Late Spring in Delaware and Pennsylvania

After spending two days in Charlotte for Aidan's high school graduation--see photos here--and then two days in Centreville VA with Tom and Sarah--see photos here--we made our way to Duling-Kurtz
Duling-Kurtz House & Country Inn
House & Country Inn
in Exton PA. This 1830 building gave some an idea of what travel and inn stay might have been like:  small room on the third floor with no elevator!  However it served its purpose of giving us a reasonably price base from which to explore this region, mostly in Delaware.

After checking and lugging our baggage up two floors, we went to a local AAA office to get some tourist information, brochures, and advice/suggestions. The staff probably knew more about travel to Italy than they did to their local area.  They hadn't heard of some of the gardens and had hard time coming up with suggestions.  The one place they insisted we go--Kennett Square PA--was a bit underwhelming when we visited for lunch and some shopping.

Our first view of the Winterthur mansion


We began our visit the next morning at Winterthur, a museum and extensive gardens built and developed by Henry Francis DuPont, the great great grandson of Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours who with his sons Victor Marie and E.I. immigrated to the United States from France in 1800.  They were the foundation of one of America's premier families.  The members distinguished themselves  in military service, business, science and education.

Winterthur is a 1,000 acre estate with a 175 room mansion and extensive gardens.  Henry Francis apparently never worked in any of the family enterprises but devoted himself to the estate.  He was a preeminent breeder of cattle, an horticulturalist, and a collector of Early American decorative arts.

Revere Silver tankards beneath an unfinished
Benjamin West painting of the signing of the Treaty of Paris
"Almost 60 years ago, collector and horticulturist Henry Francis du Pont (1880–1969) opened his childhood home, Winterthur, to the public. Today, Winterthur (pronounced “winter-tour”) is the premier museum of American decorative arts, with an unparalleled collection of nearly 90,000 objects made or used in America between about 1640 and 1860. The collection is displayed in the magnificent 175-room house, much as it was when the du Pont family lived here, as well as in permanent and changing exhibition galleries."  (Winterthur website)

Outside there is a 60 acre garden that was carefully designed by Henry Francis in both color and texture.  Always making use of
Oval staircases installed by Henry Francis to replace
a grand staircase constructed by his father.  It was installed
shortly after the death of his father.
Winterthur's natural setting, he carefully designed a succession of blooms and colors.  Although we were there in late spring when green is the dominant color, we could easily imagine how the landscape would come alive in the spring.  the gardens include a children's' Enchanted Garden and a
Two different follies
collection of Garden Follies.  "Follies are architectural constructions, often extravagant or picturesque, positioned within the landscape to amuse, frame a view, or pique your curiosity. You may have seen follies at other estates or in television shows or movies, such as Downton Abbey or Brideshead Revisited. Henry Francis du Pont, who developed Winterthur’s expansive gardens from 1902 to 1969, was familiar with follies throughout America and Europe and incorporated several into his own garden plans."  (Winterthur website)

Click here to see more photos of Winterthur.

Mt. Cuba Center

In the woodlands section of Mt. Cuba Center
In the area of Pennsylvania and Delaware in and around Wilmington, there are more than 30 public gardens.  Most of them appear to have been established by members of the DuPont family.  Mt. Cuba Center was founded by Lammot Dupont Copeland and his wife Pamela.  It began as a family home in the Appalachian Piedmont near the village of Mr. Cuba.  The Copelands began to purchase additional land that would become the naturalistic gardens.around and near the house.  Eventually it would become a public garden along with a 1000 acre conservation area.

Initially the gardens were what one would expect around a home with three children.  There were rather large lawn areas for gathering and playing, formal gardens, and a swimming pool.  As the Copelands began to think of their home and gardens becoming public, they began to focus on native plants and naturalistic settings.  This was especially true of Pamela who was active in the management of the garden until her death in 2001.   "I want this to be place where people will learn
to appreciate our native plants and to see how these plants can enrich their lives so that they, in turn, will become conservators of our natural habitats."  Duncan Himmelman, education manager, is a friend of Marilyn's brother, Rob.  The center has a policy that every employee has to give a tour to at least three people  who have never visited the center.  We qualified so we were able to spend a couple of hours with Doug walking the grounds learning about the collections and the programs of the center.  It was a very enjoyable morning getting to learn about Mt. Cuba and getting to know Duncan better than we had.

Valley Forge

Artillery Park at Valley Forge.
We began our last full day in the area by visiting the Valley Forge National Historical Park.  This 3500 acre park is where the Continental Army commanded by George Washington went into winter quarters during 1777-1778.  As luck would have it, the park was celebrating the 241st anniversary of the army's leaving Valley Forge to engage the British army at Monmouth NJ.  We were able to join a group of about 60 visitors who were walking down the very trace road used by Washington.  A trace road is one created by people and animals just using it rather than a road that has been engineered and constructed.

Along the way we stopped for presentations by volunteers and park rangers about the history of the park, the role of women and families that accompanied by army,  the training the army received under the leadership of Baron von Steuben, the arms used by the soldiers, and descriptions of life in the army from letters and journals.

Our "march" ended a musket salute commemorating the anniversary.

Click here to view more photos of Valley Forge.

Longwood Gardens

Italian Water Garden
While there are more than 30 public gardens in the Wilmington area, Longwood Gardens is clearly in a class by itself.  It is, in fact, a world class garden.  It is situated on 1000 most of which is in conservation.  There are 20 separate gardens along with a four acre conservatory and greenhouses.  the three acre open air theater provides the site for the main and quite spectacular fountain display.  It is impractical to try to describe this magnificent place and experience.  The Longwood web site is quite extensive but I actually found the Wikipedia entry to be a more efficient way to get an overview.

We spent about five hours exploring Longwood including a tasty dinner.  I was impressed with the number of people including families who were
Main fountains during the day
clearly spending the day at Longwood.  Many of them stayed for the 9:15 fountain show in the main fountain square.  Three years ago the fountains were rehabilitated at a cost of more than $90 million.  This renovation not only replaced the water infrastructure but added dramatic LED lighting.  The video below gives some idea of what we saw.  The final two minutes show some the half hour fountain show.

Click here to see more photos of Longwood Gardens.

The next day returned home by way of Church of the Nativity in Timonium MD, a slight detour by well worth it to experience Contemporary Christian Music and well designed worship experience.  We spent time before and after Mass visiting with members about this unique blend of traditional Roman Catholic theology and tradition with a presentation tuned to the contemporary world.


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