dupont property

The following in an article from The News Journal @

The du Ponts' legacy, our landscapes

Seeds of Chateau Country watered by industrial wealth

As a member of one of America's most famous families, Harry Roosevelt of near Chadds Ford, Pa., never questioned why Alfred I. du Pont named his palatial estate "Nemours." He knew why.

"He was honoring their heritage," said Roosevelt, who grew up on an estate near Philadelphia named Edgelawn. "It's entirely appropriate."

Unlike other wealthy families of the 19th and early 20th centuries, who often chose names describing physical features of their homes, members of Delaware's first family named their houses after old places. Those place names were in homage to their ancestral European soil -- Nemours, Bois de Fosses, Chevannes, Louviers and Winterthur -- to name a few. Other family members adopted the names of the places they were built: Longwood, Mount Cuba and Hagley.

Consider that Alfred I. du Pont, whose Nemours estate reopens May 1 after a $38.7 million renovation, named his orchestra the Tankopanicum Musical Club, which is thought to be the forerunner of the current Delaware Symphony Orchestra. Du Pont's choice of the name shows his love of the place he called home -- Tankopanicum is an American Indian name for the Brandywine. And that family attachment to place is a key reason northern Delaware retains so much of its natural beauty and distinctive character, experts said.

"I think Chateau Country is one of the few great country landscapes in the country and that's largely due to the du Ponts," said David Ames, director of the Center for Historic Architecture and Design at the University of Delaware.

Without the family's stewardship, conservation initiatives and behind-the-scenes land planning, the area would probably be highly suburbanized and full of subdivisions, considering that New Castle County was one of the most rapidly developing counties in the country after World War II, Ames said. The Kennett Pike and Del. 100 corridors are designated the Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration. That is directly attributable to the du Ponts, Ames said.

"The byway leads to an unparalleled concentration of historic sites, magnificent estates, glorious gardens and mesmerizing museums," reads the Web site of the National Scenic Byways program.

"So much of our open space we owe to the du Ponts," said W. Barksdale Maynard, a lecturer at Princeton University and author of "Buildings of Delaware."

"We're so democratic today, and love the single-family home. But honestly, it just chews up huge tracts of land. I'm thankful to the du Ponts for their good stewardship of their holdings and their willingness to keep it intact rather than subdividing it."

Even real estate developers praise the family's stewardship.

"It wouldn't be anywhere near as nice as it is without the du Ponts," said Frank E. Acierno, a Greenville resident and successful real estate developer. "Thanks to them, there's open space and green."

Chateau Country is a prime example of how "the best preservation is through private ownership," Ames said.

Delaware was fortunate that the industrial company, which became an international chemical giant, chose to stay in Wilmington. Its huge success turned into a wealth engine for the family for most of the 20th century.

"We do have a sense of being in place," said Gerret van S. Copeland, a du Pont family member who lives on the banks of the Brandywine.

Along the Brandywine

Since E.I. du Pont started the gunpowder business along the Brandywine in 1802, many of his descendants have not strayed far, living on or near the waterway.

Soon after he arrived, the patriarch bought the land that became Winterthur, said Marjorie McNinch, reference archivist at Hagley Museum & Library. His brother, Victor, followed E.I. to Delaware and bought land on the other side of the Brandywine near what is now DuPont Country Club. It was called Louviers.

"When the du Pont family came to America, they built a residence that reflected the country house tradition that they had known in France. The tradition of the country house traces its roots to the villas of ancient Rome," said Karen Marshall, heritage preservation coordinator for Chester County Department of Parks and Recreation. "The residential country house tradition continued as the family grew."

The country house tradition entailed a large primary residence of classic proportions that was carefully situated on extensive, managed, rural landholdings, said Marshall, whose master's thesis is "The American Country House in the Brandywine Valley." The landholdings were significantly greater than the scale of the residence and maximized the natural beauty of surrounding countryside, Marshall said.

"The primary land use was agricultural," Marshall said.

The landscape of the region was shaped by the construction of country houses by successful merchants, industrialists and professionals from the 18th century to the present, she said.

Before the modern du Pont company was created in 1902 under the three cousins, Alfred I., Pierre S. and T. Coleman du Pont, the family lived comfortably but not "grand," said Nathan Hayward III, a du Pont family member and chairman of the board of Longwood Gardens, the horticultural destination created by Pierre S. du Pont near Kennett Square, Pa.

