Winterthur – Wilmington, Delaware - Atlas Obscura

Wilmington, Delaware

Winterthur

A blend of art, antiquities, and Americana fill this museum, surrounded by whimsical, enchanting gardens. 

A palatial private home, now open as a museum, stands among sprawling grounds covered with enchanting woodlands and manicured gardens. Step inside the grand manor, and you’ll find an almost overwhelming assortment of artistic and antique treasures.

It was originally a semi-small 1837 house with 12 rooms until the museum’s creator, a wealthy horticulturist named Henry Francis du Pont, added another wing to it, this time making it humongous with 175 period-themed rooms. He filled every room with blends of antiques and Americana, amassing many mantels, windows, paneling, ceramics, paintings, and furniture. He decided to turn it into a museum, which was further expanded after his death.

The art collection is world-class, with paintings by Gilbert Stuart, John Trumbull, Benjamin West, John Singleton Copley, Charles Wilson Peale, and Thomas Sully-among others. There are also decorative arts, several styles of period furniture, and 30,000 textiles. The art conservation program within the museum is one of the best in the world.

The architecture and interior design are sights to behold. Within the mansion, the famously curving Montmorenci Staircase wraps upward. The themed rooms, like the Chinese parlor adorned with gorgeous chinoiserie-style wallpaper and Chinese Chippendale-style furniture, all hold authentic treasures. Delicate Chinese porcelain, with single pieces worth a staggering $10,000, and quirky soup tureens donated by Campbell’s and shaped like Buddhas, chickens, ships, and cabbages fill other rooms.

Perhaps most appealing to the nature-lovers are the nearly 1,000 acres of land that stretch across the property. Wandering through the Enchanted Woods reveals whimsical wonders like an elf house capped with a witch hat, fairy houses, and a mushroom spring that sprays visitors with mist. In other gardens, peaceful sanctuaries like a reflecting pool, a beautiful sundial, and koi ponds full of huge fish await. After du Pont died, the Holstein cows he bred were auctioned off so these gorgeous gardens could be developed. A third of the Holstein cows you get your milk from today are descended from his stock.

Know Before You Go

Park, then walk to the Visitor's Center to begin your visit and pay admission. You could either walk or take the shuttle to go to the museum or walk around on the gardens and grounds.

Note: Winterthur is temporarily closed until February 28, 2018. The spring season at Winterthur will begin on March 1st, 2018.