Nemours Mansion and Gardens – Wilmington, Delaware

Just outside Wilmington, Delaware, lies the largest mansion every built in the state. Nemours Mansion and Gardens, residence of the DuPont family, contains five floors of living space. At more than 47,000 square feet, the residence is a acre in size just under its roof. Adding to the beauty and size of Nemours are its grounds, extending another 220 acres, which feature a formal French garden modeled after Versailles.

Nemours Mansion

Following a $39 million restoration completed in early 2008, the Nemours Mansion and Gardens has been restored to its original glory, a mansion in the style of a Louis XVI French chateau. Originally the design of Carrere and Hastings (architects famed for the Frick Mansion in New York, as well as the New York Public Library) and built by Smyth and Son of Wilmington, Delaware, in 1909-1910, the Nemours Mansion’s 102 rooms are filled with French furnishings from the 18th century, as well as a stunning collection of artwork.

Included among those artists on exhibit at Nemours are British artist J.M.W. Turner and American artist James Peale, as well as American sculptor Frederick Remington. Other art objects at Nemours include work by Tiffany and Limoges. Added to these treasures are many more tapestries, statues, paintings (some dating back as far as the 15th century), and oriental carpets, which are incorporated into the mansion to give it the feel of a home, not a gallery.

Nemours Grounds

With the largest French-styled gardens in the United States, Nemours is a very special place. Following from le Petit Trianon design (the gardens at Versailles beloved by Marie Antoinette), the Nemours Gardens may be even more beloved than the mansion. Dominating the garden is the statue “Achievement,” which rises over the gardens’ maze. Designed by Henri Crenier and covered in gold leaf, this sparkling statue draws the eye to the gardens’ center.

Another dazzling spot in the gardens comes from the reflecting pool, set amidst the gardens’ lush landscaping. Beyond the formal French gardens lie the Brandywine Valley woodlands, with indigenous wildlife including red-tailed hawks, white-tailed deer, and fox. The original Nemours Mansion and Gardens was run to be self-sufficient, with its own orchards, kitchen garden, greenhouses, and cattle.

Legacy of Alfred I. DuPont

Nemours Mansion and Gardens was part of the legacy of Alfred I. DuPont (creator of what is today known as the DuPont Company), who named it for the town in France where his great, great grandfather lived. In addition to the Nemours Mansion and Gardens in Delaware, DuPont left a generously endowed Nemours Foundation, which focuses on children’s health and includes the nearby Alfred I. DuPont Hospital (a working children’s hospital). Upholding his belief that, “it is the duty of everyone in the world to do what is in his power to alleviate human suffering,” the charitable Nemours Foundation today works toward the goal of improving the lives of children.

Touring Nemours Mansion and Garden

Today, the only way to visit the mansion and its grounds are …

The Mystery Behind the Winchester Mansion

The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California is one of the most beautiful mansions in the world.

It’s also one of the most bizarre. Windows in the floor. Doors that open to a two-story drop. Secret passageways. Stairways to nowhere (which could have been a famous song by Led Zep had they ever written it).

Why such an odd construction? It was built by ghosts.

The mansion was the brainchild of Sarah Winchester, the wife of William Wirt Winchester, who was the heir to the Winchester rifle fortune. After her infant daughter and husband died, Sarah Winchester sought the guidance of a spiritualist.

The Boston Medium explained to her that her family was cursed by the ghosts of all those who died by the “The Gun That Won West.” The only way to appease the spirits and save her life was to move west and use her blood money to build the spirits a house.

Legend has it that Mrs. Winchester literally let the spirits design the house. She would conduct nightly sances where good spirits would give her instructions that she passed to her foreman every morning.

That turned the mansion into a sprawling 7-story maze of 160 rooms, 47 stairways, and 13 bathrooms. In fact, the number 13 appears quite a bit in the house: rooms with 13 windows, walls with 13 panels, chandeliers with 13 candles, even walls with 13 coat hooks.

The unusual design of the mansion was also spawned by Mrs. Winchester’s attempts to disorient evil spirits that were stalking her. She allegedly never slept in the same room two nights in a row and would often sneak through secret passages to deter ghosts… because ghosts can’t pass through walls or anything.

Mrs. Winchester also believed that if construction never stopped, she would live forever. So her crew worked around-the-clock, even on weekends and holidays, for 38 straight years, until Mrs. Winchester died of heart failure in 1922. Today, her eccentric $5.5 million construction (that’s around $20 million in today’s money) still remains in an unfinished state… which I’m sure didn’t look good on the architect’s resume.

The tour of the house was an informative and entertaining look inside the mind of a woman gone mad. And you have to stay with the group because if you get lost, they literally have to send a search and rescue team to find you (if the bad ghosts haven’t gotten you yet). I always had the feeling that one wrong turn would lead us into a portal to nowhere; after all, the mansion is basically a mirror maze away from becoming a carnival funhouse.

Unlike the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, however, when you leave you don’t hear a man say, ” a ghost will follow you home!” Bummer – that would have been a cheap souvenir.…