As work progresses on Trinity Church’s new worship center in Hockessin, plans are also underway to preserve a piece of area history.
The still-under-construction church shares space with the Coffee Run Cemetery, a historic part of the state’s oldest Catholic parish, along with the wrought iron “Coffee Run Cemetery” sign that sits along Lancaster Pike.
“We’re under full excavation here right now,” said Trinity pastor and founder Steve Trader. “There’s a lot of dirt to be moved.”
Excavation work is expected to finish within the next few weeks, Trader said, with hope of having footers and concrete work completed by late April or early May.
“We feel like, sometime before the end of May, steel will go up on the property,” Trader said, adding that they hope to open the doors to the new church by May 2019.
Before that day, however, the cemetery sign will have to be moved from its current spot. Plans call for it to be incorporated into the fencing that surrounds the cemetery.
Knights of Columbus of Coffee Run Grand Knight and Greater Hockessin Area Development Association Treasurer Tom Green said that the sign had to be moved, as it would be in the right-of-way of the church’s parking lot if it remained.
Green’s only problem is that the sign, an iconic piece of area history, would no longer be visible from the road.
“The Knights would like to see it remain where it is,” Green said. “Of course, that’s not possible – the Historic Review Board said that it had to be moved. But we would still like to have it visible.”
“We’ve had some great meetings with [St. Mary’s pastor] Father [Charles] Dillingham and the Coffee Run Knights,” Trader said. “Where it goes it absolutely up to them, but it does have to be moved. We were told as much.”
Visitors to the cemetery, which is still under lease by St, Mary’s, will share a parking lot with Trinity Church. Paths will be installed from the lot to both the cemetery and the main building.
“We plan to protect the cemetery as much as possible,” Trader said. “We want to make it safer to maintain and visit.”
History of the site
Trinity purchased the former “Mundy Farm” tract in 2015 from the Odyssey Charter School, with the intention of opening a new worship center on the historic 16-acre plot.
Built sometime in early 1790, the Coffee Run Mission was the first Catholic Church in Delaware and the start of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington.
Reverend Matthias Manners, a Jesuit from the Bohemian Mission in Maryland, purchased a farm in 1772; the log cabin church he built in 1790 was the original home of Hockessin’s St. Mary’s of the Assumption.
In 1805, Father Patrick Kenny took over the farm, eventually erecting a stone house near the church, where he lived until his death in March of 1840. In that time, Kenny also constructed many of the outbuildings, including the barn.
Stones from historic barn reused
Despite the goal of saving and preserving the barn, Trader said that once that portion of the project started, the mortar was too deteriorated to work with.
Instead, the stones were saved and reassembled into what will be the church’s worship center.
“I think it turned out incredible,” Trader said of the barn’s transformation. “Even our most conservative critics loved the way it turned out. I think it looks much better, and it kept the look of the era that it was built.”
He added that the Hockessin community seems excited about the progress happening at the site.
“Watch this space, because there will be a lot happening in the next few months,” Trader said. “Between the concrete being poured and the steel going up, it’s going to start looking like how it’s supposed to look like.