Delaware History Trail: Governor Ross Mansion in Seaford

Governor Ross Mansion in Seaford

The Governor Ross Mansion has 13 furnished rooms and is one of the few examples of Italian Renaissance Architecture on the East  Coast.
The Governor Ross Mansion has 13 furnished rooms and is one of the few examples of Italian Renaissance Architecture on the East Coast. | Source
Looking out toward the plantation's grounds from the Ross Mansion's arched porch.
Looking out toward the plantation's grounds from the Ross Mansion's arched porch. | Source

Delaware History Trail Marker

The Delaware History Trail is a collection of the best historical sites throughout the state.
The Delaware History Trail is a collection of the best historical sites throughout the state. | Source

Today's stop along the Delaware History Trail takes us to the Governor Ross Mansion & Plantation in Seaford. This magnificent estate currently consists of 20 acres of land and has multiple buildings including a 13 room, fully furnished, Italian-Villa style mansion, a granary, stable, smoke-house, corn-cribs, out-house, slave quarter, honeymoon cottage and gift shop.

The Ross Mansion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, one year after it was purchased by the Seaford Historical Society. Lovingly restored and maintained by the society, it features an impressive three-story tall entry, ornate plaster ceilings, and period furnishings that exemplify gracious southern living.

The grounds have majestic trees and I was able to photograph them on a beautiful fall day when many were bursting with color.

Walking through the estate is like stepping back in time and it's easy to imagine what it was like living there during the 19th century. Knowledgeable tour guides spin fascinating tales, especially in regards to William Henry Harrison Ross, who was born in 1814, became Delaware's youngest and very popular Governor in 1851, served one term and despite being urged to serve another, declined because he was going deaf and felt it wouldn't be fair to his constituents to have a Governor who couldn't hear them.

But troubling times for the Ross family were on the horizon as talk of a war over slavery escalated into the Civil War. First, we shall focus on what the Civil War years at the Ross Mansion were like so you may get a sense of the kind of stories you'll hear if you're lucky enough to tour the mansion in person.

Next, we'll focus on a log structure which originally housed the plantation's slaves, and we'll learn what happened to the slaves after the war ended.

We will then drive to the nearby Bon Appe'tit Restaurant for a delicious gourmet meal at an affordable price.

Our day ends with a stop at the Seaford Museum where a docent guides us through interactive exhibits.

Photo Tour of the Ross Plantation & Railroad

Click thumbnail to view full-size
View of the other buildings on the plantation. The large one is the granary. Close up of corn-cribs and barn. The Governor Ross Mansion Plaque is a historical marker visible as one enters the grounds. This "Honeymoon Cottage" was bought from a catalog and is the first building one sees when entering the plantation. Photo of the Governor Ross Mansion & Plantation in fall. Side view of the mansion. Note the beautiful arched windows.Front porch of the mansion. The gift shop.Gov. Ross was instrumental in bringing the railroad into Southern DE which vitalized the economy because it meant that farmers could produce higher priced, perishable crops such as tomatoes, strawberries and peaches.
View of the other buildings on the plantation. The large one is the granary.
View of the other buildings on the plantation. The large one is the granary. | Source
Close up of corn-cribs and barn.
Close up of corn-cribs and barn. | Source
The Governor Ross Mansion Plaque is a historical marker visible as one enters the grounds.
The Governor Ross Mansion Plaque is a historical marker visible as one enters the grounds. | Source
This "Honeymoon Cottage" was bought from a catalog and is the first building one sees when entering the plantation.
This "Honeymoon Cottage" was bought from a catalog and is the first building one sees when entering the plantation. | Source
Photo of the Governor Ross Mansion & Plantation in fall.
Photo of the Governor Ross Mansion & Plantation in fall. | Source
Side view of the mansion. Note the beautiful arched windows.
Side view of the mansion. Note the beautiful arched windows. | Source
Front porch of the mansion.
Front porch of the mansion. | Source
The gift shop.
The gift shop. | Source
Gov. Ross was instrumental in bringing the railroad into Southern DE which vitalized the economy because it meant that farmers could produce higher priced, perishable crops such as tomatoes, strawberries and peaches.
Gov. Ross was instrumental in bringing the railroad into Southern DE which vitalized the economy because it meant that farmers could produce higher priced, perishable crops such as tomatoes, strawberries and peaches. | Source

Ross Family Hardships During Civil War Years

Delaware, a Mid-Atlantic state, is on the border between the northern and southern states along the Atlantic Coast. Though the state was officially part of the Union which fought on the side of President Lincoln, many people who lived in the southern and middle parts of Delaware were sympathetic to the south, particularly those who, like Governor Ross, owned slaves.

Governor Ross was the most famous southern sympathizer in the region and he aided the Confederacy during the Civil War, prompting President Lincoln to issue an order for his arrest. Tipped off that his arrest was imminent, the Governor fled to England while his wife and 10 children stayed behind.

