The Brandywine area is blessed to have had a number of notable industrial and other business concerns call it home over the years; however, when it comes to a legacy that has stood the test of time, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) is without rival.
Though shelves worth of books have been written about DuPont, its namesake family, and their respective and collective contributions to not only the Brandywine area, but the country and the world as a whole, comparatively little about them seems to be widely known outside of this immediate area.
In this post, I would like to briefly introduce you to one of the du Pont family’s greatest cultural contributions: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library.
Named after the city in Switzerland, Winterthur is the former home of Henry Francis du Pont who, during his lifetime, converted it into an extraordinary and publicly-accessible museum dedicated to his twin passions: horticulture and the decorative arts.
Spanning nearly one thousand acres of rolling hills and woodlands, Winterthur boasts 60 acres of natural gardens, a 175-room mansion within which more than 90,000 priceless antiques – many collected by Mr. du Pont himself – are on display to the public, and a library containing more than 80,000 volumes and half a million manuscripts on American history, architecture, and the decorative arts.
The property also boasts the Brandywine region’s two most prestigious clubs: Bidermann Golf Club (which was originally Mr. du Pont’s personal golf course until he expanded membership to include a few friends in the mid-1960s) and Wilmington Country Club.
In partnership with the University of Delaware (my alma mater), the museum is also home to the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture and the Winterthur/University of Delaware Art Conservation program.
By opening up his property to the public, it was Mr. du Pont’s explicit hope that
“the Museum will be a continuing source of inspiration and education for all time, and that the gardens and grounds will of themselves be a country place museum where visitors may enjoy as I have, not only the flowers, trees and shrubs, but also the sunlit meadows, shady wood paths, and the peace and great calm of a country place which has been loved and taken care of for three generations.”
His dream has been realized. And, if you have the chance to visit, I am confident that you will agree.
Winterthur is, quite simply, an experience unlike any other.