By Terry Rogers
The stately red brick home at 417 North Walnut Street has stood the test of time well and is known as the Peter Lofland House. The elegant Second Empire home, built in 1880 by Peter Lofland, a prominent Milford citizen, is as beautiful today as it was when Mr. Lofland and his family called it their home. Mr. Lofland built the home at the request of a friend, Frank Richards, who wished to develop the north end of town. At the time, there were very few homes on North Walnut Street. Even the iconic Walnut Knoll, the home built by Governor William Tharp Watson at 600 North Walnut Street was not built until 1897. The land was given to Mr. Lofland with a yearly ground rent of $18.
The home was built using bricks provided to Mr. Lofland in payment of a debt owed to him by his uncle, James Lofland, who operated a brick kiln on his farm. Mr. Lofland was the youngest son of James P. Lofland, a well-known physician in Milford who died of typhoid fever in 1857. He was born in 1840. One of his brothers, James Rush, became an attorney while his other brother, Mark Greer, became a physician. He also had two sisters, Elizabeth Maxwell Lofland Nutter and Mary Lofland. Mr. Lofland himself was a land speculator and entrepreneur.
Mr. Lofland was married to Sallie Anna Lofland, born in 1847, the only daughter of Joseph Sudler and Rachel Lofland and the sister of Mark G., John and Frank E. At the time of their deaths, the Lofland’s did not live in the home on North Walnut Street but instead on the family homestead. Mr. Lofland died in 1917 and Mrs. Lofland in 1925.
The home has a mansard roof pierced with dormers, three in the front and two on each side. The rear wing was built with the house and has two stories with a single dormer on each side and none on the rear. It is an excellent example of the builder’s art at the end of the 19th century. It is also one of the last surviving examples of mansard roof construction within Milford’s city limits. The landscaping around the home has retained the feel of late-nineteenth century design. It is set on a rise, so it dominates surrounding structures.
An elegant staircase just inside the front door encourages visitors to explore the six-bedroom home. There is a main parlor that is flooded with light. Like other homes of the period, the ceilings are high and all fireplaces in the home are ornamental. The main parlor takes you back to a period when detail in homebuilding was a normal practice. There is a large dining room that flows into a kitchen with modern appliances, but an old-world feel. The master bedroom has matching oversized closets and there is a separate vanity area, common for homes of this period. There is also a small balcony on the second floor, a patio and a three-car garage behind the home. The landscaping is impeccable as well.
Mr. Lofland rented the home to Alexander Pullen, a nurseryman and horticulturist, who arrived in Milford in 1880 to manage John Causey’s fruit orchards. Mr. Causey was the son of Governor Peter Causey. According to Milford historian, Dave Kenton, Mr. Pullen was famous for his fruit tree nursery, providing peach and other fruit tree seedlings to area orchards. Mr. Pullen lived in the home until 1920. That same year, Mollie Nutter, the granddaughter of Mr. Lofland, inherited the home and used it as a rental property for many years. Ms. Nutter’s mother was Elizabeth Maxwell Lofland Nutter and Clement Henry Nutter.
In the book, Delaware Past and Present, the home at 417 North Walnut Street was occupied by the Nutter family in the winter. They also owned a country home at the head of Walnut Street. Elizabeth Nutter owned the “Joseph Oliver plot of ground rents, which has been owned by the Lofland’s for more than 50 years.” Joseph Oliver laid out the town of Milford. She served as president of the New Century Club as well as the Millwood Parent-Teachers’ Association. She studied law and attended the Marshall Seminary, Oak Lane near Philadelphia.
Joanna Rosalie Lofland, the daughter of Peter Lofland, died at the age of 24 in July 1899. According to her obituary, a copy of which is held by the Milford Museum, Ms. Lofland’s death was a shock as she was not known to be ill. Joanna Lofland was prominent in Milford society circles and was to be married to Howard Keyser of Philadelphia just prior to her death.
Ms. Nutter passed away in the 1940s and the home was left to her daughter, Sarah Nutter Snyder who was married to John Snyder, an attorney. The couple lived in the home with their children, Elizabeth and Jeff until Ms. Snyder passed away around 1980.
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