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Amstel House

New Castle City, New Castle County, DE

The Amstel House (2 East 4th Street, also known as the Dr. Finney House) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]

Amster House  circa 1770


The five-bay facade of the Amstel House fronts on Fourth Street and is embellished with a moulded brick water table and a protruding two-brick belt course. What is supposed to have been an earlier house fronting on Delaware Street now forms a wing of the main house. The detailing of the water table and belt course on the main facade continue along Delaware Street, though the belt course is at a lower level on the wing. Both are laid in Flemish bond.

The main facade is found in the gable end of the house, an unusual characteristic for town houses in Delaware. The broad gable is pedimented with cove cornices marking the roofline and the gable. Three windows pierce the gable and there is a dormer on the south side of the shingled roof. The windows of the first floor are surmounted by segmental brick arches, as are those of the basement. If there are arches over the second story windows, they are hidden by the cornice. The sashes are double-hung with nine-over-nine lights.

The frontispiece of the main doorway is classical in detail, with engaged pilasters and a broken pediment. The deep-set door lies a fanlight surmounted by a keystone.

The center hall in the front part of the house is flanked by one room on each floor. In the parlor on the north or garden side is a panelled end wall. The large fireplace has a simple dog-eared surround and a dog-eared overmantel but no shelf. There is a deep relief to the panels flanking the fireplace and to those embellishing the butterfly cupboards on either end of the room. There are no windows on this side of the house. In the rear of the room, a French door provides access to the garden. A dentil cornice and a chair rail accent the room. On the south, the chimney is built against the wing of the house and there are windows along Delaware Street.

A kitchen and pantry arc found in what is supposed to be the original section of the house. The fireplace against the west wall of the kitchen encompasses almost the entire end wall. This wing has six-over-nine light windows surmounted by segmental brick arches on the south wall and flat brick arches on the north wall. The hallway joining the two sections of the house is contained in a stuccoed addition where the two sections join.

The house today, as originally, stands on a single-family residential street. Since the eighteenth century, the spaces between houses have been filled by the addition of newer houses.


The exact construction date of the Amstel House has not been determined, but it certainly is the oldest of the large town houses that were built in New Castle during the late colonial and early federal periods. It was the home of Dr. John Finney who bought the property in 1736 and may have built the present house before his death in 1774. His son, John Finney, Jr., lived in Pennsylvania and rented the house to Nicholas Van Dyke, who lived there until 1785.

Van Dyke was President of the Delaware State, as the governors were styled at that time. His daughter, Ann, was married in the house at a ceremony attended by General Washington.

After Governor Van Dyke moved out of the house, his daughter and her new husband, Kensey Johns, took up residence there until their house at Third and Delaware Streets was completed. Johns was later Chancellor of Delaware and a principal in the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

Since 1929, Amstel House has been a museum.


Albert Kruss and others. Historical survey of New Castle, filed in New Castle Public Library.

Higgins, Anthony, Editor, New Castle on the Delaware, New Castle: New Castle Historical Society, 1973.

  1. National Register nomination document, 1976, prepared by Edward F. Heite, Historic Registrar, Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, Amstel House, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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