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A Memoir of Nemours

By John Cowgill

Nemours Mansion (Photo from Nemoursmansion.org)

There are many spectacular historic homes around the world, and there are a great number of them in the United States.  Then you have the home of Alfred DuPont, founder of the DuPont Corporation, and his home in Wilmington, Delaware – Nemours.

Nemours is not your typical mansion house tour.  You arrive at the Visitor Center, and you begin by watching a film.  From there, you board a bus that will take you along the wall and through the main gate.  Oh, the gates open to welcome you in.  You go between two ponds that make up the landscape of the property.  You ride past the big fountain.  This fountain is the largest of the many fountains, but you have yet to see the mansion.

You finally arrive at the English Gates, and you step off the bus.  As you state at the gates, you see the gold, real gold.  You walk past the gates and see the big mansion before you.  Be advised that you are not at one of those fancy homes in New York City nor are you at any of those glamorous houses in Los Angeles, Washington or Miami.  Yep!  It is hard to believe that you are in Delaware.  You now need to visit the house.

You enter through the foyer, and are greeted by a huge living room with its stylish furniture.  You then see the dining room, the bedrooms, the staircases, the bathrooms, the library, and the conservatory. Many stylish homes have these things, but that is just the upstairs and first floor.  You still have to see the basement. How often do you see a basement with a shuffleboard room, a bowling alley, a study, the gym, and ice cream maker and bottling room?  Unfortunately, this house is not for sale, and most of us could not even think of affording it anyway.

Now you have completed the tour of the house, and there is much more to see.  The mansion is just a small portion of this tour.  You still have to tour the largest French garden in North America.  You walk around and see the many flowers and statues.  You take the long walk all the way to the great big fountain.  The water sprays upward about two stories high.  You go past the fountain and see another garden with a golden statue.  You walk to the archway on the other side, and you realize one thing: you are only halfway between the mansion and the end of the property.  As you walk through the arches, you see another garden: the Sunken Garden.  You walk down into the garden and see another huge fountain.  You look forward and find out that there is more to see.  You walk through the Sunken Garden, and you finally arrived… at the ponds, a series of ponds.  You go right and make your way to the entry road to cross the ponds, but the pond goes on.  You look and see a bridge crossing the pond.  You go to the bridge only to see another pond with an island.  At that point, you have reached the edge, and you need to see still more.

You walk past the gatekeeper’s house and see the original gates.  From there, you make it to the Love Temple.  You look towards the mansion, but you see the archway.  Yes, you have walked that far, but you are not finished yet.  You still have to walk to the lower ponds to include a rock garden.  You make your way back to the mansion, but you still have more to see.

You have to walk past the Pump Houses, the old house and new house, past the greenhouses and past the farm equipment display, to enter into the woods.  It is here where you will find the springs, one of four springs to supply spring water to the mansion.  (The mansion uses water from the city today.)

So you think that you are done, but you are not.  From the springs, you walk to the Chauffeur’s Garage.  Inside, you will see the Rolls Royces that once chauffeured the DuPonts.  You will also see DuPont’s boat and a horse drawn wagon.

Once you have seen the garage, you pass through more gardens, and you are back at the English Gates.  However, you are not finished yet.  You walk across the entry garden, and you see the Water Tower.  This is not your typical water tower but one to look like a tower from a fantasy castle.

When you visit the Nemours Mansion and Gardens, you will want to give yourself a minimum of three hours to see everything.  Most of the property is self-guided, but a section of the basement does require a tour guide.  It is a two-hour drive from Northern Virginia and just minutes from Interstate 95 and U.S. 202.  When you arrive, you will see that this place is a great treasure, and it is definitely worth seeing.  You can get information on visiting hours and admission at nemoursmansion.org.

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