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A newly-listed home in Chadds Ford known as “Painter’s Folly” may spark some strong interest among art and history buffs.
The 5,896-square-foot Italianate-style home, built in 1856 and listed for $1.15 million, was the home, study space, and inspiration for many notable artists throughout the 20th century.
The property was also adjacent to the site of the Battle of Brandywine during the Revolutionary War. It is now the historic site of Brandywine Battle Field Park.
The house's artistic roots date back to 1900, when American author and illustrator Howard Pyle – whose work includes The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood in 1883 – rented out the home and founded the Brandywine School of Art. There, he taught many other famed artists.
But now, the current owners, Helen and George Sipala, have their own story to share – including forming a strong friendship with an artist connected to the home.
The Sipalas purchased the home in August 1974. At the time, they were looking for a larger home to raise their five kids, as well as a place that could fit their antique collection.
“We wanted an easy-flowing house,” Helen Sipala said. “This home had hall rooms to the left and right when you walk in. That’s what drew us.”
One day soon after the couple moved in, they looked out the window and saw a mysterious man painting in their back yard.
“After he painted, he came up to the door and said ‘hello,’ and asked if he could paint our house,” Helen said. “We said, ‘of course,’ and from that day forward he came here several times per week.”
The man was Andrew Wyeth, a renowned realist painter and Chadds Ford native. His father, N.C. Wyeth, another famous artist, was a student of Howard Pyle.
Sipala and her husband became instant friends with Andrew Wyeth – inviting him and his friends over for numerous occasions, and spending more than a dozen Christmases together. That picture Wyeth painted the day he met the couple was the first of many he painted of the property. He even started to paint pictures of the Sipalas once their friendship grew stronger.
“I think everybody would agree he just never really grew up,” Sipala said of Wyeth. “He loved everything that had to do with his childhood; he loved costumes; he loved jokes and pranks. We learned so much from him. We had so many glorious memories with him.” Wyeth passed away in 2009.
In the Sipalas’ many years in the home, they completed some major renovations: they remodeled and upgraded the kitchen, redid the library, and updated the bathrooms.
The home has 10 bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths. Original features include 16 fireplaces, plaster moldings, and paneled doors.
The exterior is stucco over stone, and is situated on three-and-a-half acres. The home has a wraparound porch, as well as a detached carriage house with a full kitchen, great room, bedroom and bathroom.
As the Sipalas get ready to move to their next home – they’re downsizing – they’re able to physically take many memories of the home with them, thanks to Wyeth.
“He gave us so many memories; he was so generous,” Sipala said. “We take part of the house and him with us as we move on.”