But once the company was transformed by the cousins into a chemical powerhouse, the company made the family one of the wealthiest in the country. Du Ponts began acquiring more land near the Brandywine and in other parts of Delaware and Pennsylvania, Hayward said.

"Their roots were agrarian," Hayward said. "I think it's safe to say that wherever they were, they displayed a sense of commitment to good economy and good land practices," Hayward said.

Many of their estates were full working farms with cows and extensive vegetable gardens, Copeland said.

"The family's always had property and used it," Copeland said.

Combined with their ability to buy large tracts of land near their original homestead was a love of horticulture and sense of stewardship, du Pont family members said.

"Many had a great passion for gardens," said former Gov. Pierre S. du Pont IV.

Indeed, E.I. du Pont was a horticulturist, McNinch said.

"When he first arrived, he was always receiving seeds or sending seeds. He actually sent some seeds to Josephine Bonaparte. He did bring some fruit tree seedlings from Europe," McNinch said. "He almost had to because he had to feed his family."

The affinity for gardening continued through the succeeding generations, McNinch said.

The first love of Henry Francis du Pont, who founded Winterthur Museum & Country Estate at the site of his estate, was horticulture, said Victoria Saltzman, senior communications manager for Winterthur.

"There is a distinct love of gardens that runs through the family," Saltzman said.

When Pierre du Pont learned in 1906 that an arboretum near Kennett Square was to be sold and its trees cut for lumber, he snapped it up to save it from destruction. It was the start of what is now Longwood Gardens.

"The Park is a well-known point of interest, and it is the owner's desire to keep it in a near original condition as possible," Pierre du Pont wrote, according to a family history published in 2000 for its 200th reunion.

"They had a love of beauty," Pierre du Pont IV said.

But another family quality, stemming from their early days when they were immigrants and spoke mostly French, was their restrained, conservative lifestyle.

Although Nemours is an icon of great wealth, du Ponts tended not to live in palaces, Marshall said.

"Believe it or not, we're a very quiet family," Pierre du Pont IV said.

Du Ponts say openly that the luxurious Nemours is very un-du Pont.

"It's not typical," Copeland said.

Mostly, they used the materials of the area and followed the architectural traditions of the country they moved to, Marshall said. Nemours is a modified Louis XVI French chateau built between 1909 and 1910.

The Nemours Mansion and Oberod near Centreville were among the few French chateau-style homes built by the du Pont family, experts said.

Nemours is a "stately, aristocratic residence," while those of other du Pont family members were "more genteel, pastoral retreats." she said.

Irenee du Pont Jr. of Granogue, who never visited Nemours until recently because of the famous family feud, said simply:

"It's a great place -- if you like that sort of thing," he said.

The feud involved both personal and DuPont Co. matters. Family members say today it erupted when Alfred divorced his wife, something that was considered scandalous at the time. The settlement for his ex-wife and children was not generous, according to Gerard Colby Zilg in his book "DuPont: Behind the Nylon Curtain." Alfred then shocked the family by marrying his du Pont cousin.

Coleman reportedly said to Alfred: "Al, now you've done it. The family will never stand for this," according to Zilg. The feud split the family, escalated to company operations and spilled over into the courts.

A family of preservationists

The result was that much of the rolling countryside along the Brandywine was saved from development during the boom years of the 20th century.

Combined with Woodlawn Trustees Inc., a not-for-profit founded in 1901 by William Poole Bancroft that has protected the natural beauty of the east bank of the Brandywine, the valley was largely preserved from Wilmington to the Pennsylvania state line.

Land preservation and beauty were often a quiet motivation behind many of the du Pont undertakings.

When T. Coleman du Pont built the state's first modern highway -- U.S. 13 -- he wanted a boulevard effect with flowers along the road running the length of the state.

Just over the state line in Pennsylvania, cousin Pierre du Pont established the Longwood Foundation in 1937 to ensure that his estate would be gardens open to the public forever, McNinch said.

Henry Francis du Pont of Winterthur, which is now the 1,000-acre museum, indicated in his journals he wanted to preserve the experience of an American country estate.

"Probably, at that point in his life, he recognized American society was changing and a place like Winterthur was unique and he wanted to preserve all of the richness of the place," Saltzman said.

Hayward was Delaware Secretary of Transportation when the road improvements were made to U.S. 202 and Del. 141 that significantly altered for the better the quality of life for Brandywine Hundred residents.

