Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley is like a riveting, romantic tale of two cultures, two centuries… even two different worlds. A destination marked by sharp contrasts. Town and Gardens. Past and Present. Commerce and Culture. Beauty and Brains. Gritty and Gorgeous. Historic and Hip. It is these contrasts that make each experience more vibrant, each moment more distinct, and each sight more authentic and beautiful.
Wilmington is the urban hub of the region, the Corporate Capital of America, and the largest downtown in the state of Delaware. It's a center for banking and innovation, with world-class restaurants, museums, performing arts venues, and of course, tax-free shopping.
The Delaware Valley's earliest permanent Old-World settlement began here in 1638 when the Kalmar Nyckel, a Swedish warship, landed at "The Rocks," a natural wharf in Minquas Kill (soon renamed the Christina River) and the colony of New Sweden was founded – now present-day Wilmington.
Travel to the north, north west into the heart of the Brandywine Valley, and city streets turn into country lanes, where elegant estates and glorious gardens of a bygone era are a testament to the wealth and influence of the du Pont family and the beauty of their legacy. It is like stepping back into a greater, grander time - amazingly, only minutes away from I-95.
The story of Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley is inextricably intertwined with the story of the du Pont family. It's a story that begins when Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, the son of a Paris watchmaker, left his native country for the United States with his two sons in 1800. Two years later, one of those sons, Éleuthère Irénée du Pont opened a gunpowder mill on the banks of the Brandywine Creek, near Wilmington and the DuPont Company was born. And along with it, a great relationship between the family and the people of Delaware.
Over time, the Du Pont Company diversified and expanded to become one of the leading chemical and health care companies in the world. The du Ponts built great estates throughout the Brandywine Valley, and their familial commitment to conservation and natural beauty ensured the preservation of much of the region.
The original DuPont Company gunpowder mill became Hagley Museum and Library. Pierre Samuel du Pont, great-great grandson to the original Pierre, planted some of the first gardens on the estate that is now Longwood Gardens. Alfred Irénée du Pont, another great-great grandson, built Nemours Estate as a gift for his second wife, Alicia. Henry Francis du Pont built the 175-room Winterthur estate in Greenville for his family, before opening the home and his renowned collection of over 90,000 fine and decorative American art objects to the public.