Ironically, it was several slaves on the plantation who helped him escape arrest. They hid him in a barrel and transported him to the Port of Wilmington where he boarded a ship to England.

Though the Governor remained in England for most of the war years, he was able to keep in contact with his wife. Their eldest son, Caleb, enlisted in the 18th Virginia Cavalry Regiment to fight with the Confederates but died of typhoid fever at the beginning of the war.

When the war ended, the Governor returned back home. His slaves had been freed by Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation but they continued to live on at the plantation as tenant farmers.

Though the Governor had lost much of his wealth, he conducted a successful business as an importer and manufacturer of fertilizers and agricultural supplies. He died in 1887.

Ironically, some descendants of the slaves still live in Seaford, though none of the descendants of the Ross family currently live in this historic town.

The Story of the Slave Quarter

This wooden structure is the only documented log slave quarter in Delaware. It was found on the Ross estate & restored by the Seaford Historical Society.
This wooden structure is the only documented log slave quarter in Delaware. It was found on the Ross estate & restored by the Seaford Historical Society. | Source

Photos of Slave Quarter Plaque & Out-house

Plaque with photos of the restoration project undertaken by the Seaford Historical Society.
Plaque with photos of the restoration project undertaken by the Seaford Historical Society. | Source
Out-house behind the slave quarter.
Out-house behind the slave quarter.

The Story of the Ross Plantation Slave Quarter

The story of the slave quarter is a fascinating one as the building itself, along with its history, was almost lost to posterity.

Following the Civil War, the original 1 and 1/2 story framed slave quarter was turned into a 2 story house for tenant farmers and the building was moved to a different location on the grounds which was much farther from the mansion.

The Ross family lost the property years later, in 1924, when they declared bankruptcy, and as the property changed hands the tenant farmer house fell into disrepair until it was "rediscovered" in 1989 by a great-great grandson of Governor Ross who had come to tour the grounds. By that time the University of Delaware owned the property and the president of the university appointed an eight member research team to document the 19th century log structure and discovered that it was the original slave quarter.

The University of DE donated the building to the Seaford Historical Society in 1992 and the society restored it to its original size, shape and dimensions. They also relocated it to its former location next to the mansion.

Rate Governor Ross Mansion & Plantation

5 out of 5 stars from 6 ratings of Governor Ross Mansion & Plantation

Link to Seaford Historical Society Website

Hope you have enjoyed learning about the Governor Ross Mansion and Plantation. You can rate it by clicking on the stars. I gave it 5 stars for the beauty of the plantation, the fact that docents give tours of the mansion and also for its historical importance and the historical authenticity of the buildings.

You can find out information about hours of operation, special events such as the annual Victorian Christmas, Victorian Teas, Civil War Re-enactments and how to arrange a private or group tour by visiting the website at:

Enjoy Great Food at Bon Appe'tit Restaurant

The dining room has a charming European decor.
The dining room has a charming European decor. | Source

Bon Appe'tit Restaurant

Bon Appe'tit has a full bar and reasonably priced wine list.
Bon Appe'tit has a full bar and reasonably priced wine list. | Source
Bon Appe'tit Restaurant is in the heart of Historic Seaford.
Bon Appe'tit Restaurant is in the heart of Historic Seaford. | Source

The Bon Appe'tit Restaurant serves award-winning cuisine in a European style dining room full of old world charm. This chef owned French restaurant offers gourmet food served by attentive wait staff that make tourists and locals feel equally at home.

The menu is changed on a monthly basis and the chef generally highlights a particular type of cuisine each month. For example, my husband and I ate lunch there during the month of October and as this is an October-fest month, the menu featured German style food. My husband ordered Wiener Schnitzel Holstein which he said was delicious. I odered the Quiche Du Jour which had a flaky crust, creamy cheese and fresh chunks of asparagus. A spring mix side salad was included and was garnished with walnuts and blue cheese topped by a home-made house dressing. The price was a reasonable $9.95.

Though we did not need a reservation for lunch, our waitress advised us that if we return for dinner, or come during the Christmas Holidays it's best to make a reservation.

For more information about Bon Appe'tit and to view their current menu go to www.bonappetitseaford.com .

Nearby Seaford Museum Also has Great Tours

The Seaford Museum and Historical Society  is located in the old Seaford Post Office.
The Seaford Museum and Historical Society is located in the old Seaford Post Office. | Source

Governor Ross & Wife, Emiline

An historically accurate, recreated room and life-like figures of Governor Ross and his beautiful wife, Emiline, depicted together at the mansion can be seen at the near-by Seaford Museum. Note the long, horn shaped hearing aid on the Governor's lap.
An historically accurate, recreated room and life-like figures of Governor Ross and his beautiful wife, Emiline, depicted together at the mansion can be seen at the near-by Seaford Museum. Note the long, horn shaped hearing aid on the Governor's lap. | Source

While in Seaford, consider including a visit to the Seaford Museum which, like the Governor Ross Mansion and Plantation, is owned, maintained and operated by the Seaford Historical Society.

