Treat yourself to an amazing weekend respite to the historic Brandywine River Valley and all that it has to offer. The area is rich in history, gardens, museums, mansions, art, architecture, food and wine surrounded by exquisite horse country of rolling hills, winding roads, quaint villages – not far from airports and highways, but a world apart from a busy urban existence.
This region of the Brandywine River Valley is steeped in American History dating back to the Revolutionary War, when on September 11, 1777 the Battle of Brandywine took place. In the longest battle of the war, George Washington – leading 23,000 American troops – fought and lost to the 17,000 British troops commanded by General Sir William Howe.
Thankfully, today, the Brandywine River Valley is much more peaceful, refined and above the fray of our modern world, holding world-class delights for all of our five senses.
Longwood Gardens consists of over 900 acres and has about 300 acres open to the public exhibiting some of the most unique combinations of gardens, conservatories, fountains and meadows in the world. Formal and informal gardens display over 10,000 species of plants, shrubs, trees and flowers from around the globe. Because of its size and precision, Longwood Gardens is often compared to France’s Gardens of Versailles and in fact, was inspired by them. Established by Pierre du Pont in 1802, Longwood Gardens remain one of America’s premier horticultural wonders dedicated to research, education and display.
On a much smaller scale but just as interesting and lush is Chanticleer Garden, where 35 rolling acres open to the public are often described as “America’s Pleasure Garden.” The garden is a study of textures and forms, where foliage trumps flowers. Gardeners lead the design, and even the drinking fountains are sculptural. Owned by the Chanticleer Foundation, 35 of its 47 acres are open to the public. The remaining acreage is devoted to agriculture, woodland, service areas, and staff housing. The main path is just under a mile in length.
Winterthur Museum is truly a “must-see.” Almost 60 years ago, collector and horticulturist Henry Francis du Pont (1880–1969) opened his childhood home, Winterthur, to the public. Today, Winterthur (pronounced “winter-tour”) is one of the premier museums of American decorative arts. With an unparalleled collection of nearly 90,000 objects made or used in America between about 1640 and 1860, the collection is displayed in the magnificent 175-room house much as it was when the du Pont family lived here, augmented by permanent and changing exhibition galleries.
Set amidst a 1,000-acre preserve of rolling meadows and woodlands, Winterthur was designed by du Pont. Its 60-acre naturalistic garden is among America’s best, with magnificent specimen plantings and massed displays of color. Graduate programs and a preeminent research library make Winterthur an important center for the study of American art and culture.
The Brandywine River Museum of regional and American art is located on U.S. Route 1 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania on the banks of the Brandywine Creek. The museum showcases the art of Andrew Wyeth, a major American realist painter, and his family: his father, N.C. Wyeth, illustrator of many children’s classics, and his son, Jamie Wyeth, a contemporary American realist painter.
Housed in a converted nineteenth century mill with a dramatic steel and glass addition overlooking the banks of the Brandywine River (also known as Brandywine Creek). The museum’s permanent collection features American illustration, still life works, and landscape painting by such artists as Maxfield Parrish, Howard Pyle and Jessie Willcox Smith. The glass-wall lobby overlooks the river and rolling countryside that inspired the Brandywine School in the early 20th century.
The Inn and Spa at Montchanin Village offers much more than simple accommodation in Delaware’s Brandywine Valley. In reality, the Inn is a restored 19th-century hamlet with 28 guest rooms spread across 11 buildings accessible via a maze of ornate gardens. Every room boasts period and reproduction furniture and marble baths. Many rooms come with private professionally landscaped gardens and gas fireplaces.
Montchanin Village is not so much a hamlet as a microcosm of American history. Once part of the Winterthur estate, it was named for Alexandrine de Montchanin, grandmother of the founder of the DuPont Gunpowder Company, forerunner of today’s DuPont de Nemours chemical empire.
The Brandywine River Valley and surrounding area is one of the most beautiful and relaxing areas of our country. With all there is to see and do, you might not get much rest, but after your visit, all five of your senses will thank you.
Accessible by rail from both Wilmington and Philadelphia, both cities are on Amtrak’s busy Northeast Corridor line, and there are dozens of regularly scheduled arrivals and departures daily. The train stations in both cities are carefully restored landmark buildings that also offer access to local transportation and provide information about the area’s hotels and attractions.
Available at amazon.com. Click title to order.
Brandywine: A Legacy of Tradition in Du Pont-Wyeth Country
by Lisa Zeidner and Anthony Edgeworth
Brandywine Valley Tourism: The South of France Just a Little West of Philly
by Brandywine Valley
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