Winterthur Museum and Gardens

DuPont Mansions in Delaware

Take a drive northwest of Wilmington, and you’ll notice how the scenery seems to quietly become ever more inviting, and that much more enchanting. 

Wooded groves and rolling hills dominate the landscape. Stately homes stand at the end of long, curving driveways, each nestled in an embrace of trees. Things seem just a bit more genteel, sedate and refined, like a vision of the English countryside tucked away in our memories.

This is “Chateau Country,” Delaware’s most exclusive region and for generations the home of the DuPont family and its grand mansions. Today, many of those spectacular homes and their stunning gardens are open to visitors, giving travelers a peek into a long-lost world of splendor and beauty.

For travelers, three mansions in particular stand as must-see museums, each with its own personality and charm: Nemours (known for its formal elegance); Winterthur (for its expansive gardens and antique collection); and Hagley (for the story it tells of the DuPont legacy):

Nemours Mansion and Gardens stands like a little slice of Old World European royalty, complete with rare French 18th century furniture and formal French gardens that offer a dramatic view past gilded statues and sparkling fountains toward the main house.  Built by Alfred du Pont for his wife shortly after they married in 1907, 102-room Nemours is inspired by Versailles’ Petit Trianon, the Neoclassical mansion in which Marie Antoinette found refuge from the court of Louis XVI.

Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library is perhaps the grandest in scope and inspiration, thanks to its 60 acres of naturalistic gardens and its 175 room displays featuring 85,000 objects, all focusing on specific periods of the decorative arts. The magic extends to the grounds, where visitors ride open tram cars through the meticulously designed gardens, and children romp through the magical Enchanted Woods. The lush hills erupt with blossoms each spring, inviting visitors to wander the flower-filled trails. 

Hagley Museum and Library is where the du Pont story began by the banks of the Brandywine River. Today, the restored riverside gunpowder mills and workers’ quarters present a picture of early American industry. The original DuPont family home and gardens still stand perched on the banks of the river.