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Wilmington, Delaware’s “Chateau Country”


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    Published 9-23-2019

    Pierre du pont sign telling of Du Pont's coming to america

    In 1800 Pierre-Samuel du Pont de Nemours and two sons left France to settle in the United States. This voyage would alter the course of American history. Pierre had been elevated to nobility because of his position with Louis XVI as an economist, secretary to the Assembly of Notables and his assistance in crafting the 1783 Treaty of Versailles that ended the American Revolution. The journey was motivated by the fact that he had been imprisoned during the French Revolution in 1792 and only escaped the guillotine because of the death of Robespierre. After reimprisonment along with his son Eleuthere, in 1797 he made plans to leave the country.  

    sign telling of gunpoweruse in american frontier

    Family legend has it that Eleuthere Irenée du Pont, while hunting in 1800, noted the poor quality of American gunpowder. In France he had trained under Antoine Lavoisier at the Royal Powder Works and he selected a location on the Brandywine River, accessible to transportation and sufficient water power, to establish a gunpowder operation. He purchased the land in 1801 for $6,700. The company prospered and in the 1860s supplied 50% of the gunpowder used in the Civil War.  

    The American ancestral home of the du Ponts has come to be known as Chateau Country because of its general landscape with rolling hills and streams and its elegant estate museums. Nestled in the Brandywine Valley of Northern Delaware, mere miles from Philadelphia, Pierre hoped to create a community for French exiles and Eleuthere hoped to found a viable company. Today visitors can trace the family trail and have a unique vacation filled with fine dining, magnificent views and historic house and garden tours all with an international flair.  
    map of Hagsley
    inside hagsley museum

    exterior hagsley mansion

    Chronologically Hagley Museum and Library should be your starting point. Situated on the Brandywine’s shores, the restored gunpowder mill complex consists of the first du Pont family home, built on 65-acres in 1802. The museum interprets the history of du Pont’s Eleutherian Mills, the family and early industrial technology.  A narrated bus tour, a must, guides you along the Powder Yard Trail with stops at the worker’s quarters and several demonstration sites. Highlights of a visit to the current 235-acre site include the first office, the largest Osage Orange tree in America, an orientation video, “Industry on the Brandywine” and a number of interactive exhibits. hagley.org 

    Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, the estate of Henry Francis du Pont, is situated amidst 60-acres of gardens and features a superior display of American decorative arts from 1640-1860 showcased within a 175 room mansion. Complete room settings from each of the 13 colonies make up the 150 colonial rooms he relocated to Winterthur and the more than 90,000 furnishings include Martha Washington’s mirror, 22 panels of 1700s Chinese wallpaper and a selection of the Washington’s porcelain china. The home had the first heated pool in the country. Grounds’ tours are via open trams and provide views of seasonal plantings, 8-acres of azaleas, the Enchanted Woods, a Forbidden Fairy Ring with misting mushrooms and a temporary exhibit of follies placed throughout the grounds. Take the Introductory Tour and be prepared to be awed.  

    sign about netflix drama The crown crown and glov usedin the netflix drama The Crown
    wedding dress dress and shoes

    Until January 5, 2020 “Costuming the Crown” will be on view. A series of galleries thematically display costumes from the PBS series, “The Crown”, as well as extensive production information, videos and memorabilia.  www.winterthur.org


    stairway in mansion archinhallof mansion

    Alfred du Pont built the Neoclassical, 102-room, Nemours for his wife in 1909-10. The 47,000-sq. ft. chateau is reminiscent of Versailles’ Petit Trianon complete with sunken gardens and magnificent views. The mansion is flanked by the Catherine Gates. The Russian Gates, were once owned by Catherine the Great and the English Gates are from a castle belonging to Henry VIII’s wife Catherine Parr. Highlights of the interior are the notable pieces, Lafayette’s chandelier and Marie Antoinette’s clock. Self-guided and tram tours of the grounds and gardens are offered. nemoursmansion.org 


    The 1,077-acre Longwood Gardens is one of the most renowned botanical gardens in the country. The complex features 11,000 plants and trees, a 4-acre conservatory with 20 interior gardens and a half-mile greenhouse. An exterior waterfall and fountains can be enjoyed from benches that line the paths. A schedule of events is available online. Note: Longwood is in Kennett Square, PA. www.longwoodgardens.org 

    There are no more perfect accommodations for visiting the area or a romantic getaway than The Inn at Montchanin Village. The inn, the entire village of Montchanin, is made up of eleven meticulously restored historic homes with 28 rooms and suites dating from 1799 to 1910. The village was once part of a du Pont estate situated on a former Indian trail at the juncture of three roads. Amenities include designer linens, canopy beds and upscale bath products. Defining architectural elements, interior stone walls, fireplaces, front porches and private gardens add to the luxury experience. The Inn is a designated Historic Hotel of America. 

    Krazy Kat’s, an on-site French restaurant, is located inside a former blacksmith shop and is open to guests and visitors alike. The menu is a creative seasonal blend of American, French and Asian cuisine served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The imaginative décor, the service and the meals are outstanding. www.montchanin.com 

    Wilmington is particularly ideal for a Philadelphia getaway. It is 30-minutes and a world and lifestyle away.  www.visitwilmingtonde.com 




    Renee Gordon has written a weekly travel column for the Philadelphia Sun Newspaper for the past fifteen years and has published articles on local, national and international travel in numerous publications. Her columns focus on cultural, historic and heritage tourism and her areas of specialization are sites and attractions related to African American and African Diaspora history. Renee has been a guest radio commentator on various aspects of tourism and appeared in a documentary, "The Red Summer of 1919". As an educator for thirty years she was an English teacher, event and meeting planner, served as an educational consultant and intern-teacher mentor. She contributed to textbooks on women's history and classroom management and has facilitated workshops on both subjects. Renee considers herself a "missionary journalist" and as such she continues to promote heritage and sustainable tourism.

    2013 Recipient of African Diaspora World Tourism Flame Keeper in Media Award for Travel Writing

    IABTW- International Association of Black Travel Writers
    PBJ - Progressive Black Journalists


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