Between the art and antique collection inside the mansion, the stunningly beautiful gardens surrounding it, and the fascinating history of the Du Pont family, there are quite a few reasons to put a visit to Nemours Estate at the top of your list of “must-see” attractions in Wilmington.
The History of Nemours Estate
Nemours Estate is a 105-room mansion that sits on a 300-acre estate just north of downtown Wilmington.
The mansion was a gift from Alfred I. Du Pont to his second wife, Alicia. Construction was started in 1905, and the 47,000 square foot house was designed to look like a French chateau that one might have found in Du Pont’s great-great-grandfather’s home country of France.
Upon your arrival at the estate, you will start by entering the visitor’s center where you will have the option to watch a short 15-minute video detailing the history of the Du Pont family. From there, you will take a shuttle onto the grounds of the estate and begin your self-guided tour throughout the mansion.
Exploring the Mansion
Your tour will likely begin in the reception hall of the mansion. This is where the Du Pont family celebrated Christmas when they made their home here. There is a large portrait of George Washington in this room, who was a distant relative of the Du Ponts.
One of the most popular rooms in the mansion is definitely the library. Here you will find more than 2,000 classic French books filling floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. This room is also known for its stunning oak paneling and some Du Pont family portraits.
You will also make your way through the dining room, which is equipped with a table that is an astounding 25-feet long. But that’s not the most impressive part of this room. For that, you have to look up to the amazing craftsmanship that went into creating the ceiling, and the massive chandelier that is believed to be imported from Vienna.
The title of “Most Formal Room” in the mansion goes to the drawing room, which is where the ladies would retreat following dinner during one of the many parties the Du Ponts hosted at the mansion. Here you will find more classic French furniture and more family portraits.
Exploring the Gardens
As if the mansion itself wasn’t impressive enough, the gardens surrounding it add a whole other level of sophistication to the estate. Directly in front of the mansion, you will find the “Long Walk,” which consists of rows of shrubs and sculptures leading to a large reflecting pool with a 157-jet fountain.
In the center of the fountain is a magnificent sculpture named “Achievement” that is gilded with 23-karat gold. Then there are more statues crafted from marble surrounding the fountain.
Continuing out further past the reflecting pool, you will find “The Sunken Gardens.” This lower area was added to the estate between 1928 and 1932. The statues here are made of marble and bronze, while the steps are Italian travertine.
Further out from the mansion is where you will find “The Temple of Love,” which is a classic French temple that was built to contain a sculpture of Diana the Huntress. And not far from here are the actual cannons that were used on the USS Constitution, better known as “Old Ironsides,” during the Civil War.
Visiting Nemours Estate
Nemours Estate is open to the public every Tuesday through Sunday. In order to get the best impression of the gardens, it is recommended that you visit during the estate’s regular season, which runs from May 1 to November 13. However, for a unique experience, visit during the holidays when then mansion is dressed for the season and reminiscent of a time gone by. Nemours Estate Holiday Tours run mid-November through early January.
The estate itself is open from 10 am to 5 pm on Tuesday through Saturday, and then from 12 pm to 5 pm on Sunday. The mansion opens one hour after the estate and closes one hour earlier.
Whether you are interested in the rich history of the estate, the fabulous antiques and portraits that fill it, or the amazing amount of detail that went into creating the gardens, there is something for everyone to appreciate at Nemours Estate. Don’t make the mistake of pushing this amazing venue too far down your to-do list this year!
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