Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Winterthur in Delaware is the mansion and property owned by the du Pont Family and is now an extensive museum of the collections that Henry Francis du Pont acquired through his lifetime. They decorated his home and were put on display in a museum when he opened his childhood home to the public over 60 years ago. He was also a horticulturist and property has extensive gardens. A visit to Winterthur can be quite extensive with walking tours through the trails in his gardens or a guided tram tour through them, a visit to the du Pont home, and a visit through the extensive museum with changing and static exhibitions.

Our plan to visit Winterthur started over a year ago when Meryl learned of a special exhibition of antique samplers and embroidery. Things just did not work out for us to visit that exhibition, but this past summer another exhibition of samplers opened and we had planned several times to go to Delaware and see this exhibit. It looked again like things were not working out but during our vacation trip we decided that we would spend a day in Winterthur and not only see this exhibition but also tour the house and see the musuem.

Many of the places that we travel to involve being outdoors. One of the problems of planning trips when the weather seems never to be cooperating is finding indoor museums and attractions that we can easily get the Roadtrek to. Cities pose a problem, as I have said before. Many cities have gone to all indoor garage parking and with the height of the Roadtrek this is just not possible. The trip we planned this past summer was one in which we had a few places to stop where the weather would not matter - and we saved the good days for the outdoor places we were going to and the raining days for indoors - and this is when we went to Winterthur.

Winterthur is not far into Delaware across the Pennsylvania border and the drive there was a pleasant mix of country roads, Route 1 and more country roads. We arrived after an early fast food lunch and parked in a large parking lot that would not be a problem for even the largest RV or Travel Trailer. We walked down a short trail to the Visitors Center and purchased tickets. Tickets are $20 adults or $18 senior (love those senior discounts) plus they were having a limited time adult discount of $3.00. Tickets entitle you to the whole thing - house tour, museum, special exhibitions, and all that is in the gardens. Our main interest was the special exhibition on Samplers and this was where we were heading first. You reach the house and museum by shuttle bus. The museum is also the entrance to the house tour and your ticket puts you to be on a specified time tour of the du Pont family home - home should read  Mansion. The Sampler exhibition was on the second floor of the musuem and we had some time to go their first before our tour would start.

Meryl is a student of 18th and 19th Century embroidery as well as being an accomplished hand embroider, herself. We have been to many exhibitions on 18th and 19th Century embroidery and Samplers and Meryl is becoming quite in the "know" between what she has seen on exhibit and what she has read, along with stitching reproductions. This was one of the smaller exhibitions that we have been to and we decided that we would go through it quickly before our tour of the house would start and then come back to it later after the tour to spend time with each piece of embroidery in the exhibit. To give you and idea, the following photo is just one element in an embroidered picture created by an 18 year old girl in Boston in the year, 1748. What has fascinated me about all of the Samplers that we have seen here and in other museums is that these are all art created by children. Age 18 is old for some of the exceptional work we have seen. We have seen exceptional pieces worked by girls of 8 to 12 years old. Anyway -

The tour through the home starts with gathering the tour group in a meeting room and showing a brief video about Henry Francis du Pont and the family. You are then escorted through doors and past - and not stopping at - a display room of 17th (1600s) furniture - which we would have loved to spend some time looking at but the guide was determined to stick to her schedule - which in the end she did not do as she got carried away with anecdotes about the family. We were then all loaded into an elevator adn taken up to the first floor of the home which was the second floor of the building. From the elevator we were taken out to an outdoor balcony with a view of the house and the Library that is housed in one of the building of the estate. First photo - side view of the house from the porch. Second photo - view of the library building from the balcony. (The library is open to the public for research.)

   I will not go into details of the tour. Here are some photos that I took as we went along. The rooms are decorated in antiques - many from the Federal period - late 18th Century into the early 19th Century. As the family came originally from France there are a number of antiques of French heritage.

The upper floors of the house are the family and guest bedrooms. The du Pont's liked to entertain and would have guests stay with them. Their guests included dignitaries and U.S. Presidents.

The house was not our favorite part of the visit and we both felt that were we to return to Winterthur we would skip the house tour and spend a lot more time in the museum. The museum is extensive. We returned to the special exhibition of Samplers that we had specifically come to and spent a great deal of time there looking closing at details. I photographed everything for Meryl and she also took notes. She was able to find a catalog of the exhibition in the gift shop/bookstore and that was a must have.

The museum had another special exhibition of South American embroideries and we spent a lot of time there as well. There were also the regular exhibit galleries which also had textiles, needlework, and Samplers, along with furniture, every day items, and home decor. There was also a room with an entire building displayed that was a 1700's Clock Makers Shop with all of the equipment and tools set out in the two rooms as they were when the shop was in business.

18th Century Woman's Gown (Sack Back Gown)

 We really did not have enough time to do that museum justice and we stayed until the announcement that the musuem was closing and the guards came through to make sure everyone was moving to the exit back on the first floor. When we got out side we had missed the last shuttle bus back to the Visitors Center so we walked back.  The gift shop/bookstore is open past the museum and we spent some time in this shop at the Visitors Center. There is a larger gift shop with reproduction pieces in a building near the museum.

We never made it to any of the gardens - though we were not much interested in touring those. I am certain that anyone who loves gardens will find these exceptional and there is a children's fantasy garden in the gardens as well.

We had a very nice time. If you like the material and cultural side of history you will enjoy Winterthur. Since we are writing about this in relation to a visit in the Roadtrek - or any RV, it is easiest to stay in a campground in Pennsylvania. The one thing you don't want to have to do is cross the Delaware River as the tolls on the various bridges are expensive. There is a new toll being charged as you cross the Delaware River Bridge from the New Jersey Turnpike into the Pennsylvania Turnpike that used to be included in the turnpike toll but is not a separate toll of $5.00. Of course, the turnpike tolls have remained the same. If you are in Pennsylvania you can go into Delaware without crossing the river again. There is a campground, a KOA (we have not stayed there) in West Chester, PA. Winterthur is about an hour's drive from several of the Lancaster, PA campgrounds.

Winterthur is located at 5105 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, DE 19807. This address in your GPS will get you right there. Their actual address is 5105 Kennett Pike (Route 52)
Winterthur, DE 19735. Winterthur is CLOSED on Mondays so plan accordingly. They are open until 5:00 pm. The last house tour tickets are sold at 3:15 pm. They have a website - .

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