By John Chambless
Watching home makeovers on TV is one thing, but having a chance to walk through a dazzling 1934 Tudor home that's outfitted with the best work of interior decorators and landscape professinals is something else entirely.
Beginning on Oct. 4, a large home in Greenville, Del., will be the site of the Oxford Arts Alliance Decorator Showhouse and Gardens, spotlighting more than 30 decorators who have been working for months to show off their services.
The home itself is impressive. Built in 1927, it has six bedrooms and five baths, and sits on 1.66 acres of prime real estate in the Westover Hills neighborhood of Wilmington, Del. It was the first upscale suburban housing development In Wilmington, established in 1926 by William duPont, a grandson of E.I. duPont, founder of the DuPont Company, and continued after his death by his son, William, Jr.
It was founded on a large tract of land on the northwest side of Kennett Pike, just beyond the former site of the Wilmington Country Club (currently the Porky Oliver Golf Course and University of Delaware). Many of the prominent early families of Wilmington lived there.
Three lots were consolidated to form the property at 1106 Hopeton Rd. It was originally owned by Alfred E. and Julia duPont Bissell. Alfred Bissell was a principal in the Wilmington brokerage firm of Laird, Bissell and Meeds. The Bissells built a large house, perhaps designed by the Philadelphia architectural firm of Wallace & Warner. The Bissells raised their four children in the house, where neighborhood children often played hide and seek in the attic. One of their daughters, Antonia Bissell Laird, grew up to be a published poet.
In the early 1950s, a large wing was added to the house. The Bissell family continued to own the property until 1976, when they sold it to Frank and Marcia Balotti. The Balottis made extensive renovations to the house and property, adding a pool and gardens. They lived in the house until recently. The home is on the market with Sotherby's Properties.
For designers and decorators, the Showhouse is a chance to do some bragging. Participating businesses include Joseph Anthony Interiors, Winterthur Design Associates, Simply Divine Interiors, White Oak Landscapes, Timeless Design, Sweetwater Design and many others. Visitors can get more information as they tour the home.
In addition to raising funds for the Oxford Arts Alliance, the Showhouse shares proceeds with four area non-profits. On certain dates, 25 percent of the ticket price will be given to a particular organization. The non-profits are the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition (Oct. 4 to 6), Child, Inc. (Oct. 11 to 13), the Wilmington Flower Market (Oct. 18 to 20), and the Delaware Children's Theatre (Oct. 25 to 27). Regular tickets are $30 online or purchased at the door.
Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m., with extended hours on Thursdays until 8 p.m. There is no parking at the home. Participants should park at Barley Mill Plaza (Route 141 and Barley Mill Road) and take a shuttle bus to the house. Call 302-654-2659 visit OxfordDecoratorShowhouse.com.