In 1906 Pierre S. du Pont was 36 when he bought the Peirce farm because he'd heard the 100-year-old arboretum was to be destroyed. George Peirce had purchased 402 acres in 1700 from William Penn's commissioners. In 1798 his twin great-grandsons began planting 15 acres of various specimens of trees. By 1850 the arboretum had become a place for locals to picnic. By 1906, however, the Peirce heirs had neglected its upkeep and after passing through different owners the trees were to be sold to a lumber mill. This is when Pierre du Pont stepped in. Because of his love of the countryside and his boyhood love of running water, he set about turning his new summer home, Longwood, into what is now billed as one of the top 10 public gardens in America.
Longwood Gardens now covers 1,077 acres. The Conservatory that Pierre built covers four acres. It also houses a ballroom and music room. This is where he and his wife, Alice, whom he married when he was 45 years old, would entertain their guests. The couple never had children so much of their philanthropy work centered on the needs of children--public schools, universities, and hospitals. The house they lived in was not at all grand. It was built in 1730 as a simple brick farm house. In 1914 Pierre du Pont had a matching addition built which was connected to the original house by an atrium. . . .
|Architect's rendering of addition to the Peirce-du Pont House, c. 1913|
This is what it looks like today. In the first photo below you can see the original house on the right joined by the atrium to the new addition on the left (in the lower photo). . . .
|Click on photo to enlarge⤴|
|The original house⤴|
|The new addition which housed his library⤴|
here to pick up where I left off above.
I'll begin the tour of the gardens with the Outdoor Garden Map. It will open in a separate window, so you can refer to it as we go along. There are several nifty features for all their maps. If you hover your cursor over the number a photo will appear, and if you click on the title next to the number in the legend below the map you will be taken to more information. The House is at "C" on the map. We did not tour the house until just before lunch, but I wanted you to see it first and read about the history to give you an idea of just who the man was who built this amazing garden.
We left the Visitor Center (A) and were standing at the entrance of the Rose Garden (14) reading the sign when an employee, a young man, driving a garden cart stopped to ask us if we needed any help. (Was it so unusual for people to read the signs?) He started talking about the various gardens and was genuinely enthusiastic about his job. He'd been their 10 years and after asking how much time we had suggested the areas we should be sure to visit. He talked about some of his favorite gardens and said to be sure to see the newly-opened meadow. As we bid him goodbye Ken and I both marveled as to why he singled us out from all the other people milling about. We don't look decrepit just yet! But when he asked if there was anything else he could help us with, Ken pointed to his cart and said a ride in that thing would certainly help us see everything there was to see. He chuckled, but did not say, "Sure!" Oh well. We opened our maps and walked through the Rose Arbor (14). . . .
. . . toward the Flower Garden Walk (17). . . .
|Wisteria Garden (16)⤴|
|Canopy Cathedral (20)⤴|
|View of the Lake from Canopy Cathedral⤴|
|Italian Water Garden (21)⤴|
We stopped to see the railway garden. . . .
Feeling a little more perky now that we'd eaten we headed for the Conservatory (1-Outdoor Map). Here is the Conservatory Map. We entered through the East entrance (18-Conservatory map) stopping first in the ballroom where they were readying the pipe organ for its automated performance in an hour. . . .
|View of the ceiling|
I walked back out into the conservatory's Exhibition Hall (14). . . .
From there we went outside to see an amazing Waterlily Display (22). . . .
|Cascade Garden (1)⤴|
|Orchid House (9)⤴|
|Acaia Passage (11)⤴|
|Main Conservatory (15)⤴|
We still had a section of the gardens to explore. Here is the map again if you care to follow along. . . .
|Topiary Garden (8)⤴|
|Caryopteris Allée (7)⤴|
|Main Fountain Garden (6)⤴|
|Chimes Tower and Waterfall (11)⤴|
|Clockwise top left: Eyelash Begonia, Asparagus fern, Fiscus (in the lower right corner), Blue Job's Tears, Creeping Varigated Fig|
Next Time: Winterthur's Enchanted Woods & Longwood Garden's Indoor Children's Garden