Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rosie And XKT Visit Winterthur Gardens. Part 9.

Longwood Gardens - Part 1 Longwood Gardens - Part 2 Longwood Gardens - Part 3 Longwood Gardens - Part 4 Longwood Gardens - Part 5 Longwood Gardens - Part 6 Longwood Gardens - Part 7 Longwood Gardens - Part 8 Minutes away from Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA, is Winterthur Mansion and Gardens, 6 miles northwest of Wilmington, DE. Yet another du Pont legacy.
Winterthur (pronounced winter-tour) Mansion and Gardens is nestled in the heart of Delaware's Brandywine Valley. It is a 1000-acre English-style country estate with gardens, streams, rolling hills, fresh water ponds, stone bridges, meadows, and forests designed by Henry Francis du Pont (1880-1969) and landscape architect and lifelong friend Marian Coffin. The mansion/museum houses one of the richest collections of 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century American antiques, including Chippendale, Empire, and Federal, and Colonial Exhibits, and interactive displays explore the history and development of the American decorative arts. The Campbell Collection of Soup Tureens is also displayed. While developing the family home as a country estate and collecting the finest of American decorative arts, Henry du Pont envisioned a long-term role for Winterthur - one that would eventually include opening the mansion and grounds to the public, offering a glimpse of life in the past. Today, Winterthur offers a world-class museum of decorative arts that celebrates the best in style and craftsmanship. Its romantic landscape imparts the calmness and peace of a country place. The naturalistic gardens combine the art of horticulture and the best of landscape design. In addition, there is a superlative research library that supports Winterthur's graduate programs in early American culture and art conservation. The story of Winterthur begins with Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, the patriarch of the American du Pont family and a French publisher, statesman, intellectual, and economist. Born the son of a Parisian watchmaker in 1739, de Nemours developed an interest in agriculture and aligned himself with the "Physiocrats," a group of French philosophers who believed in the importance of an agricultural economy. de Nemours was imprisoned during the French revolution and sentenced to the guillotine for his support of a constitutional monarchy. He escaped and left France with his family in 1799, seeking refuge in America. de Nemours and his family landed in Newport, Rhode Island, on New Year's Day, 1800. Pierre de Nemours' son, Eleuthere Irenee, obtained capital from European investors and purchased a 95-acre parcel of land, Hagley, on Brandywine Creek near Wilmington, Delaware. In 1802, he established E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. to manufacture gunpowder, drawing on his skills he had learned during an apprenticeship with French chemist Lavoisier. Once the powder plant was in operation, the du Ponts turned their attention to their first love- land and agriculture. Eleuthere Irenee started acquiring land in the Brandywine Valley. This nucleus of the Winterthur Estate was bought in 1839 by Eleuthere Irenee's son-in-law, Jacques Antoine Bidermann. Bidermann and wife, Evelina Gabrielle du Pont, built a 3-story, 12-room, Greek-revival manor house and moved there in 1839 and immediately began developing the land into a working farm. They named their estate "Winterthur," after Winterthur, Switzerland, the ancestral home of the Bidermanns. Upon the deaths of Antoine and Evelina in 1863 and 1865,the property went to the Bidermann's son and sole heir, James Irenee, who was living in France. James Irenee agreed to sell the property to Evelina's brother, Henry du Pont. Henry du Pont purchased Winterthur not for himself, but for his children. His eldest son, Henry Algernon du Pont, who graduated first in his class at West Point, resigned from the military and took up residence in 1875 and turned his attention to the development of the Winterthur estate, continuing the work begun by his aunt and uncle. Henry added more land to the estate, redesigned the farm buildings so they'd have a more uniform look, added many miles of roads, and started renovations on an unrestrained scale. Renovations included an addition that housed many of the accoutrements essential to country estate life- a billiard room, a library, a squash court, a new drawing room, and a marble stairway in the then-fashionable Beaux-Arts style. Henry Francis du Pont, only son of Henry Algernon, was born at Winterthur in 1880. He shared his parent's love of the land, learning