Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Road to Winterthur Leads to Lancaster County

On a rare day off from the inn, Bruce and I visited Winterthur Museum. We always enjoy our visits, but the special exhibit
 called Paint, Pattern and People that features the furniture of Southwestern Pennsylvania from the period of 1725 – 1850 really delivered. Whether it was carved angels from a church in Mt. Joy or beautifully made grandfather clocks, lots of Lancaster County artifacts have made their way to Winterthur.  No photography was allowed of that exhibit, but we snapped away where we could!

Our day started with the initial tour and history of Henry Francis du Pont’s remarkable home.

 Although we’ve taken this tour for years, we always learn something new from our tour guides. Incredible collections of everything made in early America is on display – as well as lots of imported china and over 85,000 pieces of decorative art. We got to know Harry (one of our guides actually knew Mr. du Pont personally and referred to him by his first name) a little better during this visit. When he attended college, his dorm room was furnished in oriental rugs and antiques!

One of my favorite things is a collection of silver tankards made by Paul Revere.


Mr. du Pont’s reputation and love of collecting American-made goods grew so much that everyone from ordinary folks to antique experts would seek him out. In fact, there’s a story they tell of a man who desperately needed money and donated the molding from a room of his house. The molding is pictured here and perhaps that contribution is one of the reasons that the house is still standing today.

Many of the houses and artifacts would have been long lost if it was not for Mr. du Pont’s foresight and diligence in collecting.

Our second tour of the day focused on the Distinctive Collections – showcasing everything from Shaker to spectacular collections of fraktur and Pennsylvania German painted furniture. It complimented the special exhibit that is featured until January, 2012.

Don't forget the gift shops - full of wonderful things, an incredible selection of books and available online as well.


Be sure to include time to walk the grounds or take the tram tour of the gardens. There are 1,000 acres of naturalized gardens and woodlands – they are most spectacular in the spring. It’s where I first fell in love with Virginia Bluebells. (I now have them growing in my own garden, YAY!) You can check what is in bloom here: Yes, they also sell plants.

What a gift Mr. du Pont has given us – a treasury of American decorative arts beautifully preserved in this 175 room mansion. Treat yourself.