Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library is an American estate and museum in Winterthur, Delaware. , it houses one of the most important collections of Americana in the United States of America. It was the former home of Henry Francis du Pont (1880–1969), a renowned antiques collector and horticulturist. Until recently, it was known as the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum.
Winterthur is located in northwestern Delaware. The land where Winterthur sits was first purchased by Éleuthère Irénée du Point (E.I. duPont) between 1810 and 1818 and was used for farming and sheep-raising. In 1837, E.I duPont's heirs sold 445 acres of the land to Antoine Bidermann and his wife Evelina Gabrielle duPont for the purpose of establishing their estate. Evelina was the second daughter of E.I. DuPont's seven children. Between 1839 and 1842, the couple built a twelve-room Greek revival manor house on the property and named their estate Winterthur after Bidermann's ancestral home in Switzerland. The Bidermanns also added expansive gardens, livestock, and pastures.
After Bidermann's 1866 death, the property passed to his son, James Irenee, who then sold it to his uncle, Henry duPont. Henry purchased the property for his son, Colonel Henry Algernon duPont. Henry Algernon and his wife, (Mary) Pauline, settled at Winterthur in 1876 and enlarged the estate's existing home. Upon his father's 1889 death, Henry Algernon officially inherited the property and converted its main home to a French-style manor house. Between 1885 and 1925, Henry Algernon and Pauline added 900 acres to the property, which included a grazing area for Holstein cattle. After Pauline's 1902 death and the election of Henry Algernon to Congress, their son, Henry Francis (H.F.) du Pont, assumed the role of estate manager. H.F., a horticulturalist, began managing the estate's grounds in 1909.
H.F. married Ruth Wales in 1916. In 1923, the couple traveled to Vermont to student a cattle-breeding operation of W. Seward Webb. During the trip, they visited the home of Webb's daughter-in-law, a collector of American decorative arts. H.F. later stated that this was the moment at which he became interested in collecting American antiques. During the same trip, the duPonts also visited interior decorator, Henry Davis Sleeper. Sleeper's home was decorated with American antiques and interiors taken from other homes. This, too, inspired H.F. start his own collection of Americana.
Henry Algernon died at the end of 1926 and H.F. officially inherited Winterthur in 1927. At the time, the estate consisted of 90 buildings and over 2,600 acres. H.F. and Ruth renovated Winterthur's manor tripling its size. H.F. outfitted the home with architectural elements salvaged from 17th, 18th, and 19th century American homes. Rooms in the home were themed by time-period.
H.F. contracted landscape architect, Marian Cruger Coffin, to assist with the design of 70 acres of the estate's gardens and a model 2400-acre farm. The estate had twelve temperature controlled greenhouses, a 23-acre orchard, a 5.5-acre vegetable garden, and a 4-acre cutting garden. It also had a butcher shop, a saw mill, a tannery, and a dairy where duPont continued to breed and raise award-winning Holstein cattle.
H.F. became a highly prominent collector of American decorative arts. He established Winterthur's main building as a public museum in 1951 and moved to a smaller building on the estate. By 1959, the museum has been enlarged to accommodate a library, lecture halls, and additional period rooms. The museum ultimately consisted of 200 rooms and held H.F.'s collection, conservation laboratories, and administrative offices. By the time of his death in 1969, H.F. had amassed a collection of between 50,000 and 70,000 objects.
A pavilion building, separate from the main house, was built in the 1960s to welcome growing crowds. It consisted of a cafeteria, museum shop, and an adjacent parking lot.
Winterthur has been called the "largest and richest museum of American furniture and decorative arts in the world".
Today, Winterthur is situated on , near Brandywine Creek, with of naturalistic gardens.
The museum has 175 period-room displays and approximately 90,000 objects. Most rooms are open to the public on small, guided tours. The collection spans more than two centuries of American decorative arts, notably from 1640 to 1860, and contains some of the most important pieces of American furniture and fine art.
In 1992, additional galleries opened in a new building adjacent to the main house. The galleries host special rotating and permanent exhibits.
The Winterthur Library includes more than 87,000 volumes and approximately 500,000 manuscripts and images, mostly related to American history, decorative arts, and architecture. The facility also houses extensive conservation, research, and education facilities.
Gardens and grounds
In 2002, Winterthur donated acreage to the Brandywine Conservation Trust. The donation ensured that the land would never be developed.
University of Delaware
In 1952, Winterthur and the University of Delaware launched a joint graduate programs in American material culture and art conservation. The partnership continues today.
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