CAMDEN — There are several ideas floating around about what to do with the historic Goggin Manor House in Brecknock County Park.
And figuring that out will now be aided by an influx of funding.
The Kent County Parks & Recreation Division has $1 million to turn the building into an educational facility or museum, after it was recently awarded a $500,000 grant from the National Park Service’s Save America’s Treasures program, while Levy Court matched the amount.
Jeremy Sheppard, the director of Parks & Rec, said the grant’s period runs from Nov. 21, 2022, to Sept. 30, 2025, giving officials plenty of time to reimagine the property as it undergoes major renovations.
“It’s not necessarily for the park; it’s for the Goggin Manor House. One hundred percent of it is for that,” he said. “We are very excited to be able to renovate that house and make it publicly accessible at some point.
“There’s been a lot of discussion behind the scenes about what to do with it. Some (Levy Court) commissioners would like to see a Kent County Historical Museum. There has been some talk about moving the Underground Railroad display that Ms. Lucreatia Wilson had going on at the Star Hill AME Church. Unfortunately, she passed away over the last couple of weeks, so that’s a little bit up in the air right now.”
Commissioner Jody Sweeney said he made a vow to Ms. Wilson before she died from injuries sustained in a house fire in Camden on Dec. 23, 2022 — he would try to find a permanent home for the Underground Railroad artifacts she kept in the basement of the church, preferably at the Goggin Manor House.
“I made a personal promise to Lucreatia Wilson, and I intend to follow up on that,” he said.
Goggin Manor was built in four stages, during the 18th and 19th centuries, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house, along with all the land and buildings that make up Brecknock Park, was deeded to Kent County Levy Court by Elizabeth Howell-Goggin in 1991, through her will. She remained in the residence until her passing in June 1992.
Through the Parks & Recreation Division, the area was transformed into a public park and became one of the most visited in Kent County.
Mr. Sheppard said a course will be charted for the Goggin Manor House over the next several months.
“The grant program runs through September of 2025, but our first step here, over the next couple of months, is to bring on a consultant with a lot of historical architectural information or knowhow to, kind of, help us lead through this process,” he said.
“We still have to interface with the National Park Service and our grant coordinator on a lot of different decisions because, since it’s federal money, we have to adhere to the secretary of the interior’s ... standards for historical renovations, so there’s going to be a lot of back and forth.”
Save America’s Treasures, funded through the Historic Preservation Fund, provided $356 million to more than 1,300 projects between 1999 and 2020. Requiring a dollar-for-dollar private match, the grants have leveraged more than $500 million in private investment and contributed more than 16,000 jobs to local and state economies.
Mr. Sheppard laughed when asked what needs to be done to upgrade the Goggin Manor House.
“Everything,” he said. “Clearly, the house is in need of updating in many different areas, such as electrical, HVAC, plumbing. The windows are going to need attention, and there’s plaster issues on the inside.
“We’re going to have to do an incredible amount of work to get that thing up to current code from a safety standpoint, and, also, if it is a publicly accessible building, we have to adhere to (Americans With Disabilities Act) standards, so there will have to be some minor adjustments there to make sure that people who do visit are able to do so across the board.”