Nemours Estate – Wilmington, Delaware - Atlas Obscura
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Nemours Estate

This splendid Versailles-inspired mansion has the largest French-style formal gardens in North America. 

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No expense was spared in the building of this mansion, constructed on a 300-acre estate by Alfred I. du Pont as a gift for his second wife. Nor, apparently, was any hubris, as the manse was built to resemble the castles of France, with a sprawling formal garden inspired by the famous grounds of Versailles.

The mansion’s interior is lavishly decorated with world-class paintings, tapestries, antique furniture, crystal chandeliers, carvings, faux finishes, and coffered ceilings. The 5-floor, 47,000-square-foot house includes a conservatory and music room among its 77 rooms.

The gardens, meanwhile, cover a 10-acre expanse. The decadent grounds boast a boxwood garden, a 1-acre reflecting pool, fountains, a colonnade, decorative sculptures, and a Temple of Love, with a sculpture of Diana the Huntress inside. (No idea where he got that idea from, as Diana is not the goddess of love, but the goddess of the hunt.)

French sculptor Prosper Lecourtier a specialist in animal figures designed the two elk at the top of the vista. French-born American sculptor Henri Crenier designed the one-acre reflecting pool that holds 157 jets and is the masterpiece of the garden, although not the only water feature.

The highlight of the grounds is arguably the Sunken Gardens, which faces the lake and has grottos, numerous fountains, and water gushing down in copious quantities. The showcase of the garden is the gilded Achievement sculpture, presiding over the estate.

There are quite a few mansions in Delaware and Pennsylvania that were built by the Du Pont family, which was very powerful in the region. Nemours was named after the French town that the family hailed from. Interestingly, Alfred I. du Pont got into a long dispute over stock shares of the Du Pont gunpowder company with his cousin Pierre du Pont (founder of Longwood Gardens in Philadelphia), and lost the battle for control of the family company. It is rumored that the 10-foot-tall wall embedded with broken glass that winds around the estate was built because of the family feud. 

In his later years, Alfred du Pont gave Nemours to the children’s hospital he established in his name and set up a trust for the mansion’s upkeep. 

Know Before You Go

The Gardens and Grounds reopened July 14th, 2020 from  10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.

The Mansion is not currently open to guests and shuttle service is not be offered, so comfortable walking shoes are strongly encouraged.