by Terry Rogers
The Mispillion Greenway Walking Tour, available at both Downtown Milford, Inc. and the Milford Museum, connects city parks, natural and historic areas located in downtown Milford. The I.D. Short House, located at 208 Lakeview Avenue, is a stately, easily recognized home in the Lakeview historic area.
Prior to 1860, the south limits of Milford ended at the railroad depot and lands south to Clark and Seabury Avenue were open fields all the way to the 180-acre Simpson farm owned by John Causey and the Watson family. The area of Milford surrounding what is now Milford Memorial Hospital was a peach orchard during the time John Causey and Alexander Pullen.
In 1859. Governor Peter F. Causey returned to Milford when his term as governor ended. In 1863, Governor Causey suffered a severe stroke which left him paralyzed. His oldest son, William Frederick “Fred” Causey married Anna Polk, the daughter of Trusten Polk, the Governor of Missouri. After finishing law school, Fred began practicing law in St. Louis. Because the Causey lands were extensive, Governor Causey’s other children, Peter F., Jr., John and Maria Causey Williams, asked their brother to return to Milford to manage their father’s affairs. The siblings offered Fred and his wife the mansion home where their father was currently residing. Fred and his family returned to Milford in 1872, caring for Governor Causey until his death in 1873 as well as handling the final disposition of the Causey lands in Milford.
When he arrived in Milford, Fred saw that people were purchasing lands south of the railroad station for residences, especially along South Walnut Street and what was then known as Lake Avenue. Fred Causey sold the first lot, which was known as “Causey’s Addition” to William Thornton Vaules, then the station agent for the Junction & Breakwater Railroad Line. The second lot was sold to James and Sarah Richards. When Sarah died, she left what she describes as her “mansion” home as well as a narrow piece of land that adjoined her property with property owned by Alfred E. Archer and Frank Grier to her granddaughter, Mary C. Kinder. Her granddaughter married Fred Blake, a native of Chicago.
In 1924, the Blake’s sold the home and narrow lot fronting Silver Lake to I. Dolphus Short in 1924. In May 1924, Short began construction on the home he had just purchased. It is not clear whether he removed the original Richards home, although there is evidence that suggests he built his new home around the old one. From photos of the era, it appears that he modified the home from a Georgian style to a Greek Revival style. He added a sun porch, front portico and huge columns to the front of the house. A report in the July 11, 1924, edition of the Milford Chronicle indicates that Thad Windsor, owner of the New Windsor Hotel in Milford, was injured when a tree fell on him as he was assisting in the construction of the new home of Senator I.D. Short. Windsor’s leg was broken in two places as a result of the accident.
Isaac Dolphus Short was born on January 9, 1875, the second son of Isaac B. and Julia Knowles Short of Georgetown. He graduated from Georgetown High School in 1897 and attended the Wilmington Conference Academy in Dover. He came to Milford in 1903 at the request of his uncle, Louder Hearn. A teacher in Dover, Short changed careers in Milford, partnering with Hearn to purchase the lumberyard where Grier Lumber stood for many years. By 1906, Short sold his share of the lumberyard to his uncle before purchasing his own lumberyard located at the corner of Casey Avenue and Church Street.
Over the years, Short held many prestigious positions at lumber companies throughout the area. He was also vice-president of the Ocean View Feed Company and, during World War II, served as President of the Lakeside Poultry Company and Milford Ordinance Company. He was known for his ability to organize and direct industrial concerns, according to Milford historian, Dave Kenton.
Short was elected to the Delaware State Senate in 1916 and served as President Pro Tempore from 1916 to 1918.
On June 25, 1919, Short married Elizabeth A. Taylor of Wilmington. The couple had no children of their own, but a nephew, Judge I.D. Short, III, was a namesake. In 1937, Short ran for governor but was defeated in a bitter battle. During that era, it was tradition for the nomination to rotate between the three counties. In 1938, the gubernatorial candidate was supposed to be from Sussex County, but C. Douglas Buck of New Castle County refused to honor the tradition. Short and his supporters refused to vote for the New Castle candidate and the election was won by a member of the Democratic party.
Short served as President of the First National Bank and Trust Company of Milford from 1940 to 1947. He was also an active member of Avenue United Methodist Church, donating the three-pane stained glass window at the entrance of the church. He saw many advantages to economic development and worked to promote housing and businesses in Milford. After the Pack family founded the first poultry dressing plant in 1938, Short provided the funds to build the Sussex Poultry plant in Milford.
By 1896, Fred Causey was overextended financially, resulting in the foreclosure of 33 acres of land, including three acres where the Causey Mansion stood. Joseph Holland, a grocery broker, purchased the mansion property while Short purchased 23 lots in the southeast section of town. Soldiers returning from World War II were often unable to purchase a home. Short’s lumber company provided them with building materials and his bank provided mortgages to help support veterans in Milford.
Short died just three days before his 79th birthday in 1953. His widow survived him for another 40 years, living in the mansion home overlooking Silver Lake. She died in 1993 at the age of 96. In his will, Short left a legacy to Milford Memorial Hospital and Avenue United Methodist Church which were fulfilled upon the settlement of Elizabeth’s estate. In her will, Elizabeth left cash and jewelry to family members and friends, then instructed the remainder of her estate be sold. After bequeaths to individuals, the remainder of her estate was to be placed in a scholarship fund at the University of Delaware known as the “I.D. and Elizabeth T. Short Scholarship Fund.” The scholarship is awarded to students who have high academic qualifications as well as a demonstrated need for tuition assistance. Preference is to be given to graduates of Milford High School.
In 1992, the heirs of I.D. and Elizabeth Short sold the home to Drs. Mitchell and Loretta Edmondson who remain there today. The massive wooden columns have been refurbished and, in 2016, a large American Elm was removed after it was found to be diseased. The home has many architectural highlights including elaborate corbels and brackets that support box gutters along with third-story dormers.
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