Event is a fundraiser to help finance restoration efforts at 18th-century Brecknock home

If you’ve ever wondered about the story behind the Brecknock manor house in Camden or some of the other historic homes in town, May 17 will be a good time to learn all about them.

The Friends of Historic Camden will hold their annual Olde Camden Day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, at the manor home, located inside Brecknock Park.

The day will feature sales and displays of vintage items as well as Friends volunteers in period costume.

The entire event is free, although donations to the Friends will be welcome.

A highlight will be tours of the old Brecknock home, part of which dates back to the 1680s, and arguably is one of the oldest structures in Kent County.

The weather for the rain or shine event looks good, with current forecasts predicting partly cloudy skies and temperatures around 70 degrees.

That forecast means Kent Countians will have a rare chance to see the interior of the Brecknock house, which normally is not open to the public, said Donna Chappell, a member of the Friends of Historic Camden.

“Many people just see it from the outside, and they want to be able to come in,” she said. Saturday will provide a perfect occasion to do just that, Chappell added.

However, those who do take the opportunity may be in for a bit of a surprise: unlike some of Kent County’s restored Colonial-era homes, Brecknock is in an advanced state of disrepair.

Parts of the 300-year-old foundation have buckled, leaving cracks running lengthwise across some walls. Moisture buildup from a leaky ceiling – which has since been repaired thanks to intervention by Kent County Levy Court – has caused paint to peel from walls and plaster to disintegrate.

A ceiling in a second-story room in the original section of the home has completely fallen in, and the wood lath supporting the plaster has rotted away. The resulting hole allows a view of the attic above.

Far from hiding these problems, the Friends want Brecknock visitors to see these and the other issues that face the historic home.

By showing off the home, the group hopes to find people who recognize its cultural and historic value, and who might want to help with its preservation.

“We’re hoping that when people come in, they’ll see that it does need a lot of work and that they’ll want to help,” Chappell said.

There’s a lot of potential to be found at Brecknock, said Friends member Anne Burke.

“It’s gorgeous,” she said. “I’ve restored an old house, and I’d love to get in here and get to work.”

However, work to fix up Brecknock will cost money: one estimate puts the price tag for restoring the foundation alone in the neighborhood of $350,000, Burke said. That has to happen before restoration on any other part of the home can begin.

Other estimates for renovating the entire building run to more than $1 million.

But it can be done, bit by bit, Chappell said, starting with Olde Camden Days.

Other events on Saturday will include textile and basket weavers at work, a blacksmith, plein air painters, a display of antique post cards, quilters and an exhibit of an 18th-century surgeon’s kit.

Money raised from donations, a silent auction and hot dog sales also will boost Friends coffers, as will sales of homemade ice cream, provided by the Felton Volunteer Fire Company.

To learn more about the Friends of Historic Camden, visit historiccamdende.org.