In the first post of this series, we explored Hagley, where the DuPont legacy started.  Now, we’re off to Winterthur in Wilmington, Delaware, where Henry Francis du Pont was born, lived, farmed, and developed a naturalistic garden.  Winterthur (“Winter-ter”) is Henry’s 1,000 acre estate with woodland and natural gardens, mansion, and expansive antiques collection. Henry was an avid collector of Americana and direct descendant of E. I. Dupont, the man that started it all with the gunpowder mills at Hagley.  He acquired a large collection of antiques, which continues to grow to this day.

Henry established his estate as a museum in 1951, as he had a desire to share it with others.  He was so committed to his vision that he moved out of the main mansion so it could become part of the museum. His goal was to “show the Americans of the future what a country place and farm were like”, and he most definitely accomplished his goal.  Well, maybe the “country place” that he lived in was not quite common, but the farm and history of food production are quite pronounced as you tour the grounds.  The mansion is filled with period rooms, showcasing interiors and antiques that have been brought from far and wide.  Yes, full rooms have been brought from elsewhere and added to the mansion.  The room that really struck me was one in which the wallpaper was handpainted in the far east to depict a local farming village.

Handpainted wallpaper and antiques

I visited in June, just after the height of the rhododendron season.  The best times to visit must be March and May.  Visit in May for the rhododendrons and azaleas that are interspersed throughout the woodland gardens.  It must be quite fantastic to see them in their glory in mid-spring.  But why visit in March?  To see the March Bank!  No, this is not the place where Henry kept his cash…it’s actually the first naturalistic garden area that he created after training in horticulture at Harvard (yes, Harvard).  The March Bank is a large wooded hillside planted with naturalized bulbs…crocus, scilla, glory-of-the-snow, winter aconite, and snowdrops.  All of these bulbs, millions of them, bloom in the March/April timeframe.  During the blooming season, this area goes through a color cycle of white/yellow to blue.  It must be amazing.

One of my favorite areas at Winterthur is the Enchanted Woods.  This is an area of treehouses, serpentine paths, and fun for children.  I just think it’s so clever and, well, it really has an enchanted feeling.  It’s nice and shady, too, so it provides relief on a hot day.  With the right timing, the children and adults will have a welcome respite in the middle of a warm summer day.

Another unique attraction at Winterthur is the Point to Point Steeplechase in May. Seriously, have you ever been to a Steeplechase? Few of us have. The Winterthur Steeplechase, held in May of each year, is a *huge* event in the Wilmington, Delaware area. It includes tailgating, an antique auto show, kids games, and of course the fancy hats and horses.

I hope you’ve enjoyed Part II of the Dupont series.  Use the buttons below to share with your friends, and comment to let me know your thoughts.  Part III will be coming soon!  Subscribe to the RSS feed or to the email list so that you’ll be the first to know when it’s released.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply