Seaford Historical Society moves forward with plans for construction of Ross Station center

By Lynn R. Parks

A Seaford Historical Society project that has been three years in the planning is finally moving forward. Last week, society president Bev Hutton signed a contract for construction of the Ross Station, a visitor's center planned for the Ross Plantation.

The contract is with construction firm Gillis Gilkerson Inc., Salisbury. Groundbreaking is set for Tuesday, July 31, and "we hope to have a grand opening in the early spring," said project manager and former historical society president Maria Heyssel.

Even with the contract signed, though, the society's fundraising continues. All of the bids that were submitted for the project were higher than anticipated, Heyssel said.

The society is also raising money to match a second donation from Ross Claiborne, a resident of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and great-grandson of Gov. William Henry Harrison Ross, who built the Ross Mansion in 1859. Two years ago, Claiborne gave a grant of $400,000 to the project, which the society has successfully matched. Recently, he donated another $50,000, "for contingencies and furnishings," Heyssel said. The society has to raise money to match that.

"We will continue to raise needed funds to furnish the interior and make the Ross Station a wonderful community center," Heyssel said.

The center will be 6,364 square feet in size and will include a 3,650-square foot banquet room capable of seating 225 people. It is planned for a corner of the plantation near the intersection of North Market Street Extended and Venture Drive.

The historical society has raised more than $1.2 million for the project. That includes grants from the Longwood Foundation, the Welfare Foundation and the Crystal Foundation, as well as more than $150,000 in local donations.

In March, the city donated a couple of small parcels of land along Market Street Extended to the society, to be used for parking for the visitor's center. The city is also contributing $38,000 toward the cost of the parking lot. The balance of that cost will be paid from the state's Community Trust Fund ($142,000) and the county ($8,000).

The design of the center, by engineering firm George, Miles and Buhr, was paid for by an initial grant for $16,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program.

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