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.
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.
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 via guided tours, which run May through October (as well as some special holiday tours on a very limited basis in November and December). Tours of the mansion last about two hours and are followed by a bus tour of the gardens. Visitors are expected to arrive at the Visitor Center fifteen minutes before the tours begin.