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Visiting Winterthur in Wilmington, Del.

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Winterthur museum and garden

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Winterthur is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Delaware. Part of the legacy of the du Pont family, the estate consists of over 900 acres with 60 acres of naturalistic gardens. A variety of opportunities are available to guests, including a narrated garden tram tour, changing exhibits, organized house tours and the ability to walk through the grounds. Children are welcome and special activities are available for them.

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The museum consists of 175 room displays with over 90,000 items. Two hundred years of decorative and fine arts, from 1640 to 1860, tell the story of America. Parts of the house are still set up as a home and it is important to understand that H.F. lived here among his collections right up to the time it became a museum.

A little history

Originally, the land was purchased by E.I. du Pont in the early 19th century. When he died, it passed to his children and his daughter Evelina bought out her siblings so that she and her husband, Jacques Antoine Bidermann, could build their home. They named it after Antoine’s hometown in Switzerland, Winterthur.

After the death of the elder Bidermanns, Evelina’s brother, General Henry du Pont, bought the house from the heir and it then passed into his family. Eventually, Henry Francis du Pont, the grandson of General Henry, became the owner and it is through his management and expansion that we see the Winterthur that exists today.

In 1951 H.F du Pont created a museum in the mansion that had been his home and opened it to the public. He moved to a cottage on the property. Calling it a cottage is a bit of a misnomer, it is over 20,000 square feet.

What to do here

A variety of tours are offered. With the basic entrance fee, visitors can take a narrated tram tour of the gardens, visit the galleries and, when available, take an introductory tour of floors 5 and 6 of the house. In 2014 through January 5, 2015 the “Costumes of Downton Abbey Exhibition” is included in entrance fee but requires a special timed ticket.

For an additional fee, several other tours are available which must be reserved in advance. The full list is shown on their website but it includes both one and two hour tours. Some are family-friendly, others are not. There are however, many family-friendly activities offered at Winterthur including the Touch It Room.

The estate offers the opportunity to spend just a few hours or a full day visiting. The website offers suggestions for everything from a two hour visit to a full day. It also has suggestions for family activities.

The Campbell Soup Tureen Collection is on display in the Dorrance Gallery, it has been a popular exhibit since 1997. The grounds are extensive, over 900 acres with more than 60 acres of gardens. Several stops on the garden tram tour are available for visitors to get off and explore, including a fairy garden which is a favorite with children.

Several gift shops are located throughout the property including a magnificent one outside the mansion and another in the visitor center. A cafeteria in the visitor center serves very high quality food and is a perfect place to grab lunch or just a snack.

After just one visit, there will be no doubt why this is such a popular destination with visitors and locals alike. You will also understand why Bride’s Magazine named it one of the 50 most romantic wedding venues.

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