Delaware’s Brandywine Valley is home to many beautiful historic houses. Dare I say that, among these many fine structures, the grandeur of Nemours Mansion & Gardens rivals them all (even the nearby Winterthur Museum). Having toured both, Nemours left me more in awe. I went on a humid Saturday in July and that afternoon’s downpour added a magical glisten to the facade and grounds.
This monumental 300 acre estate belonged to the industrialist and financier Alfred I. duPont (of the famous du Pont clan). In tribute to his heritage, he named the estate after the du Pont ancestral home in north central France. Constructed between 1909 and 1910, the Louis XVI-style chateau was designed by the New York firm Carrere and Hastings and built by Smyth and Son of Wilmington, Delaware. Its historical design very much transports visitors to Europe.
The estate may have been inspired by history, but Nemours was very much a home of the future. DuPont was eager to fill his home with the latest technological advancements, including his own inventions (he held 200 patents!). Such modern marvels included a generator, equipment to bottle and carbonate water, and an ice making room. duPont absolutely loved ice cream and was sure to include a shoot that enabled ice to be easily transported from the ice making room to the kitchen, thereby satisfying those ice cream cravings as he pleased.
I found the mansion’s basement more fascinating than the opulently furnished interiors. duPont’s man cave is equipped with a bowling alley, billiard room, and gym!
I recommend setting aside a few hours for a tour. The visitor center includes an introductory film and exhibition and the chateau is only accessible via shuttle. The chateau is too stories and the basement can only be accessed by select scheduled tours. And of course, you’ll want to leave plenty of time to explore the beautiful gardens!