Nemours Mansion and Gardens
850 Alapocas Drive, Wilmington, DE, USA
www.nemoursmansion.org/welco… - (302) 651-6912
Nemours Mansion and Gardens Wilmington Reviews
A French Chateau in Delaware Jul 25, 2015
Nemours is a spectacular house museum in Delaware. Nemours was the home of industrialist Alfred I. du Pont. The mansion, modeled after the Petit Trianon at Versailles, was constructed in 1909-1910. It was intended as a gift for Alfred's second wife, Alicia, and is named for the French city where the du Pont family originated.
Alfred I. du Pont (1864-1935) was great-grandson of Eleuthere Irenee du Pont, the founder of the Du Pont Company in 1802. Known as a chemical company today, Du Pont started by making gunpowder and explosives in Delaware's Brandywine Valley. Alfred started in the family business as a Powderman, working in the gunpowder mill. He never forgot his fellow Powdermen and was said to feel more comfortable around the mill workers than in the company of other wealthy industrialists. And, he did become very wealthy, making several fortunes in his career. (He was ousted from the Du Pont Company in 1915, but went on to make money in Florida real estate and paper products.) Alfred left his money to found the Nemours Children's Hospital and to open the mansion to the public. The modern hospital occupies part of the estate grounds.
Nemous was his showcase. The mansion is maintained as it was when he and his third wife, Jessie, lived there. The thing I liked best about touring Nemours was the intimacy one felt with the surroundings. Tours are conducted in small groups (ours was six people), so one can walk into rooms as if you were a guest, without rope barriers in the way, and get very close to the furniture and furnishings.
A tour of the house begins in the basement, showing the workings of the coal furnaces, backup electrical generator and fuse box the size of a wall. Alfred's inventiveness contributed to the design of sloping floor for drainage and access hatches. A professional kitchen and spring water bottling plant were also here. Public rooms include the gym, a bowling alley, office, game room, library, drawing room, entry hall and dining room (The dining room includes portraits of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who Alfred's great-great grandfather Pierre knew as member of the Estates General for Nemours.) The second floor master bedroom, his and hers dressing rooms (decorated in browns and pinks, respectively), family bedrooms and guest bedrooms are also shown. Most of the antique furnishings were purchased for the house by the du Ponts. There are few family pieces, as the du Pont family was a very large one with many (competing) branches. Alfred was very aware of his French heritage and there are French touches throughout the house, even down to the fire hose boxes labeled "Pompe d'incendie".
Outside the mansion is a vast network of formal gardens in the French style. Visitors are free to walk around the gardens, though you are first taken on a bus orientation tour of them. An interesting addition to the house tour is the garage. Automobiles owned by the du Ponts are on display here, where the chauffeur also lived.
The number of visitors per day is limited, so visitors must make a reservation in advance. (When we visited, two couples who did not have reservations were turned away.) Visitors check in at the Visitor Center, where there are exhibits on the du Ponts and an orientation film. A bus takes visitors to the house and gardens.
Admission to the house and grounds is $15. Photography is not permitted inside the house.
Part of the Around the Chesapeake travel blog
Part of the list Historic Houses
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