and are offered from April 1 to Nov. 19.
It’s hard to imagine another nearby
attraction rivaling Longwood Gardens in
the big-spending category, but the estate
of Henry Francis du Pont does just that—
albeit with an obsession of a different sort.
Winterthur is an imposing nine-story,
175-room house that can only be called
gargantuan. (Downton Abbey comes to
mind.) And it contains one of the world’s
most renowned collections of American
furnishings and antiquities.
I decide on arrival to take the tram
through the gardens. They’re less formal
than those of Longwood but no less
lovely. An antiques collector and trained
horticulturalist, du Pont preferred natu-
ral landscaping that blended with the hills
and forest. Swaths of blue blooms (scilla
and chionodoxa, our tram driver informs
us) blanket the March Bank, which is
blooming right on schedule.
As we reach the mansion’s grand front
door, I imagine being a party guest back
in the day. Four generations of du Ponts
lived on this nearly 1,000-acre estate, from
1837 to 1951, until the house was opened
to the public and its incumbent residents
moved into the “cottage” (now the gift
shop). With 90,000 objects inside, Winterthur is considered the world’s premier
museum of 17th- through 19th-century
American antiques and decorative arts.
Much of the collection is on display in
both the period rooms and the galleries.
Once inside, a guide leads us into
rooms decorated to represent different
historic genres, with a focus on the spaces
the family used when entertaining in the
1930s and 1940s. A quick elevator ride
and we’re suddenly immersed in opu-
lence, later making our way down to an
Empire-style room from 1933, all marble
As my eyes dance from priceless object
to priceless object, I have to confess that
my senses are a bit overwhelmed after
the relative simplicity of the Wyeth sites.
Winterthur’s collections are so vast that
you can even book a customized tour
of, say, Chinese export porcelain or just
Soon, the sunny gardens lure me back
outside to wander and think about how
we humans interpret and play with our
Local writer Amy Brecount White adores
all things that bloom, the evocative paintings of Andy Wyeth and anything sautéed
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