Sunday, May 15, 2016


If I were to admit there is a benefit to having the chicks at school in Virginia it would be that the travel between here and there has opened a whole new region of the country for me to explore. And when traveling there is nothing I enjoy more than touring historic houses so while Mother's Day weekend had me delivering a car to Williamsburg, I took advantage of an early start to seek one out in my usual half-way point near Wilmington, Delaware. On what was a stunning Spring afternoon I visited Nemours, the Beaux-Arts style estate designed by legendary New York architectural firm Carrère and Hastings for Alfred duPont in 1909.

The house remains furnished as it was when Mr. duPont's wife died and the property was transferred to a foundation and later opened to the public. The interiors showcase an eclectic collection of furniture and art, including some rare French 18th-century furniture, but the duPont's decorated with what appealed to them personally and not necessarily what was considered fashionable at the time. This is particularly evident in the bedrooms which feel very intimate for a house on this scale. Unfortunately, the light upstairs made it difficult to get good photos so I am only sharing the first floor rooms.


While the majority of the rooms on the first floor are grandly furnished, in the conservatory one can sense the personal touch of the occupants. It gives the impression of being the most enjoyed room in the house.

In a corner was this fascinating 'birdbath' which I wish I had asked about. The tour of the house is self-guided, which is my favorite way to view an historic house, but there are 'interpretive' staff members circulating. Next time I will seek one out.

Detail of the treillage in the conservatory:

The conservatory, to the right off the back of the house, faces a boxwood parterre.

From the front of the house begin the extraordinary gardens.

The gardens comprise the largest formal French garden in North America, including a vast reflecting pool and monumental fountains, and are surrounded by nearly 200 acres of woodlands, meadows, lawns, and ponds.

Built to memorialize Mr. duPont's great-grandfather and great-great grandfather, the Colonnade faces a maze garden in front and from the back is a view across one of the ponds to the 'Temple of Love' sheltering a stature of Diana.

I have really only touched on what there is to see both inside and outside the house in this post. For information on visiting Nemours see the estate website. The duPont family established a significant architectural and horticultural legacy in the region. Also worth the a visit if you are in the area are Winterthur and Longwood Gardens.