The Lost Gardens of the Brandywine at Winterthur Museum and Gardens through July 25!

The Lost Gardens of Brandywine exhibit showcases photographs of Pre-World War II Brandywine during the hay day of the Du Pont era featuring the area that now encompasses the famed spaces of Winterthur, Longwood, Mount Cuba and Nemours.

Lost Gardens of Brandywine. Photo by Jim Schneck, Winterthur

The exhibits curator, Maggie Lidz created the exhibit after writing the book The du Ponts: Houses and Gardens in the Brandywine (Acanthus Press, 2009). “There were so many beautiful photos that I couldn’t use in the book, she explains, “I loved having the opportunity to use them here.”

Mrs. Rumford C G Lawn and Flower Beds in May 1922. Courtesy of the Hagley Museum and Library.

Winterthur adds, these extraordinary garden scenes are, “Previously unpublished,” and were, “provided by garden clubs, families of the gardeners and descendants of the original garden owners.”

Mrs. Charles l Patterson at Fairhills Farm on June 17, 1923. Courtesy of the Hagley Museum and Library

Winterthur explains, “Until now, garden clubs have seldom been given the recognition they deserve: an entire section is devoted to their contributions. E. H. Wilson, the great plant explorer, dedicated his 1926 Aristocrats of the Garden: “To the Garden Clubs, the most potent forces in garden-making in America, with homage and respect.” In the early 20th century, local clubs such as the Garden Club of Wilmington, the Arasapha Club of New Castle and the Brandywine Garden Club formed to share information about gardening. The clubs, exclusively women, were seriously concerned about botany, horticultural and environmental and conservation issues. Because of the money and other resources that these women had access to (the drivers taking them to meetings, the nannies rearing their children, the staff working in the garden), they were able to devote themselves to becoming expert horticulturists of the sort that is rare today.”

Winterthur's Sunken Garden blooming with tulips, violas and clematis May 20, 1923. Courtesy of the Hagley Museum and Library.

Patrons can experience the projection area, which Winterthur promotes as an a place where, “visitors can sit on antique garden benches and view 60 color lantern slides of gardens from the 1920s.”  They can also view the gardens from the Gardeners perspective!  Winterthur explains,

“Although (Lidz), began her research with the owners, she quickly found herself engaged with the children and grandchildren of the estate gardeners. “Interviewing them might have been the most interesting part of the last year. They had so many fascinating stories and photos to share!” During World War I, hundreds of Italian workers were brought here to work in the ramped-up gunpowder factories. In 1921, when the mills closed, a surprising number of laborers found gardening jobs on du Pont estates, ever-expanding due to new postwar wealth. Immigrants from Giusvalla, Italy formed a local community that is still closely tied to its hometown and even has its own website:”

Photo by Jim Schneck, Winterthur

The Lost Gardens of the Brandywine Exhibition runs through July 25, 2010.  For more information visit

‘Til Tomorrow…

Britt : )

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