Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours and his family arrived in Delaware in 1800, fleeing the wrath of revolutionary France, and set up a gunpowder mill that became the main supplier of conventional explosives to the US government. The family built several huge mansions in the Brandywine Valley north of Wilmington.
A short distance up I-95 from the Rockwood Mansion, the first of the Du Pont mansions is accessible in Bellevue State Park. William du Pont Jr converted a Gothic Revival mansion into his own version of James Madison’s Neoclassical home and called it Bellevue Hall. You can’t get inside, but can visit the grounds and see the charming ponds, woodlands, gardens and tennis courts.
The Hagley Museum, off Hwy-141 just north of Wilmington, showcases the Du Pont family’s 1802 founding of a small water-powered gunpowder mill, which grew over the next century to include larger steam- and electricity-powered factories – most of which are still in working order. Be sure to tour the luxurious Du Pont mansion, Eleutherian Mills, the centrepiece of the 235-acre estate.
The enormous, dusty-pink Nemours Mansion was built by Alfred du Pont in 1910 and named for the family’s ancestral home in France, and is surrounded by a 300-acre, French-style garden. Inside the mansion, you’ll find plenty of lavish rooms (including ones devoted to fitness, bowling and ice-making) and a collection of early twentieth-century automobiles.
Off Hwy-52, the one-time Du Pont family estate of Winterthur now displays American decorative arts from 1640 to 1860, each of its 175 rooms showcasing styles ranging from a simple Shaker cottage to a beautiful three-storey elliptical staircase taken from a North Carolina plantation. Separately, the estate galleries present a selection of furniture, textiles, ceramics, paintings and glass in a museum setting.