Saturday, October 22, 2011


As some of you guessed correctly, last weekend I visited the stately Nemours mansion outside of Wilmington, Delaware.Built by the industrialist, Alfred I. Dupont, in 1909, the mansion was designed by the prominent New York firm of Carrere and Hastings. The French Beaux Arts styled house was loosely based on the Petit Trianon. On the main facade you can find a stretched out and enlarged version of the western elevation of the villa with a roof plopped down on top and wings to either side.

Dupont had a local contractor build the estate, much to the chagrin of the architects but he was always concerned with using local labor and materials. Much of the stone used for construction came from the actual building site. Designed on a symmetrical axis, beautiful views exist from the main house down through the gardens (inspired by Versailles that I will post on next week) of the reflecting pools and colonnade.

While interior photography was not allowed, I am able to share with you what I noticed on the exterior of the house. Pairs of gracious Corinthian columns grace the front facade.The scale of the place is immense which thanks to a very balanced design isn't instantly recognized. Notice the size of the front porch columns next to the furniture!Doesn't your house have the building date inscribed?The front terrace contains only a fragment of the many urns found throughout the grounds, all filled with beautiful flowers.

The southern side of the house features some beautiful trellis work and green & white striped canvas awnings. Yes, that trellis is flat against the house with some great use of false perspective!

Also located on the south is a neoclassical limestone pavilion which houses the plant (and bird!) filled morning room; probably my favorite room in the house! It was also the favorite room of Jessie Ball Dupont (Alfred's 3rd wife) and where she spent most of her time. Jessie died in 1970 and the house was eventually converted to a museum.

The cornice on this house is great, I love the Greek key freize.The rear of the house is much simpler stucco with the continued cheerful canvas awnings.The backyard has, I fear, suffered from neglect as the front yard is the showpiece of the estate. We were the only people from the tour to venture back here!To the right of the main house is the massive servants wing, which easily is over 1/3 of the house. Like many industrialists of the time, Dupont was obsessed with the latest technology which fills much of the basement of the wing; ice making machines, ice cream making rooms, generators, a movie theater / bowling alley and his own water bottling plant still all exists. Servants rooms are on the second floor while the first level is full of a number of kitchens and pantries.The laundry, oddly enough, is located in this small house behind the servants wing.The house must have been very efficiently run as the kitchens feel almost commercial. The yard is a practical loading dock!Join me next week for a tour of the gardens, out-buildings and an additional house on the grounds which charmed the pants off me!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Thank you for the many kind emails inquiring into my where abouts! I'm currently suffering from technical difficulties but will be with you tomorrow, hopefully, with a tour of a fabulous mansion in Delaware. Can anyone guess what it is? Till then...