Knowledgeable docents tell fascinating tales about other famous, and also notorious residents of Seaford and there are some hands on exhibits that kids will love.

Map of Historic Seaford Delaware

show route and directions
A markerGovernor Ross Mansion & Plantation -
1101 N. Pine St. Ext. Seaford, DE 19973, USA
[get directions]

B markerBon Appe'tit Restaurant -
312 High St, Seaford, DE 19973, USA
[get directions]

Award winning French Restaurant serving gourmet food at affordable prices. Menu is changed each month.

C markerSeaford Museum -
203 High St, Seaford, DE 19973, USA
[get directions]

Run by the Seaford Historical Society, the museum has interactive exhibits and tours led by knowledgeable docents.

Fun Quiz About Gov. Ross & the Plantation

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Comments 32 comments

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

Gail-what an interesting hub; I enjoyed reading the history of this man during the Civil War. The photos are beautiful, as usual, and they enhance the storyline. I loved seeing how close everything was -walking distance from each other, via your map.

Way to go! Voted up and across (except funny). (gee, I even scored 100% on the quiz-a heck of a lot better than the history quizzes I took in H.S. haha). I'll be sharing this.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Denise,

So glad that you enjoyed the hub, historical facts and photos. Though the town of Seaford is only an hour away from my home, this was the first time my husband and I explored the Historic District and we had a wonderful time doing so. I will definitely be going back when they have some of the special events.

Thanks so much for the vote up and share. It's greatly appreciated.

Congrats on your 100% score on the quiz! LOL

Hub Hugs,

Gail


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

Thank you for the great tour and awesome pictures.


crystolite profile image

crystolite 4 years ago from Houston TX

This is a very good hub. Am a historian and have always loved knowing what had happened during the war events. Thanks for sharing.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Mhatter,

So glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the feedback.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Crystolite,

I appreciate the feedback and am glad you enjoyed the stories about the Civil War. I didn't realize until I moved to Delaware a decade ago, that much of this state supported the south during the war so I've been learning many new things myself by visiting sites like the Governor Ross Mansion. It's always a pleasure to share what I've learned, whether it be about the Civil War years or any other historical time period.


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

Dear Gail,

The Ross Mansion is a spectacular piece of history. I was fascinated with your photo gallery and the detail that you relayed about Governor Ross and his courage, bravery in sympathies shown to the South. I am also so partial to the beautiful woodwork and fine detail of this architectural style. The Honeymoon Suite is especially gorgeous.

Bon Appe'tit Restaurant looks like a lovely place to dine, both food choices and atmosphere...I clearly need to hang out with you, girlfriend!

Voted 5-star, UP and UABI. Good luck on this and all your contest entries...you are on an amazing roll. Hugs, Maria


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California

Congrats on the win! Great stuff!

HubHugs~


Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

This was such a thorough guide to this city. Great pictures.

Will try to visit this place.


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

How fascinating. What a very interesting trip to Seaford, thank you so much. Congratulations too. Your hub really deserves the award today!!!


bridalletter profile image

bridalletter 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

What an awesome place. Congrats on winning in the contest, very deserving! Love the hub and all the images you shared. Always look forward to reading your hubs. It would be a wonderful place to visit some day.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Maria,

Yeah, we do need to hang out together at some of these awesome places!

Thanks again for your review of one of my reviews. As I said on my Surf Bagel hub, I think you are my good luck charm cause I won the Daily Draw today for this one. I think all your support had something to do with it. LOL but true!

Thanks again for the 5 star rating, all your support and most of all your ongoing friendship. They mean the world to me.

Sending a Hub Bouquet of Love & Hugs,

Gail


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi K9keystrokes,

Thanks so much for the congrats and kind words. They're greatly appreciated.

Hub Hugs,

Gail


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Ruchira,

So thrilled that your enjoyed the hub and hope you do get a chance to visit the Governor Ross Mansion & Plantation some day.

Thanks for your lovely comment. It's greatly appreciated.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi GoodLady,

Am so glad you enjoyed your cyber visit and the story about the plantation fascinating.

Thanks for your feedback and the congrats, both of which are very much appreciated.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Bridalletter,

Am thrilled that you enjoyed the hub and photos and hope you do get a chance to visit the plantation some day.

Thanks for the congrats, the kind words. I truly appreciate your support.


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

I make wishes and say prayers that goodness is returned to my friends.

You, my dear Gail, do many quiet acts of kindness for so many of your friends. I should know as you are an amazing friend to me.

Congratulations and I am feeling lucky STILL in your direction.

