A Glimpse of a Gilded Age
Once home to a rebel of the du Pont family, Nemours Mansion and Gardens in Wilmington, Del., reopened in May after a three-year renovation.
The Nemours Mansion and Gardens in Wilmington, Del., have reopened after three years and a $39 million renovation. The estate was built by Alfred I. du Pont for his second wife Alicia du Pont after he fell out royally with other members of his clan.
The 300-acre estate was built between 1909 and 1910 and is named after the du Pont ancestral home in north-central France. The formal garden of the estate is mostly French neoclassical and inspired by Versailles.
The centerpiece of the formal garden is a statue of a couple called "Achievement." Covered in 23-karat gold leaf, the statue stands 12 feet tall on a basin of red Italian marble, 10 feet above the pool.
Both the house and gardens were designed by Carrere and Hastings of New York City. Here, the two-acre Sunken Gardens' fountain contains six basins. The gardens formed part of the estate's original design but were modified by Alfred du Pont's son, architect Alfred Victor, to bulk up the baroque drama.
Stretching a quarter-mile along one grand axis, the formal garden is a confection of limestone, marble, fountains and statuary. Beyond a naturalistic lake and a grassy slope, the eye stops at the Temple of Love.
The Temple of Love houses a bronze statue of Diana, who looks back to the house with bow and arrow in hand.
On a cross axis to the formal garden, du Pont put in a water tower. Twenty-seven feet across at its base, the tower rises to 80 feet and is inspired by more provincial French architecture.
Nineteenth-century German garden gnomes add a fanciful touch to the overall statuary.
The 77-room house covers an acre. The reception hall is a checkboard of highly polished marble, and the ceiling is coffered and freshly painted in Wedgewood blue with gilded rosettes.
One of the most delightful rooms is the conservatory, which has a plaster ceiling and a polished marble floor. The walls are clad in ornate latticework, or treillage, which is painted to match the warm gray of the stucco exteriors.
The upstairs living quarters, a series of cozy and domestic en-suite bedrooms, reveal another side of Nemours -- one of comfort and conveniences that were advanced for its day.
The basement is as interesting as any other part of the property. Seen here is a two-lane bowling alley that doubles as a cinema.
An industrialist, du Pont was interested in the technology of the day. Seen here is the billiard room, which is part of a basement that includes an ice-making machine, a diesel-electric generator, a room for making ice cream and an apparatus to bottle and carbonate water from the estate.
Recession or not, Nemours is sparkling again as a shining example of America's Gilded Age.
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