History

Before Henry Francis Dupont...

The Winterthur story begins four generations before Henry Francis du Pont, when his great-great-grandfather, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, gathered his family and departed post-Revolutionary France for America. This transplantation of the du Pont family in 1800 would leave an indelible mark on the Brandywine Valley.

In 1802 Pierre Samuel's younger son, Eleuthere Irenee, founded E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., a gunpowder manufactory along the banks of the Brandywine Creek. In addition to being a chemist, Irenee was a farmer and botanist. He built the first du Pont family home in the Brandywine Valley, Eleutherian Mills, on a tract of land known as Hagley, adjacent to the powder mills. He planted an orchard and extensive garden, farmed, and increased the size of the estate, leaving behind not only an industrial company that bears his name but also a family tradition of agriculture, horticulture, and preservation that has influenced du Pont family activities in America

 

The du ponts of Winterthur...

In 1816 Irenee's daughter Evelina married Jacques Antoine Bidermann, an investor in E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. In 1837 the couple purchased 450 acres from her father's estate, built a 12-room Greek Revival house, and named the property Winterthur in honor of Antoine's ancestral home in Switzerland. Over the years they developed flower, fruit, and vegetable gardens. In 1867 their son James sold Winterthur to Evelina's brother General Henry du Pont.

Pictured above: Henry Francis du Pont's bride to be, Ruth Wales

Pictured above: Henry Francis du Pont's bride to be, Ruth Wales

Pictured above: Henry Francis du Pont and Ruth Wales

Pictured above: Henry Francis du Pont and Ruth Wales

Henry maintained the property well and gifted it to his son Colonel Henry Algernon, who married Pauline Foster in 1874. Henry Algernon inherited the estate in 1889, increased the size of the house considerably, and continued the farm and garden tradition begun by the family in France. A soldier, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and U.S. Senator, his most enduring legacy was the deep sense of civic responsibility he instilled in his children.

 

Henry francis du pont: a grand vision...

Henry Francis and his sister, Louise, were the only surviving children of Henry Algernon and Pauline. H.F. studied horticulture at Harvard's Bussey Institution and in 1903, one year after his mother's death, assumed the duties of household management at Winterthur and began his lifelong work in the garden.

In 1916 he married Ruth Wales, and they had two daughters, Pauline Louise and Ruth Ellen. By 1925 the estate included farms, extensive flower gardens with greenhouses, a golf course, railroad station, and post office. H.F. inherited the property in 1926 and during the next 43 years further developed the farmland, raised a prizewinning dairy herd of Holstein-Friesians, collaborated with landscape architect Marian Coffin to blend the garden into the 2,600-acre landscape, and added a wing to the house to display his collection of American antiques.

When Winterthur opened to the public in 1951, the du Ponts moved to a smaller house nearby, which is now the Museum Store on Clenny Run

No American family dominated a single state longer than the du Ponts of Delaware. French immigrants who arrived in America January 1, 1800, and who founded the highly profitable DuPont Company, they became a dynasty of publicity-shy entrepreneurs, engineers, horticulturists, and collectors. The family pursued many passions, resulting in the exquisite art collections, botanical gardens, and libraries now enjoyed by the American public.