“And it is not merely the house; the grounds, I assure you, as far as I could observe, are strikingly like. The laurels at Maple Grove are in the same profusion as here, and stand very much in the same way -- just across the lawn; and I had a glimpse of a fine large tree, with a bench round it, which put me so exactly in mind! My brother and sister will be enchanted with this place. People who have extensive grounds themselves are always pleased with any thing in the same style."
In Jane Austen’s Emma
My friend K. from Princeton and I skived off work yesterday to visit the country estate and grounds of the du Pont family (known in tourism manuals as Winterthur) in Wilmington, Delaware. The grounds were lovely and quite extensive, although significantly diminished from a peak of 2,500 acres to 982 acres. Sixty acres of which are gardens. Although everything was lovely and verdant, nothing was in bloom. Supposedly we hit the in-betwixes of floral grandeur. However we didn’t let that deter us, and we enjoyed walking underneath the extensive canopies amidst the dappled sunlight.
The estate was amazing. I learned that du Pont owned 50 sets of china which he matched with the floral centerpieces. The parlors had 4 complete sets of wall hangings and furniture coverings to be changed with the season. He was also a bit of an obsessive collector with the mindset that more is better. My favorite parts of the house that I saw: the veranda which looked over the back yard and the reflecting pool where guests would mingle and have cocktails prior to dinner, the conservatory which just screamed 1920’s even though it was pretty bare, the oval staircase, and the original elevator—reminiscent of the elevator in Thoroughly Modern Millie. I wonder if it is equally temperamental. I was strongly reminded of house party scenes of the 1920’s as described in The Great Gatsby and the like. Elaborate weekend parties with women in slip dresses draped in fringe and feathers, jazzy show tunes being played on an upright piano, and couples dancing with moves named after animals such as the turkey trot and the bunny hug. It made me wish that I could experience it in its glory days.
We also saw such intriguing exhibits as a collection of fine soup tureens (animals being a popular but unwise theme), an art/furniture exhibit, and a history of quilt making exhibit. In the quilt exhibit, we were introduced to Mary and Peleg. Lovers separated during their courtship with only their correspondence to sustain them. Extracts from their letters showed that she was too busy quilting to drop him a line, and he, calling her such sweet, lover-like terms as “friend” and “sister.” True love at its finest. But then again, as Anne would say, how romantic could a man named Peleg be?
I did drag out my old camera and took a bunch of photos. I will post them if a) the film hasn’t already disintegrated from disuse, and b) if I ever finish off the roll. I also had five mysterious shots from my past already on the roll. It will be interesting to see what they are from since I can’t remember.