Frankford’s Chandler House makes its mark in history

Once upon a time, a daring sea captain rolled up his sails and came home, moving into the house that now bears his name. Today, in the small downtown of Frankford, the Captain Ebe Chandler House still stands at 13 Main Street, with a new glossy Delaware Historical Marker.

Coastal Point • Laura Walter : The Chandler House was recently honored with a Delaware Historical Marker. Pictured, from left, are residents Robert, Marla and Taite Daisey, Frankford Town Councilwoman Joanne Bacon and state Rep. John Atkins.Coastal Point • Laura Walter : The Chandler House was recently honored with a Delaware Historical Marker. Pictured, from left, are residents Robert, Marla and Taite Daisey, Frankford Town Councilwoman Joanne Bacon and state Rep. John Atkins.The “Carpenter Gothic” Victorian house is still maintained as a bed-and-breakfast by residents Robert and Marla Daisey.

“It was always my childhood dream,” said Marla Daisey, whose father owned the building in the mid-1960s. “I loved it since I was a little girl.”

It was renovated into rental units and had several tenants before the Daiseys moved in about 12 years ago.

Built as a simple farmhouse in 1878 by Capt. Joshua Townsend, the house was moved back from the road and extensively remodeled around 1918 by Chandler. He moved the house back to add a massive wraparound veranda, with gazebos at either end, topped by multicolored stained-glass cupolas.

The National Parks Service calls it a “two-and-a-half story, six-bay, double-pile, gable-roofed Victorian Gothic structure distinguished by the addition of elaborate carpenter gothic and eclectic detailing.”

The house has undergone steady maintenance to survive into the 21st century.

“It’s overwhelming,” Daisey said of the maintenance. “It’s a lifetime commitment to the upkeep, due to its age.”

Some minor details have changed with the times, such as the clean white fireplace mantle, once covered in an ornate gold leaf.

But those cupolas still charm Daisey, and her daughter, Taite, likes the wide front porch.

More history fills the house, including original stained glass, antique lamps and a childhood portrait of Daisey’s own Grandmother Banks.

According to the large historical marker, visible from the roadway, Chandler resided at the house with his wife, Hettie Jane Bishop, and their two children. A public servant, he was mayor of Bethany Beach from 1930 to 1937 and died in 1956.

This is the 237th historical marker in Sussex County.

Until she began researching the house, even historical markers coordinator Kate Fair was unaware of the Chandler House in the small town of Frankford.

“I hope — being in Frankford — people will come off the beaten path,” Fair said, praising the “unique architecture.”

The Chandler House is way ahead of the curve just by being intact, with bonus points for still being occupied.

Often, historical designation is granted for a site formerly used in a significant way, so to have a house in its original location is a big deal, Fair said.

Named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, the Chandler House already had its foot in the door, history-wise.

“The architectural significance is a huge component,” Fair said. Chandler himself was interesting, Daisey said, perched on his rocking chair and wearing his captain’s hat into old age.

“It’s important in our small town. There’s a lot of history that doesn’t need to be forgotten,” Atkins said. “It’s really an inexpensive way to put something out to the public that they’ll be able to read for centuries.”

Atkins and state Sen. Gerald Hocker Sr. contributed to the project, as legislators can spend community transportation funds for these markers, said Nancy Hickman, local legislative aide. Citizens can apply to the Delaware Public Archives about getting one, but they’ll be asked to contact their representatives for support.

“There’s no way” the program could thrive without legislator support, Fair said, especially after the recession.

Having known the family for years, Atkins said he was “proud to fund this historical marker for Frankford and its citizens.”

“We appreciate his support in us obtaining the sign,” Daisey said.

The navy blue aluminum sign features golden letters over a stainless steel post, which the Archives maintains. With its location behind an old Victorian iron fence, the marker is designed to fall in a safe direction should it be in an auto collision.

Along the same street, barely 500 feet away, Frankford United Methodist Church boasts another historical marker, as does the Antioch Camp Meeting ground about a mile north.