Henry Francis du Pont (1880-1969) was known as a horticulturist, a collector of American furniture and art, and a breeder of Holstein cattle.
Named after a city in Switzerland, H.F. du Pont designed Winterthur after typical 18th century European country house, but much larger. The 175 room building is now a museum which houses a collection of 85,000 objects of Americana, 87,000 books and approximately 500,000 manuscripts.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the exterior of the house on my visit because it was being renovated. All I saw were green tarps hanging from scaffolding. However there was a painting showing what the building would look like when it was restored.
As with other famous mansion tours, you could choose among several different tour offerings. Since the house was so large, it just swallowed up the crowds. My tour was of a few of the Fifth floor rooms. This next photo shows a less formal room prepared for an afternoon tea.
The Chinese Parlor included a piano recital. The custom-made wall paper portrayed a Chinese countryside. The real flowers were replaced frequently during the week.
The wall paper, like so many other items in this house, was taken from some other building. H.F. got lots of the decorations and building features from homes and buildings across the US. He’d find out that a plantation was being demolished or a Philadelphia townhome was being redecorated, and he’d buy a ceiling, a door, or some of the other contents for his Winterthur.
One example of H.F.’s recycling of other people’s homes is a grand staircase shown here, which originally came from the Montmorenci home.
Jacqueline Kennedy asked H.F. to help redecorate the White House in 1964, for which he received an award from the American Society of Interior Designers.
Even though H.F. won awards for his decorating skills, I found the hodge-podge grouping of items in every room cluttered, confused, and without connection. I saw no reason to combine Paul Revere silverware with an Andy Warhol desk in a room filled with 1700’s Americana. I guess I just don’t have the Kennedy style or taste.
The grounds of Winterthur were much more cultured and varied. This next photo shows a reflecting pool surrounded by plantings in fall colors. Unfortunately the pool had been emptied for the winter.
About 1,000 acres of the original 2,500 acre property still remain. Paths lead through a variety of gardens and settings. Here is a restful setting overlooking a stream in the shade of tall trees.
One section of the property has been named the Enchanted Woods. A Faerie Cottage, several water features, hollow trees, a Celtic-style cluster of stones, and other settings that tempt children and entertain adults form a little enclave the issues of the larger world.
Inside the Faerie Cottage are child-sized furniture, a fireplace, elves and other ancient spirits.
I can just imagine young children having a grand time serving tea to their guests at this little outside Acorn Tea Room.