Friday, October 2, 2015

du Pont Country / Brandywine River Area ...SE Pennsylvania/ Wilmington DE

We made an early escape from NYC. A key street was going to be closed for a street fair later in the morning. This got us to Chadds Ford earlier than expected and we took the opportunity to visit the Brandywine Art Museum. The museum showcases the art of Andrew Wyeth a major realist painter, and his family: father, N.C., and son, Jamie. FYI: The Wyeth Family worked in Chadd’s Ford and on the coast of Maine. We visited this museum in it's infancy back in the 70's and were lucky enough to see Andrew's "Christina's World". We were looking forward to seeing it again but learned that it had been a special exhibition. Sigh. At least we were lucky to see it once. In fact it is at the MOMA in NYC but we didn't see it while we were there.

Admission included a tour of the galleries. During the tour we learned how N.C. got his start in art by studying illustration under Howard Pyle along the banks of the Brandywine River and that his first major work was for publishing house Charles Scribner's Sons... a series of illustrations for Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. Many of these are in the museum and each eloquently conveys the basic story of a specific chapter of the book. He did further books but went on to earn fame as a muralist and realist. 

The museum is housed in a dramatic steel and glass structure that is surrounded by some lovely older stone buildings. No photos were allowed in the museum. We also got to visit the N.C. Wyeth House and Studio.

We had lunch at a local restaurant called Hank’s Place, Mushroom Strudel for Pat and Calves Liver, Onions and Bacon for Bill. Later Pat learned that nearby Kennett Square Chadd’s Ford is the Mushroom Capital of the World….producing over a million pounds of mushrooms a week.

Monday we visited the Hagley Museum and Library. The “Museum” includes a guided tour of the former DuPont black powder works (founded by Éleuthère Irénée du Pont in 1802) and the original family mansion and garden. The adjacent barn showcases old cars, carriages and a conestoga wagon. There was also a tour of one of the black powder production buildings with a demonstration (boom) and the impressive machine shop. All very interesting.

Black Powder Delivery Wagon (above) /  Demonstration (below)

We had a late lunch art the BBC Brewery and Grill (crab and artichoke dip, a lettuce wedge and a burger with bacon, cheese and mushrooms and beer.

After lunch we went to Kennett Square to checkout the shops. There were a few interesting ones but it is a small town.

Tuesday was a busy day.  First we went to Nemours, home of Alfred I. du Pont, for a Mansion tour which includes free-time to explore the gardens. Nemours has a “family home” feel even with all the rooms, extensive grounds, and gold leaf.

The Nemours Visitor Center had a fantastic time line spanning the 200+ of duPonts in America
View of the mansion from the Versailles-like gardens
They liked the 1924 Caddy so much they had it adapted by Cadillac to a 1934 chassis
Later we went to Winterthur, home of Henry du Pont, for lunch followed by a tour of the grounds and house / museum. Even while living at Winterthur, Henry envisioned it as a Museum of American Art and it feels more like a museum than a home, although there are spaces that were used for living more than display.  There were special exhibits on Tiffany Colored Glass and and Pennsylvania “German” Art. exhibits. 

A room for show
A room to live in

The special Tiffany exhibit included pointers on spotting Tiffany forgeries

Our last day in the area was spent at Longwood Gardens, exploring the grounds and conservatory. We went to lunch in nearby Kennett Square, the world mushroom capital. The Half Moon restaurant featured wild game, we had an Elk, Boar and Kangaroo sampler with Caesar salad, waffle fries and, ta da, mushrooms.

A group of fountains in the Italian Garden
Ornamental Chillies
Amazonian Waterlilies
There is also an impressive pipe organ...the pipes are viewable through huge glass windows behind the organ
The evening light show at Longwood, Nightscape, features illumination of several areas of plants around the gardens. It produces some interesting effects for viewing and photographing.
This is the second night bloom of a huge waterlily that appears to have
a pure white bloom on it's first night of bloom.
Lights displayed palms
Lights displayed on large topiary

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