Part II: Longwood’s Water Gardens
Pierre du Pont loved the powerful hydraulics of the dancing water exhibits he saw at the World’s Fair as a child in 1893. The thought that he would come to this little town and someday create one of the most grandiose fountain gardens in the United States, if not the World, seems a bit unlikely, but that he has, and the world is a better place for it.
In our era of profit being king and things are made and built on the cheap, this place shows us of what we could be doing. These finely made hydraulics are meant to last and have. The colored light shows are the very same as the day he first flipped the switch in 1914. The board has been upgraded but the colored gels are still the same.
Longwood has three water gardens. The first he began building in 1913 as a wonderful exercise in water plumage that shoot upward at different intervals. He created an open air theater and fountain shows are put on several times a day. The cool thing about this particular water garden is that the show is choreographed to music.
Du Pont was friends with John Philip Sousa and had him and his band over on occasion to do the music for the fountain show. Today you can still here his music over the loud speakers as the water rises and falls in surprisingly fun ways.
The Italian Water Garden is another stunner, but in a whole different way. Here there are over 600 actual water jets across the area. There are six central main basins lined with blue tile that jet their water upward. The tallest plume measures 40 ft..
The rest are 12 lovely Italian basins that push the water up in ringlet cones and smaller plumes. They not built for power but for a more rain like subtlety suggesting a romantic morning stroll.
The Main Water Garden sits centrally in perfect view of the Conservatory deck where visitors pour out throughout the day to catch a glimpse of this masterpiece. The hydraulics show, (turned on in 1931 for the very first time), is run on eighteen separate pumps that push through 10,000 gallons a minute. According to Longwood Gardens: 100 Years of Garden Splendor, there are “more than 200 toggle switches and 100 small levers to activate the pumping and dimming equipment located in the pump house at the opposite end of the garden.”
On certain evenings you can get tickets to watch the entire fountain display with colored lights choreographed to music.
This may be the focal point for visitors looking out over the veranda, but if you were to stand in the center of the vast water garden lawn and turn around, you would see the dozens of other fountain systems that surround the back walls and spill into the grassy area itself. These are a true monument to what a single vision can do.
When you come to visit, make sure you stop by the du Pont family home also on the property to the right of the Conservatory. Inside are the very designs, pumps, original toggle board and the planning from du Pont’s very own mind He created the entire thing down to the last details and was a genius. Find out more at www.longwood.org
I have yet to see 99.9 percent of the Gardens around the U.S and this place makes me so look forward to finding out what else is out there. Tuesday were heading over to the outdoor flower gardens…
- 5 reasons to spend the 4th of July at Longwood Gardens!
- Part VII: Events at Longwood Gardens
- The Chairs of Longwood Gardens
- Part VI: The Water Lilly Garden
- Part I: Longwood Gardens: An Overview