Gov. Ross descendent donating to Ross Plantation addition

By Lynn R. Parks

A descendent of William Henry Harrison Ross is making a large donation to help with construction of a visitors center at the Ross Plantation on the north edge of Seaford.

Ross Claiborne, a resident of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is Rosss great-grandson. He has agreed to give up to $400,000 toward the centers construction costs.

William H. H. Ross grew up in Seaford and was elected governor of Delaware in 1850, serving from January 1851 to January 1855. He built his home in 1859.

The home and land around it is owned by the Seaford Historical Society. Society president Maria Heyssel announced Claibornes donation at the societys annual gala, held Saturday evening on the Ross Plantation grounds.

This is so exciting, Heyssel said, before proposing a toast to Claiborne. Even though he is 90-years-old, she said, Claiborne is active and still travels. But he was not able to attend the gala.

Claibornes donation is a matching grant, requiring that the historical society raise money to equal what he gives. His donations will come in $50,000 increments, as the societys fundraising progresses. The gala was the kickoff for the visitors center capital campaign.

Heyssel said that the visitors center will be called Ross Station, a reference to the train station that Gov. Ross had built near his home. It will have meeting rooms, a ballroom, bathrooms and a kitchen.

This is something that is greatly needed in western Sussex County, Heyssel said. It will be a great place for all sorts of events. In addition, it will mean that the historical societys education department has a home.

The historical society already has received a $16,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for planning the center. On display on the plantation grounds during the gala were concept drawings of the center, done by engineering firm George, Miles and Buhr.

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