Lombardy Hall was the home of Gunning Bedford, Jr. during the time that he was the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Delaware (1806-09). This historic house was returned to the Masonic fraternity in 1967 and is believed to be the only home of a colonial first Grand Master to owned by a Masonic organization. Buildings in which Grand Lodges were formed are identified in Indiana, New Hampshire, Delaware and Maryland but only Lombardy Hall is the home of a first Grand Master.
Gunning Bedford, Jr. signed an agreement to purchase Lombardy Hall and 250 acres in 1785 from William Robison. Although Robison died before the sale was completed, his widow, Hannah transferred the property to Bedford the next year for four pounds and one dollar per acre. A copy of this agreement is a prized exhibit at Lombardy Hall.
This property was a farm and was located on a hill over-looking Wilmington about a mile to the south and straddled the north-south road leading to West Chester, PA to the north. The original building was only 28 feet x 30 feet in size with 18-inch walls of Brandywine granite. It had two downstairs rooms and a large hallway, three upstairs rooms and a full attic and basement. Sometime between 1750 and 1785, a 25 foot x 40 foot sloped roof shed was attached to the north side of the building. This shed probably contained a large room, which was probably used as an office, a kitchen area in the back and one or two upstairs rooms. Six years elapsed between the time Bedford purchased the property and his move to Lombardy Hall from downtown Wilmington. During this period (ca. 1793) Bedford added an 18 foot x 30 foot addition on the south end of the house with one large downstairs room, referred to as "The Ballroom," and two upstairs rooms.
Some of this information is derived from the earliest photograph of the house taken about 1900 and from an 1833 newspaper ad, which describes Lombardy Hall as a "large and commodius two-storied stone dwelling house with three parlours and a large office on the first floor and six chambers on the second floor, a good kitchen and other adjoining buildings--an excellent cellar under the dwelling house, a well of excellent water near the kitchen door, besides a never-ending spring..."
After Bedford's death in 1812, the estate was advertised "to be let" in 1817 and "for sale" in 1833 but it remained with the six heirs until 1847. During the next 120 years, the property was successively deeded to at least six owners and was reduced in size to some 20 acres. Part of this remaining 20 acres was converted in 1889 to a cemetary. Lombardy Hall became the home of the caretaker and for some years one room served as a morgue. In the meantime the shed on the north end of the house was removed and about 1940, a flat-roof garage was added on the south using stones from the shed and/or the barn originally at the back of the property. From 1962-67 the property was vacant serving as the occasional hangout of vagrants.
In 1963 Granite Lodge No. 34 in Talleyville, was chartered to meet the growing needs of a rapidly developing suburban area. It met initially in rented quarters in the local Grange Hall about two miles north of Lombardy Hall. Soon after the Lodge was chartered a Hall Company was incorporated to purchase property on which to build a Masonic Temple. While considering several locations, the Lombardy Hall property came on the real estate market. The lodge primarily because of its location, zoning and price purchased the property. The members of Granite Lodge intended to build a separate building on the property. Use of Lombardy Hall for a lodge room was briefly considered but was rejected because of its costs and the destruction of many portions of this historic building.
In 1968 Lombardy Hall Foundation was chartered with the objective of restoring the building. There is a picture hanging in the center hallway which shows the initial trustees of the Foundation. A substantial financial gift was received from a couple interested in preserving its heritage. Gradually the building was weather-proofed, and chimneys, roofs, doors and windows were replaced. Progress was slow because of limited finances, but volunteer carpenters, electricians, painters, etc., all worked many hot summer evenings to restore Lombardy Hall to its original prominence. A local group started landscaping the grounds, a project later assumed as a continuing civic project by the Timberline Garden Club. The members of the Crest Century Club became interested, researched and purchased furniture for the "Ballroom" and for an upstairs bedroom so that they could be restored as they might have been when Bedford lived at Lombardy Hall. They also assisted in installation of a security system for this semi-isolated building situated between Lombardy Cemetary and Independence Mall (an office/shopping center complex).
In addition to the "Ballroom", a working Masonic library has been established including some of the materials from the Grand Lodge Library. Masonic displays have been installed in three rooms and one room has been divided to provide rest room facilites.
Lombardy Hall is open to the public by appointment and for the last 20 years has hosted an annual Christmas Open House on the first weekend in December.
Today, Lombardy Hall is a Masonic treasure of the First State--the only home of a colonial first Grand Master in Masonic hands. Part of it was adapted without destruction of the historic portion of the building to meet the current needs of a growing suburban lodge. Lombardy Hall has been restored and with its library, Masonic displays and period furniture is dedicated as a living memorial to a great American and great Freemason--Gunning Bedford, Jr.--the first Grand Master of the First State.
Harold T.J. Littleton, PGM
Watch the video below for a virtual tour of the Lombardy Hall Founation building and a description of its unique architecture.
Video: Building architecture
Lombardy Hall Foundation
1611 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE 19803
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