Love, Maria


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina Author

Oh Maria, what can I say. You've touched my heart with the blessing of your friendship and prayers.

Love You,

Gail


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 4 years ago

What a Wonderful and most Interesting History Lesson Gail. I truly Enjoyed learning about Governor Ross Mansion. The Slave Quarters was quit a Story. I'm glad the Great, Great, Grandson was able to relocate it, and that it got restore and put back where it belongs, thanks to the work of the Historical Society.

I also Enjoyed reading about the "Bon Appe'tit" Restaurant. The Food sounds delicious and reasonably priced...Loved all the pictures. The Seaford Museum looks like an Interesting stop as well.

Well as usual this was Wonderful Hub, and so full of Information. I like the idea of being able to walk around and see Everything.

A warm Congratulations on your Win, much deserved!


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi b. Malin,

So glad you enjoyed your cyber visit to the historical town of Seaford and learning about its most famous citizen.

Thanks for the congrats, the insightful review with specific feedback, and most of all for your ongoing support and friendship. It means so much to me.

I hope you are doing okay after Hurricane Sandy and yesterday's northeaster. The news about many of the Jersey beaches and NYC has been heartbreaking and even incomprehensible.

Are you back in Florida?

We had a downed tree but no other damage and most of the Delaware Beaches did okay, especially Rehoboth and Lewes.

Sending a Hub Bouquet of Hugs & Love,

Gail


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 4 years ago from South Africa

For us who will never have the opportunity to travel along the Delaware History Trail, this hub and its kind is highly appreciated. Thank you, Happyboomernurse :)

Voted up, superb and well-presented :)


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Martie,

Thank YOU, for your lovely comment. So glad that you enjoyed your cyber visit. It's such a pleasure to share some of the historic towns of my beautiful state of Delaware with you.

Sending a Hub Bouquet of Hugs & Love,

Gail


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

Gail-congratulations for winning the daily drawing! This hub was already a winner. :)


Melovy profile image

Melovy 4 years ago from UK

This must be a very interesting place to visit, and reading it I almost felt as if I was there! The history is fascinating, particularly the nuances of the relationship between governor and slaves. That slaves would help the governor escape says a lot about the mixture of emotional ties that must have been in place.

And belated congrats on your win!


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Denise,

Thanks so much for the congrats and kind words. You're an awesome friend and supporter and I wish you good luck in the contest.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Melovy,

So thrilled you enjoyed the cyber visit. I, too, was fascinated by the fact that the slaves helped the governor escape, and also by the fact that they later stayed on as tenant farmers.

Also, the grounds were truly lovely, especially since it was the fall season- warm, but not hot, and quite colorful.

Thanks so much for the congrats and your ongoing friendship and support. They mean the world to me.

Hub Hugs,

Gail


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 4 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello Gail. I am getting a little jealous. I am in California where we have everything. But we don't have this East Coast quaintness that you showcase. You are visiting and allowing us to tour with you some very warm and interesting location.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Mike,

So glad that you enjoyed your cyber-visit. Yes, there is a quaintness to the historic small towns in Delaware and it's wonderful to be able to showcase these places in a hub.

I've never been to the west coast but have it on my

"wish list" of places to see, especially California.

Thanks so much for your kind words and ongoing support.

Hope you're having a wonderful Thanksgiving,

Hub Hugs,

Gail


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 22 months ago from Houston, Texas

Hi Gail,

This was very interesting learning a bit more about Delaware history and Governor Ross. One generally thinks of the south with regard to plantations and slavery. What was primarily grown up there in addition to corn and grains? I surmised that because of some of the outbuildings.

Lovely photos and interesting text to read. I am learning so much about the northeast because of your writings. I have spent much more time in areas of the mid-west, south and west in our travels with a few exceptions.

5 star rating; up votes and happy to share this with others.


aesta1 profile image

aesta1 22 months ago from Ontario, Canada

Interesting hub of a place I haven't really had a chance to explore. Thanks for wonderful visit and the history lesson as well.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 21 months ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Peggy,

So glad you enjoyed the hub and photos. I, too, was unaware that Delaware had plantations and slave owners until I started learning about Delaware's history after we moved here. Not sure what the other crops were grown at the Gov. Ross Plantation.

It seems our travel experiences are very different as my husband and I have mostly stayed on the East Coast from Canada to Florida, but have never gone to the mid-west or out west (though we hope to someday).

Thanks so much for your specific feedback and for the vote up and share with others.

Blessings,

Gail


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 21 months ago from South Carolina Author

Hi Aesta1,

So glad you enjoyed the hub and the history about this beautiful mansion and plantation. Hope you do get to visit Southern Delaware someday, as there are many great places to see and we also have wonderful beaches.

Thanks for leaving such a lovely comment.

Best Regards,

Gail

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