The evidence was clear in September of 1884. The chairs proved it. Or at least that’s what Carrie Peterson maintained. Earlier that week, an anonymous letter appeared in the Smyrna Times questioning whether the Revolutionary War Delaware legislature had ever actually met at Belmont Hall, her family home, as local lore maintained. The letter struck a personal chord with Peterson, a descendant of Delaware’s Collins family. In her family, she wrote to a cousin, the story was still “spoken of and treasured as a matter of family history.” Three reliable relatives had told her about it, and one had even given her two cherished relics, chairs used in the house on that very day.
The core of Belmont Hall is a Georgian house that Thomas Collins built in 1773. Collins was among the more active Delaware advocates of the revolutionary cause, and he served in various political and military roles during the War of Independence. Collins’s “family history” holds that he also invited the state’s legislature to meet at his home, where they sat in the Windsor-style chairs. Without hard evidence, the jury is still out on whether that meeting actually took place.
Belmont Hall, now owned by the State of Delaware and operated by a friends group, makes new family history every day as the site of receptions, celebrations, and weddings. As you walk through the house, you can see objects owned by several generations of residents. In the small staircase that leads up to a rooftop widow’s walk, hundreds of visitors have signed their names since the 1920s, reminding us that we can all contribute to the history of a place.
Visit Belmont Hall
Location: 217 Smyrna Leipsic Rd, Smyrna, DE 19977
Phone: (302) 264-9048
Hours: Some Saturdays, seasonally. See their calendar.
Admission: $3 ($1 students).