Several du Ponts, including George "Frolic" Weymouth and Francis du Pont, saw the increasing development of the Brandywine Valley in the 1960s and helped found the Brandywine Conservancy in Chadds Ford, Pa., to protect the waterway.

And as the older generation of du Ponts began dying, many family members took the estates and gardens and arranged to have them preserved.

Some are opened for public enjoyment.

Opening estates to public

As early as 1943, estates were opened to the public. Valley Garden Park off Del. 82 near Greenville was a gift to the city of Wilmington from Ellen du Pont Wheelwright that year. She gave the former summer estate of her parents, T. Coleman and Alice du Pont, so that "others might enjoy, in peaceful surroundings, the beauty that was inspired" by her mother.

Hagley was opened to the public in 1957, thanks to the efforts of du Pont family members, including Louise du Pont Crowninshield. She was founding trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1949.

In 1946, Crowninshield helped pay for a study of New Castle by the architectural firm of Perry, Shaw & Hepburn of Boston, the same firm John D. Rockefeller Jr. engaged for Williamsburg, Va. The study eventually led to a preservation plan.

Closer to the Brandywine, a dairy farm owned by the du Ponts became Brandywine Creek State Park in 1965.

"That was actually part of the property that E.I. du Pont bought," McNinch said. "It was actually wilderness when he bought it."

The estate of William du Pont Jr. near the Delaware River became Bellevue State Park.

To preserve the diverse and unique plant and animal life of the White Clay Creek Valley, the DuPont Co. donated land to Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Today, the public has access to White Clay Creek State Park and the White Clay Creek Preserve, the only land designated as a preserve in the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks.

Most recently, the former home of Lammot du Pont and Pamela Copeland was opened as Mount Cuba Center to promote an appreciation of native plans of the Piedmont.

Before she died in 2001, Pamela Copeland carefully planned the layout of the center for the more than 600-acre estate off Barley Mill Road near Greenville.

"I think the du Ponts' influence was enormous and preserved the viewsheds and landscape," Ames wrote in an e-mail.




Granogue, the country estate of Irenee du Pont Jr., crowns a hill in Delaware's Brandywine Valley. It remains a private residence.

Eleuthere Irenee du Pont de Nemours emigrated from France to the United States in 1799 and founded a gunpowder company.

Tulips bloom at Eleutherian Mills at Hagley Museum. The estate, overlooking the Brandywine River, is the first home the du Pont family built in America. The mansion is located up the hill from Hagley's gunpowder yard. Many of the trees on the estate were planted by E.I. du Pont, who enjoyed botany.


Eleuthere Irenee du Pont de Nemours emigrated from France to the United States in 1799 and founded a gunpowder company.

Tulips bloom at Eleutherian Mills at Hagley Museum. The estate, overlooking the Brandywine River, is the first home the du Pont family built in America. The mansion is located up the hill from Hagley's gunpowder yard. Many of the trees on the estate were planted by E.I. du Pont, who enjoyed botany.




Longwood Gardens: A world-famous horticultural destination near Kennett Square, Pa., created by Pierre S. du Pont, one of the three cousins who founded the modern DuPont Co.

Granogue: The country estate of Irenee du Pont Jr. It remains a private residence.

Eleutherian Mills: Overlooking the Brandywine, it is the first du Pont family home built in America.

Nemours: Alfred I. du Pont’s 300-acre country estate with a mansion is considered a fine example of a modified Louis XVI French chateau.

Winterthur Museum and Country Estate: The 1,000-acre former estate of Henry Francis du Pont is dedicated to the American decorative arts and the country house.

Mount Cuba: The former estate of Lammot du Pont and Pamela Copeland is now dedicated to the appreciation of native plants of the Piedmont.

Brantwyn: The childhood home of former Gov. Pierre S. du Pont IV, and formerly named Bois des Fosses. It is now owned by the DuPont Co. and is available for meetings, parties and weddings.

Gibraltar: A city estate of H. Rodney and Isabella du Pont Sharp. Its formal gardens were designed by Marian Cruger Coffin, a pioneer female landscape architect. Waiting to be redeveloped.

Bellevue: The former estate of William du Pont Jr. overlooks the Delaware River. He turned the original Gothic revival mansion into a replica of Montpelier, President James Madison’s home.


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