November-December 2011 | FAMILY HISTORY

FAMILY HISTORY
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FOR THE HOLIDAYS

FAMILY HISTORY

Though more than 130 years old, the majestic Carpenter Gothic home of Captain Ebe Chandler continues to serve as the quintessential setting of rich family tradition

Written By: Nick Brandi | Photographer: Stephen Cherry

Rich traditions old and new characterize the historic home located at 13 Main St. in Frankford. The magnificent structure stands today as not only a fully restored tribute to a local luminary but also as the warm and loving household of a charming 14-year-old whose parents went beyond great lengths to claim her as their daughter.
 
Built in 1878 by Captain Joshua Townsend, the “Carpenter Gothic” Victorian was purchased by Captain Ebe Chandler in 1918. Chandler was a courageous seafaring man whose real life was practically literary in proportion. In 1903, he made the New York Times after his tugboat, Spartan, sank into the ocean off the coast of Lewes during a violent gale. The entire crew was washed overboard, including Capt. Chandler, who’d clung to a piece of scantling just four inches wide as he drifted out to sea. The Times reported that when he was rescued by the USS Lykens 13 hours later, he was barely alive.
 
Despite the harrowing ordeal, Chandler must have been fond of the area, since he occupied the house in Frankford until his death in 1956 at the age of 98. He’d led a full life, which included a stint as president pro tem of the Delaware state senate in the 1930s. The sea captain not only made many handsomely ornate interior enhancements, he’d moved the three-floor, 5,000 sq. ft. house a few yards back from the street as a prelude to adding an expansive wraparound front porch that was bookended by two spectacular octagonal gazebos capped by stain-glass-paneled cupolas with mock-flame finials at the peaks. Appurtenances include a potting shed, a smoke house and a privy, all single-story structures with gable roofs. In all, five generations of the Chandler family proudly occupied the house, which was elevated to landmark status when it made the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
 
Its current occupants are Robert Daisey and Marla Banks Daisey, who acquired the home in 2002. Both the Banks and Daisey families have been in the region for centuries, so the 
couple had the right attitude about preserving the home’s resonant sense of history and antiquity. Marla did, however, have the insight to almost triple the previous kitchen space when she created her caterer-friendly gourmet facility, which came in extremely handy during the three years she ran the 16-room house with seven beds and seven baths as a B&B.
 
With original plaster walls, authentic period furniture and original flooring, ancestral portraiture and things like 170-year-old framed maps, the house is as much a museum as a home. But for all of that eternal ambiance, Marla and Robert would tell you straight away that the home’s star attraction is a mere 14 years old — and her name is Taite.
Unable to have biological children, the Daiseys were determined to be parents, so when they learned of a beautiful baby girl in Central America, they were willing to do whatever it took legally — even if that meant moving to Guatemala for two years. That’s how long it took to run the gauntlet of red tape that stood between her and her would-be daughter.
 
“Guatemala is an absolutely beautiful country,” praised Marla, who is fluent in Spanish, “and I have many wonderful memories of my time there, though it wasn’t entirely a bouquet of roses.”
 
With a class system that has 97% of the population in or near poverty, street crime is everywhere. Though Marla had known better than to go out at night, there was one incident she couldn’t have anticipated.
 
“A bunch of us were on a tour boat, when two men boarded with the intention of robbing the boat and us,” she explained. “One crew member was immediately thrown over the side, and the captain was shot point-blank in the chest and died. It was a surreal experience; nothing in life prepares you for something like that. I didn’t even think it was real at the time, but we were ultimately saved by our passengers, who’d rushed the robbers and overpowered them. That is a day I will never forget.”
 
Finally back stateside with her daughter, Taite (pronounced “Tate”), Marla reports that the then-two-and-a-half-year-old assimilated the ways and culture of her new country practically seamlessly, suffusing the home with an ebullient energy that the Daiseys say fills it with joy on a daily basis.
 
“We really do believe that Taite was destined by God to be our daughter,” Marla said. “At this point, Robert and I just couldn’t imagine life without her.”
 
In every way, Taite is a red-blooded American girl. She loves fashion, shopping, cooking and, believe it or not, hopes one day to work for the CIA. She sings in the choir and is the only freshman girl currently running cross-country for Indian River High School. The recently elected treasurer of her class, Taite is also an avid “footballer,” playing soccer for her school team as well volunteering for the River Soccer Club in Roxana, where she 
sets aside precious time from her packed schedule to work with special-needs children.
 
But when it’s time for Christmas, Taite makes sure she’s nowhere but home. On Christmas Eve, you can expect to find Marla roasting a turkey while her 90-year-old mother and Taite squabble like they do every year over the amount of flour to use and how thin to roll that Sussex County dumplings that will accompany it. Later that evening, they will be joined by a coterie of roughly a dozen immediate family members, who will each bring a dish to the feast. In addition to the traditional Eastern Shore American repast, Marla will serve locally homemade chicken tamales for that spicy sprinkling of authentic Latin American culture that Marla so loves and that permeates her 133-year-old home. Together, they will all celebrate their blessings and the joys of being a family as ancestral portraits and a mural of Capt. Ebe Chandler benevolently overlook the festivities.
 
There is, however, a most unfortunate postscript to this otherwise idyllic tale of the American family. It appears this holiday season is likely the last the family will spend as owners of the Chandler house. Marla is currently fighting a battle against cancer that requires the family to simplify their lives. The Chandler house, therefore, has been officially put on the market. For those interested in perpetuating a longstanding tradition of family life and love in this unique bastion of history, contact Rhonda Frick or Laura Hufford of Long & Foster at 302-539-9040.
 
 


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