Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Another du Pont Estate

Lucky me;

I got to check off yet another item

from my Bucket List.


Checks again.

I knew I hadn't covered everything in that preliminary list.

After all,

both Longwood Gardens and

Winterthur were clearly on that Bucket List.


Gotta love 'em.

We arrive at the Visitors Center

at Winterthur.

Our Terminally Perky Tour Guide drives us

quickly through the gardens

and to the house.


this Master Gardener would have objected,

but it was Tuesday (day four of our trip)

and it was in the upper 90's.

A quick drive through the hilly gardens

sounds just fine at this point.

Azalea Woods.

Unlike his cousin, Pierre,

Henry Francis du Pont preferred

a naturalistic landscape, and strove to make

sure that it looked as if nature herself

had planted his garden.

Our first glimpse of the house.

A lovely Japanese maple.

Lovely architecture.

The Pinetum.

No one would ever know that man had had a hand in this.

The entrance to the Sundial Garden.

Mr. Henry du Pont strove for natural beauty.

A lovely vista.

A peek through the trees.

One of the original bath houses.

Once a rather *cough* modest twelve room

Greek Revival Manor in 1837,

the house was then expanded and remodeled

in the Beaux-Arts style when

Henry du Pont's parents took over the estate.

Then, when Henry married Ruth Wales,

young Henry Frances du Pont expanded

the manor to 175 rooms.

Cattle barns.

Mr. H. F. du Pont worked diligently to

improve Holstein-Friesian breeding programs.

He did such a good job that Mr. du Pont's cows broke records

and his farms received accolades for several years.

The house and museum.

Our tour starts in the basement.

The house is nine stories tall,

but as it is built into the side of a hill,

it doesn't seem all that large.

This was the piece that started it all.

Mr. Henry du Pont saw this piece of furniture in an old

house and fell in love with this piece of Americana.

He knew then and there that it was his duty to

collect American antiques.

The view from the balcony outside the formal

dining room.

The family dressed up and ate in this dining room

every day.

The painting of George Washington

over the fireplace is an original

by Gilbert Stuart.

No reproductions in this house.

The painting over the sideboard is

famous mostly for the fact that it is unfinished.

This painting was started by the noted

painter Benjamin West and was called

American Commissioners.

The final person in the portrait refused to pose

and Mr. West was a perfectionist,

so it was a doomed enterprise.

The needlework rug.

It is reported the H. F. du Pont picked out

each day's china to go with the day's

fresh flower bouquets,

which he had personally arranged.

The "butler's pantry."

Please note that some of these pictures

are not as clear as I might like them to be

as our tour guide

had us on a schedule!

Do not disrupt the schedule!

As they didn't seem to be all that busy
that day

outside of our group,

I don't know what the hurry was.

But we were warned to not dally

in our photography as that would

put us behind schedule.

A rare painting showing the Washington

family, including George Washington's

personal slave.

H. F. du Pont often purchased

architectural items from

different houses around the country.

It is believed that Martha Washington

looked at herself in this mirror.

The china display room.

In the 1940's

Henry Frances du Pont

began preparing his home to open as a museum.

At that time all private spaces -

bathrooms, dressing rooms, kitchens and pantries -

were removed.

In their place, museum show rooms were

set up.

Thus, very little of how the du Pont

actually lived survives to this day -

by design.

China pattern in the Society of the Cincinnati.

This set once belonged to George Washington.

As George had no children of his own,

Martha's children inherited his estate.

Thus, Robert E. Lee eventually inherited

some of George Washington's estate,

including this china set.

After the outbreak of the Civil War,

General Lee's estate of Arlington
outside of Washington, D.C.

was confiscated. This china set was also

"relieved" from his estate.

It finally found its way here.

The Chinese Parlor.

In 1935 Mr du Pont replaced the Beaux-Arts

staircase with this one from

an 1822 North Carolina plantation home

named "Montmorenci."

The stairs are eliptical instead of circular.

Looking out the original front door of the home.

This was later a sunroom.

The "Family Room."

A portrait of Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours.

Pierre Samuel was Henry Frances du Pont's

great-great grandfather.

Some rooms in the du Pont home were

always meant to be "just for show."

This was one of them.

Remember, these are all - and only -

American antiques.

Can you tell that I like the chandeliers?

I don't remember what this room was called,

but I call it "The Drinking Room."

Works for me.

An antique and fancy cooler.

Like the lock so that the kiddies don't get into the


The china in this cabinet was exquisite.

The glaze had a lovely metallic sheen to it.

A rare complete silver tea set.

This might have been made by

Paul Revere, but I do not recall exactly.

Palladian windows.

The tiny lights in the ceiling are controlled

by the guides' remotes.

Our guide was diligent in turning the lights

off when we left the rooms -

even when the next group was

breathing down our necks.

In the 1970's a museum curator noted

that the only original colony not represented

by a room in the museum was Georgia.

So he set about setting up a representation of a

period Georgian dining room.

And thus ends our grand tour of the 175 room


I had some time to explore before I had

to board the bus again

and had no desire to view the

Instead, I decided to head over to the "cottage."

The cottage, a 50 room affair, was built

when the du Ponts began turning their

home into a museum.

That was some downsizing.

The cottage now houses the museum store.

I was hoping that I would have more luck

here finding a good book on the gardens

and perhaps the manor.

Remember, I was sadly disappointed

by the tiny book that Longwood Gardens

had to offer on their lovely estate.

Fortunately, I was able to find not one,

but two lovely and thick books

on the Winterthur gardens and estate.


Back outside to wait for the shuttle.

Lovely raised planter in the entrance courtyard.

All in all, this was a nice experience,

but I think I would have liked it better

if I could have had more time to explore the gardens.

The rushed tour through the museum-house

was all right, but was a bit lacking.

Perhaps with more time, I could have

taken the time to go through the museum

annexes and felt more "fulfilled."

I just don't know.

Somehow, I think I would have

liked it much better if Mr. du Pont had

simply left his house as it was

before opening it to the public.

As it was,

I almost felt cheated.

As if it were all just smoke and mirrors.

1 comment:

Mr. P said...

Thank you for the tour of Winter Thur. It was almost like I was there.

However, I can think of better places to be "fulfilled".