under their tutelage, the proper botanical names for the many varieties of plants growing on the Winterthur grounds. He enrolled at Harvard's Bussey Institution, following a course of study in agriculture and horticulture. In 1903 Henry Francis was made manager of the household by his father. Under the direction of father and son, the estate grew to include its own coach house, train station, and more than 20 greenhouses including potting sheds and cold frames. Henry Algernon was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1906. He appointed his son, Henry Francis, head of the garden at Winterthur in 1909 and manager of Winterthur Farms in 1914. Henry Francis now oversaw the entire property and started reorganizing the estate's structure. His goals for Winterthur were influenced by two philosophical models: 1) The agricultural tradition inherited from his du Pont ancestors -the Physiocrats, who saw the development of superior strains of plants and animals as the most desirable of all callings in life. 2) The model of the English country estates which were much more than large expanses of land and palace-like homes. They were complete communities with many, if not most, essential foodstuffs cultivated on the grounds, including beef, sheep, hogs, horses, dairy cattle, poultry, fruits and vegetables. In 1916, Henry Francis married Ruth Wales. In 1923, they visited Shelburne Farms in Vermont, to study the cattle-breeding operation of W. Seward Webb. The most memorable part of the trip occurred in the home of the Webb's daughter-in-law, Electra Havemeyer Webb, who collected American decorative arts. This was the moment when H. F. du Pont fell in love with American antiques. Inspired, du Pont returned to Delaware to build his own collection of American decorative arts as well as a house to hold that collection. He planned an addition that essentially tripled the size of his home and within this shell, installed paneling, furniture, and architectural elements he had purchased from 17th-, 18th-, and early 19th-century homes along the East Coast that were in danger of demolition. du Pont then decorated each of the "period rooms" with appropriate furnishings. From the moment Henry Francis graduated from Harvard and returned to Winterthur in 1903, he was on a mission to improve, refine, and experiment, always with an eye toward making things better. He thought of Winterthur's future from the moment he inherited the estate. In 1930, he established the Winterthur Corporation with the intent of maintaining Winterthur in perpetuity as "a museum and arboretum of the education and enjoyment of the public." The last major phase of interior work occurred in the late 1940's, when du Pont was preparing to open his home as a museum. He then supervised the removal of all private family spaces- including bathrooms, dressing rooms, kitchens, and pantries- and replaced them with display areas for his collections. In October 1951 Winterthur Museum and Gardens opened to the public. Henry Francis du Pont eloquently described his vision of Winterthur's future: I sincerely 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.
Upon arriving at Winterthur, XKT and I took a tram trip through the environs. There were several places we stopped at but we couldn't get off the tram to shoot pictures. Wish we could have stopped- especially at the Enchanted Woods, a fairy tale garden.
We catch a glimpse of the mansion. The rooms and exhibition galleries showcase a collection of nearly 85,000 decorative arts objects.
This is all set within a magnificent 1000-acre estate and garden.
This is the largest and oldest American Sycamore tree, believed to be over 250 years old.
One of the most remarkable plant specimens in the Winterthur gardens is a huge dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides). This tree, which had previously been known only in fossils, was discovered in 1943 still surviving in a remote area of central China. In 1948, the Arnold Arboretum received some of the first samples of seed to reach the outside world; in 1951, du Pont in turn received one of the seedlings raised from these. Today the Winterthur metasequoia stands over one hundred feet tall with a trunk that measures almost five feet through at chest height.
We arrive at the 175-room, 45,000 square foot Mansion.
These two pictures were taken from the 4th or 5th floor. There are 9 floors, 3 of which are underground.
We are exiting the Mansion and heading back to the parking lot. Here's the peony garden. Lovely.
I sincerely 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... Henry Francis du Pont
Next, Winterthur Mansion.

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