saturday, April 30. NHDDE is an annual educational program for students in grades 6-12 challenging them to conduct scholarly research and then create projects in the form of dramatic performances, imaginative exhibits, multimedia documentaries, research papers, or interactive websites. This year’s theme is Debate & Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences.

Participating students advance from the school-level to the state-level competition. State-level winners then advance to the national contest held every June at the University of Maryland College Park. NHDDE is an opportunity for students to develop their research, critical thinking, and problem solving skills, boosting self-esteem and confidence. It encourages them to form a deeper connection to history through a creative, multimedia outlet, offering them the chance to interpret history like a historian would. NHDDE key findings tell us that NHDDE students outperform their non-NHDDE peers on standardized tests in all topic areas, have stronger and more articulate writing, and utilize the skills they learned during the competition for college and career readiness. DHS has sponsored NHDDE for over 25 years.

To learn more about National History Day in Delaware, visit

About the Delaware Historical Society
The Delaware Historical Society owns and operates the Delaware History Museum; the Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage; a nationally recognized Research Library; Old Town Hall; Willingtown Square, four 18th-century houses surrounding a picturesque urban courtyard located in downtown Wilmington; and the Read House & Gardens, a National Historic Landmark. For more information, call (302) 655-7161, email or visit

Delaware Historical Society Debuts Public Digital Collections

Digital Images and Documents From the Society’s Collections Aid Researchers in Locating and Discovering Historical Sources

March 15, 2022 – Delaware Historical Society (DHS) announces the launch of their new digital collections platform. The nonprofit has begun digitizing collections to enhance access to DHS resources for local, regional, and national audiences. It offers access to primary source information to everyone from researchers, teachers and students, as well as to the general public.

DHS collaborated with the JP Morgan Chase “Force for Good” program, an initiative designed to bring sustainable technology solutions to nonprofits worldwide, to launch the digital collections platform. The program provided organizational and logistical support.

Leigh Rifenburg, DHS Chief Curator, described the initiative. “Our digital collections site is about sharing DHS collections and making them accessible to researchers, regardless of location. As the demand for digital access continues to grow, we’re thrilled to connect anyone interested in Delaware history with our resources, here at home and around the world.” According to Executive Director David Young, “The digitization of our collections is a prime example of Delaware Historical Society’s commitment to bringing Delaware’s diverse and fascinating stories to life. We are engaged in many innovative and ambitious programs that demonstrate Delaware’s unique and important place in history.”

Visit to view the digitized photographs and documents. Get a glimpse of daily life in Delaware’s past. Explore Sussex, Kent, and New Castle Counties as they developed through the centuries. Read primary sources about enslavement, liberation, and abolition. More will be added each month, so check back often.

Delaware Historical Society Launching a New Video Series, Speaking of Delaware…

February 3, 2022 – Join us on the first Thursday of every month as we discover the human side of history.

Learn about the many voices and fascinating life stories that shaped American history. Let’s talk about the paintings of Ed Loper, Miss Nagano, the Japanese Friendship Doll, Thomas Garrett’s silver tray and teapot, and other untold wonders from our collections.

Speaking of Delaware… is a series of short videos presented by the Delaware Historical Society and produced by Short Order Production House. Videos will premiere the first Thursday of every month at 8:30 on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and our website. Check out for more information about this project and other resources. This series is funded in part by the Longwood Foundation, Delmarva Power, an Exelon Company, and by a grant from the Delaware Humanities, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Delaware Historical Society’s Digital Collections Go Live!

February 1, 2022 – One of our most frequently asked questions is how to view Delaware Historical Society (DHS) collections online. Now you can!

Today, our digital collections go live! Search our new digital asset management system (DAMS) from your favorite device wherever you are with access to the internet. Check out what we have digitized. More will be added each month, so continue to come back for updates!

After more than a year of hard work and some help from our friends in the JP Morgan Chase Force for Good program, we’re thrilled to invite you in to explore amazing images and documents from our digital collections, with more to come. We believe in making our collections accessible and open to anyone who wants to use them. This allows us to connect and share resources with you and visitors around the world.

Visit and explore the rest of to see other resources we have available!

Delaware Student-Teacher Team Chosen for National History Day Summer Institute in Hawaiʻi

Two women standing next to each other and smiling,, one wearing a green dress and the other wearing a green long-sleeve shirt

Cab Calloway School of the Arts teacher Erin Sullivan and student Ivy Hoffman, 2021

January 31, 2022 – National History Day and Pearl Harbor Historic Sites Provide Learning, Research, and All Expenses Paid Trips to Hawaiʻi

Cab Calloway School of the Arts teacher Erin Sullivan and student Ivy Hoffman have been selected to participate in Sacrifice for Freedom®: World War II in the Pacific Student & Teacher Institute, a student-teacher cooperative learning program. The program, coordinated through National History Day®, is sponsored by the Pearl Harbor Historic Site Partners, including Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, Pacific Historic Parks, USS Missouri Memorial Association, and Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum at Pearl Harbor.

