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After Joseph Shipley’s death, Rockwood eventually became the property of his great nephew Edward Bringhurst Jr. in 1891. Bringhurst with his wife Anna and their three younger children Mary, Edith and Edward moved into Rockwood the next year. The Bringhurst’s eldest daughter Elizabeth Bringhurst Galt Smith, affectionately known as Bessie, was married and living in a castle in Ireland at the time. Bessie was responsible for much of the decorative features of the Mansion during this period. The mansion currently represents the 1890s when the Bringhurst family moved into Rockwood, though much of Joseph Shipley’s furniture (imported from England) is still is in place at Rockwood.
The estate passed to Mary Bringhurst who lived to age 100, and left the mansion to her niece Nancy Sellers Hargraves, who left it to an unnamed non-profit for the enjoyment of present and future generations. New Castle County received the mansion and acreage in 1973, with the Friends of Rockwood as caretakers. The mansion went under extensive restoration by New Castle County in 1999. The 72 of the acres of Rockwood Mansion Park includes the Mansion & Conservatory, Porter's Lodge, Gardener's Cottage and Barn & Carriage House currently under renovation and construction as a Visitors Center (opening in 2005).
The 6 acre historic garden of Rockwood is surrounded by a ha-ha (a sunken wall used on English estates instead of a fence to keep livestock away from the house, so it appears that the lawns are continuous). The landscape is referred to as Gardensque, a style that is characterized by long vistas, curving paths, and trees and shrubs bordering the lawn.
Special events at Rockwood Mansion Park include the New Castle County Ice Cream Festival held annually during the second weekend in July. Other park events throughout the year include: Sleep Under the Stars (family camping), Rover Romp (a dogs’ day in the park), Summer Concerts on the Lawn and Holiday Open House featuring Rockwood Mansion at its seasonal best.
The Mansion is open as a museum daily 10am-3pm, with free tours available on the hour. The Butler's Pantry self-service café is open 7am – 5pm, and offers coffee, tea, beverages, sandwiches and sweets. The Park has lighted walking trails, and the park is open 6am – 10pm. The Mansion is closed on major holidays. Rockwood Mansion Park is owned and operated by New Castle County.
The Butler’s Pantry self-service café is accessible to the visitors with disabilities.
From I-95 South: Take exit 9 (Marsh Rd. exit). Make a left at the light onto
Marsh Road, and immediate right onto Carr Road. At second stop sign turn
right onto Washington Street Extension. Go though traffic light, and make an
immediate right into park entrance. Park at lower lot for walking trails,
or drive up the hill to Mansion parking.
I-95 North: Take exit 9 (Marsh Rd. exit). Bear right from exit onto Carr Road. Make a right at the stop sign onto Washington Street Extension. Go though traffic light, and make an immediate right into park entrance. Park at lower lot for walking trails, or drive up the hill to Mansion parking.
The cast iron and glass Conservatory is the earliest of its type still standing in the United States and the grounds still echo their English ties with a walled garden, pinetum and 72 acre park. The museum holds a remarkable collection of English, Continental and American decorative arts reflective of the tastes of a succession of family members who lived at Rockwood.
The collection is complemented by a rich manuscript and photographic archive. A variety of special events are offered to both adult and young visitors to enhance their understanding of Rockwood and the turn of the century, including concerts, tours, teas, festivals and exhibits. A visit to Rockwood gives visitors a rare view of life on a country estate, unique in Delaware, in the late 19th and early 20th century.