Woodburne Mansion - The Little Flower Institute

Woodburne Mansion - The Little Flower Institute

Paint hangs loosely along the walls of cracked plaster before you. Walls which themselves frailly form the chambers and corridors of this weathered estate. Long before you stood here this building was bright and alive. It molders now, stretching out into shadows and ruin. A flake of dust flitters to the floor, disturbed by your presence. It flashes for a second in the sunlight passing through a fogged windowpane, before being lost. The dust spoke as it fell, as do the walls, pillars, and hand-carved trim above your head. They all speak at once, the disordered words of a building standing long beyond its life. They tell you of life, of death, and of how nothing is truly yours. How nothing can ever be owned, only borrowed. Finally, the tumultuous choir of voices reduces to a singular phrase. A sharply pointed message reciting over and over - The voice of Time itself. “What's yours is mine.”

Upstairs a section of rotten ceiling collapses, shaking the entirety of the building.

The wreckage around you wasn't always so lost. An obvious statement, but one that is easily ignored when all you see is darkness and neglect. To envision that these stained, discolored walls were onetime not only praised, but a warm home to many can seem a work of fiction. It's truth though, and that reality, that lingering past, is present in every corner and across every surface of the old Woodburne Mansion.

Construction of Woodburne was completed in 1906, a grand 55 room Greek Revival mansion tasked by Edgar Thomas Scott to architect Horace Trumbauer. It served as a beautiful home, situated on a wooded bluff over Darby Creek in Darby, Pennsylvania. In the 1930s the home was sold to the Sisters of the Divine Redeemer, who converted the home into an orphanage of high reputation called the 'Little Flower Institute'. The Chester Times from May 31, 1956, ran a praising story about the facility and the hard work of the nuns who had devoted themselves to the children they were charged with - 'Snuggled away in a spacious home on a hilltop overlooking the Darby Valley are 36 girls ranging in age from 4 to 15, happy and content. In some cases they are orphans. In others, they are children not wanted by their parents. And other children whose parents simply cannot afford to care for them. But here at Little Flower Institute on Springfield rd., they have found a home and loving care.”

In time the orphanage transitioned to an assisted living facility, and was eventually shuttered for good in 2005 when a much larger, modern facility was completed on the property in front of Woodburne. In the years since various attempts have been made to preserve, or at the very least prolong the life of the old mansion, with few plans gaining much traction. Recent years have been more hopeful than most though - With Delaware County accepting a matching grant of $25,000 from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in the summer of 2021 to aid in the preservation and mothballing efforts of the increasingly-frail structure, and as of January 2022 Delaware County Council was seeking bids for emergency roof stabilization.

Perhaps there is still hope for Woodburne. Maybe this is simply a dark chapter in an otherwise unfinished story, one with an incredible rise from ruin. That, or these ever-weakening walls will finally surrender to disrepair. Time will tell.


Woodburne Mansion - Columned Front

Woodburne Mansion - Side Entrance

Numerous additions over the years have made for an unusual floor plan.
Woodburne Mansion - Ivy Covered Siding

Woodburne Mansion - Barbed Wire and Broken Glass

Woodburne Mansion - Shadowed Entry Hall
 It's always amazing how dark a building can be, even in the midday sun.

Woodburne Mansion - The Master Staircase
The heart of Woodburne. 

Woodburne Mansion - Railing Detail
Woodburne Mansion - Looking Upward through the Stairwell

Woodburne Mansion - Upper Central Corridor

Woodburne Mansion - Fallen Doors

Woodburne Mansion - Corridor of Built-in Cabinets

Woodburne Mansion - Fireplace of the old Dining Hall
A beautiful fireplace watches, helpless, as the building around it weathers away.

Woodburne Mansion - Mantel Detail

Woodburne Mansion - One of many Fireplaces

Woodburne Mansion - Peeling Staircase Detail

Woodburne Mansion - Staircase Landing

Woodburne Mansion - Under the Dormers
The dormer alcoves had decayed so badly they were very nearly skylights.

Woodburne Mansion - A Point of Light

Woodburne Mansion - A Falling Shutter Hangs on

Woodburne Mansion - Side Entrance Detail
Woodburne Mansion - Front Facade Up Close
Woodburne Mansion - Standing on the old Driveway
 A very unfortunately-placed pine tree.
Woodburne Mansion - Fenced In to Rot

Woodburne Mansion - A Winding Annex

Woodburne Mansion - Above the Dormers
 From above you can truly see how bad the dormers had worn over the years.

Woodburne Mansion - Collapsing Ceilings
The end results of failing roofs.
Woodburne Mansion - Looking out a Dormer

Woodburne Mansion - More Fallen Doors

Woodburne Mansion - Dark Curtains in a Darker Room

Woodburne Mansion - A Corridor through Rot

Woodburne Mansion - Attic Space
 Some spaces in the attic proved surprising intimate, like this dresser which was likely once used by staff.

Woodburne Mansion - Panes of an Internal Window

Woodburne Mansion - Peeling Away

Woodburne Mansion - Amber Damask and Debris

Woodburne Mansion - More peeled than Painted

Woodburne Mansion - Passing through a Dark Room

Woodburne Mansion - Attic Facilites

Woodburne Mansion - Above and out Front
Woodburne Mansion - Angled Overhead
Woodburne Mansion - Peeking from Behind a Great Oak
Hopefully the story of Woodburne doesn't end here.