Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, DE, USA
www.winterthur.org - (302) 888-4826
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library Wilmington Reviews
A Treasure Trove of American Decorative Art Aug 02, 2014
The Winterthur Museum contains the collection of American decorative art and furniture begun by Henry Francis du Pont (1880-1969). (H.F. du Pont was a member of the Du Pont chemical company family.) Winterthur as a house had started in 1837 as a 12-room Greek Revival mansion named after an ancestral town in Switzerland. Henry Francis inherited the house and its estate land in 1926. At about the same time, he became interested in collecting American decorative arts, chinaware, and furniture from the Colonial period to the 19th century. His passion for collecting American antiques was not matched by others in that era, and he amassed an extensive collection. So much so, that he need to expanded his house several times to accommodate all of the materials he possessed. The house itself was expanded with parts of other period houses that were slated for demolition. The du Ponts moved out of the now 175 room house in 1951 to open it it the public as a museum of decorative art, (The most recent expansion was the addition of a museum wing in 1993.)
Visiting Winterthur today, one can enjoy the museum collections as well and the grounds and gardens. Admission is by timed ticket. Visitors can walk from the visitor center to the house through garden paths or take a bus. Arriving at the house, you can explore the museum wing while waiting for your timed house entrance. The museum wing is open for general strolling while house visits are by tour only. (The museum wing is set up like a museum, while displays in the house are arranged like a furnished house. The items are much closer in the house and so small groups go though on a schedule and are led by a guide). Photography is permitted throughout and even encouraged!
A tour begins with a view of du Pont's first piece, a pine cupboard dating from the late 18th century. It's surprising how close you can get to the objects. As we passed through the DIning Room, the guide pointed out a set of six silver tankards made by Paul Revere, considered Winterthur's most prized item. Sitting on a sideboard, I could easily have reached out and touched them!
There is so much to see, I can't begin to describe it all. But, I have lots of photos!
There are always special exhibits going on. When we visited the Costumes of Downton Abbey exhibit was an extra treat. The exhibit was a display of the period costumes from the first season the TV show. The exhibit also tied life at Winterthur in with Downton Abbey, as Winterthur was an American estate and working dairy farm.
General admission to the museum and gardens is $20. Highly recommended!
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