During spring 2022, students and teachers in the program will read historical texts and primary documents, participate in online discussions, and research the life of a fallen military member from the student’s region who is buried or memorialized at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.  In July, teams travel to Hawaiʻi to engage in on-site learning opportunities, such as spending a night aboard The USS Missouri and visiting with military and local historians at the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites and across the island of Oahu. Travel and program expenses are provided for all participants.

At the culmination of the Sacrifice for Freedom program, the students will develop a Silent Hero® profile to be published online during the 2022-2023 academic year at

This year, 54 teams from across the U.S., Guam, and Singapore applied for the competitive summer institute and 16 were selected to participate. Sacrifice for Freedom began in 2019 as an opportunity for student-teacher teams to study World War II in the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawai’i. Past teacher participants noted that the Institute was a significant professional development experience that changed the way they view World War II in the Pacific. Student participants reported that the research and Hawaiʻi-based learning activities challenged their thinking and expanded their perspective of history.

Erin Sullivan is a National History Day Master Teacher. She has taught for 17 years and has participated in National History Day for 7 years. In addition to supporting students in the state and national competition, Erin has served as a judge, designed teacher resources, provided professional development, and been both a student discussion leader and facilitator for National History Day graduate courses. This year Erin is working with the United States Institute of Peace as a Peace teacher.

Ivy Hoffman is an eleventh-grade Technical Theater major at Cab Calloway School of the Arts. She loves to learn everything she can about world history, but she is especially interested in the stories and lives of individual people and the way their actions can affect the bigger picture. Outside of learning history, she enjoys working behind the scenes for stage productions, writing poetry, serving on Student Council, and acting as a lawyer for her school’s Mock Trial team.


About National History Day in Delaware

National History Day in Delaware is a year-long history education program that challenges students in grades 6 through 12 to engage in historical research, analysis and interpretation, and creative expression through project-based learning. National History Day in Delaware promotes civic, career, and college ready skills necessary for the 21st century. National History Day Delaware has been sponsored by the Delaware Historical Society for more than 20 years. For more information email Director of Education, Rebecca Fay at or visit

About National History Day (NHD)

NHD is a non-profit organization based in College Park that seeks to improve the teaching and learning of history. The National History Day Contest was established in 1974 and currently engages more than half a million students in conducting original research on historical topics of interest. Students present their research as a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website. Projects compete first at the local and affiliate levels. The top entries are invited to the National Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park. NHD is sponsored in part by HISTORY®, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Park Service, and Southwest Airlines. For more information, visit

About the Delaware Historical Society

The Delaware Historical Society owns and operates the Delaware History Museum; the Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage; a nationally recognized Research Library; Old Town Hall; Willingtown Square, four 18th-century houses surrounding a picturesque urban courtyard located in downtown Wilmington; and the Read House & Gardens, a National Historic Landmark. For more information, call (302) 655-7161, email or visit


National History Day in Delaware 2022 to Take Place on April 30

Save the date! National History Day in Delaware in taking place on Saturday April 30, 2022 at Newark High School (venue subject to change due to COVID-19 restrictions).

National History Day in Delaware, an educational program sponsored by the Delaware Historical Society, engages middle and high school students from across the state in historical research, interpretation, and creative expression through project-based learning.

We need Judges for the state competition. No experience necessary. All we require is a love of supporting students. Email or visit for more information.

Delaware History Makers Award 2021

A woman wearing a coral shirt with her hands crossed in front of her body, resting on a suface

July 7, 2021 — The 2021 Delaware History Makers Award Honoring Velma P. Scantlebury, M.D., Former Associate Director of the Kidney Transplant Program at Christiana Care will take place on October 7, 2021.

Dr. Scantlebury became the nation’s first woman transplant surgeon of African-American descent in 1989 and has performed more than 1,000 kidney transplants. She earned her medical degree from Columbia University and completed her residency at Harlem Hospital Center in New York. Dr. Scantlebury performed her training in transplant surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. A fellow of the American College of Surgeons ad the American Society of Minority Health an Transplant Professionals, among other organizations. Co-author of more than 85 peer-reviewed papers and 10 monographs and book chapters, Dr. Scantlebury sits on numerous boards and committees, including Donate Life American, the National Minority Organ and Tissue Transplant Education Program, and the United Network for Organ Sharing. Dr. Scantlebury has served as a national spokesperson for Linkages to Life, an initiative to address the shortage of African-American organ donors and has been recognized as one of the Best Doctors in American by

Read House & Gardens Open Air Tours

Saturdays & Sundays at 11 a.m. & 1:30 p.m.
Beginning April 17, 2021

Join us for a guided walk departing Saturdays and Sundays from the Read House steps. Tours begin with a look inside a few of our most iconic rooms and continue with an easy stroll along the town’s storied cobblestone streets. You’ll discover how the Read House and its inhabitants over the years were at the center of tastemaking, preservation, and the famously historic vibes of the New Castle we see today.

New this season:

Sunday 11 a.m. Tour
Open-Air I-Spy Adventure!

For the young, or young at heart – participatory and fun, Sunday morning tours will include all the same great stops and information, explored through the lens of our favorite game!

All Tours
Audio App Availability

To make your visit more comfortable, all of our tours now include the option to amplify your guide’s voice using your personal mobile device.