Trinity Community Church to incorporate stones from historic barn into its new church

Despite plans for preservation, the walls of the barn at the Mundy Farm in Hockessin – home of the oldest Catholic Diocese in the state – came tumbling down last summer.

Hockessin’s Trinity Community Church is planning to preserve the look and feel of the original structure, if not the building itself.

Trinity founder Steve Trader said he and his congregation feel blessed to have been the ultimate owners of the site, which dates back to the 1790s and still houses a cemetery and remnants of other outbuildings.

The remains of the barn – a pile of carefully assessed rocks and stones – now rest in a fenced area to the side of the construction site along Lancaster Pike.  

The former farmstead was once a potential site for the Odyssey Charter School before Trinity secured the 16-acre property from Odyssey for $1.9 million in 2014.

The barn was severely damaged by a fire in 2010 that was later determined to be arson.

“It’s really a shame,” Hockessin Historical Society president Joe Lake said at a recent Greater Hockessin Area Development Association meeting when mentioning the destruction. “There are older buildings in worse shape that have been preserved.”

Trader said that following the removal of the walls, he found that people either felt that the project was doomed from the start, or that they could have tried harder to save the structure.

The New Castle County Historic Review Board, however, felt they did everything they could, he added.

“The more you tried to fix it, the worse it became. It added a lot more time and cost to the project, but we had no choice,” Trader said. “Once you start dealing with something like this – a 212-year-old barn – you never know what you’re going to get into.”

TOO DAMAGED TO SAVE

Trader said that following an analysis from experts last summer, it was decided that the walls would not stand, based on the different types of mortar used at various times throughout its history.

“The hope was that the mortar was strong enough, and we would reinforce it with concrete inside,” Trader said. “The minute we even started taking the wood away, the stone started falling to the ground.”

The mortar was so deteriorated, Trader said, that once the stone was collected and sorted the remaining mortar was washed away by rain.

Trader said the stones will be laid in such a fashion as to replicate their appearance 200 years ago.

“Which, I think, is the cool part,” he said. “Granted, they won’t be in the exact same spot maybe, but it will be very similar.”

The barn restoration will happen before the rest of the new worship center can be started, Trader said.

That building, he added, will also have a similar appearance, reflecting the style and age of the original barn.

STILL THE ‘MUNDY FARM’

Still known locally as the Mundy Farm (after the family that purchased it from the Catholic Church decades ago), the spot is home to the oldest known burial ground from the first Catholic Church in Delaware.

The original Mission was also the start of what would eventually become the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, leading to its addition to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

In 1805, Father Patrick Kenny took over the farm and built a stone house near the church, where he lived until his death in March of 1840. He was buried on the property, where his remains still rest.  

Kenny’s home was destroyed by a fire in 2010; two teens were eventually charged with the crime. The barn was severely damaged by another fire just over a year later in September 2011.

PHASE TWO COMING SOON

Trader said that his church is still committed to preserving the cemetery, which houses some of the oldest graves in the area, with roughly 50 carved headstones and 12 stone markers.

As far as the “barn” is concerned, the concrete foundations have been poured and set, and are awaiting steel reinforcement before the stone can be reset.

“Our contractor will sub the work out, because it’s not an everyday mason that can do this,” Trader said.

Trader added that the loan was in place for Phase Two of the project – the worship center – and that a new capital campaign is underway.

“As I always said, it’s a complicated piece of property,” Trader said. “There’s always something new coming up, but we’re very excited about what’s coming up.”