A Brandywine Valley Getaway Offers History and Scenery



DuPont Mansion, Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, Delaware


Pat & Chuck Blackley / Alamy Stock Photo

Hagley Museum and Library

Other Brandywine Valley Highlights

1. Brandywine River Museum of Art (Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania)

This museum is closely identified with the Wyeths — the renowned illustrator N.C., his son Andrew and his grandson Jamie. But Thomas Padon, the museum’s director, aims to situate the Wyeths in the continuum of American painting, including other artists inspired by the region’s bucolic landscape. “I’ve tried to open the Brandywine up,” Padon says, while “still being mindful of our heritage with the Wyeth family.”

The museum, housed in a converted mill, also has a du Pont tie: The American artist George A. “Frolic” Weymouth, a Wyeth friend and du Pont descendant, cofounded its parent organization, the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art.

A key exhibition this year runs May 28-Sept. 5. “Gatecrashers: The Rise of the Self-Taught Artist” will feature work by nearly two dozen early 20th-century painters, none of whom had formal training. Not only did they fundamentally change the art world, but they also helped diversify it in terms of ethnicity, class, gender and ability. John Kane, Anna Mary Robertson “Grandma” Moses and Horace Pippin are among the artists represented.

Visit: $18 for adults, $15 for adults 65 and older. Regular hours are 9:30 to 4:30 p.m., closed Tuesdays. Guided tours of the Andrew Wyeth Studio are available on select days, $28 for adults, $25 for adults 65 and older (includes admission).

Address/contact: 1 Hoffman Mill Road (10½ miles north of Wilmington); 610.388.2700; brandywine.org/museum

2. Longwood Gardens (Kennett Square, Pennsylvania)

Yet another du Pont legacy, this majestic property was an early 20th-century creation and, later, gift of Pierre S. du Pont. The sprawling mix of conservatories, gardens, fountains, restaurants and a shop includes 400 acres open to visitors. At night, illuminated, choreographed fountain shows from May through October are a big draw. Longwood President and CEO Paul Redman also recommends the Meadow Garden — “a living Andrew Wyeth painting.” An enhanced Orchid House opened in February, and come June, Longwood’s Wine and Jazz Festival returns and its open-air theater resumes its summer performance series, featuring jazz artists and a bell choir.

Visit: Buy timed tickets online, $25 for adults, $22 for adults 62 and older.

Address/contact: 1001 Longwood Road (Kennett Square is 12½ miles northwest of Wilmington); 610-388-1000; Longwoodgardens.org

3. Delaware Art Museum (Wilmington)

Last fall, this museum completed a rolling reinstallation of its main floor galleries to place more emphasis on works by women, Blacks and local artists, including some new acquisitions. The museum’s greatest strengths are American illustration (including works by Howard Pyle, a teacher of N.C. Wyeth) and its Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Collection of British Pre-Raphaelite Art — “one of the most significant” such assemblages outside of the United Kingdom, according to Margaretta Frederick, its curator. Frederick says the museum wants to be “more all-embracing,” with “broader appeal” to local audiences. The museum closed the Pre-Raphaelite galleries last June and reopened them in July under the rubric “Radical Beauty.”

Visit: Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission $14 for adults.

Address/contact: 2301 Kentmere Parkway; 302-571-9590; delart.org

4. Hagley Museum and Library (Wilmington)

The du Ponts’ American success story began here, along a peaceful stretch of the Brandywine River, which powered the black powder mill founded by the chemist Éleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours in July 1802 — the genesis of today’s DuPont company. E.I. and his brother emigrated from France in 1800 with their father, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, and their wives and children.

Stroll the Powder Yard Trail, see a functional 19th-century machine shop and restored mill buildings, and climb Workers’ Hill, with a foreman’s home, Sunday school and other restored buildings. Guides demonstrate a water-powered turbine and a small gunpowder explosion. Although the gunpowder produced at Hagley was used by Union forces in the Civil War and in other military conflicts, the majority of it was for other purposes, including clearing fields for farming and construction.

Visit: Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; a Historic Home and Garden tour starts every half hour. Tickets available on site, $10 for adults, $8 for those 62 and older.

Address/contact: Enter at 298 Buck Road; 302-658-2400; hagley.org

5. Mt. Cuba Center (Hockessin, Delaware)

The former home and estate of Pamela and Lammot DuPont Copeland is a more modest and tranquil alternative to Longwood. A botanical garden focusing on the conservation of native plants, it includes a Trial Garden dedicated to research, a Dogwood Path, formal and naturalistic gardens, meadows and ponds. A stroll through the gardens takes about an hour, and there are more than two miles of hiking trails for those who want to extend their walking afterward. Ecological gardening classes and other programs are offered.

Visit: Open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; purchase tickets online, $15 for adults ($3 extra for a one-hour tour). More in-depth tours are also available.

Address/contact: 3120 Barley Mill Road (Hockessin is about 10 miles west of Wilmington); 302-239-4244; mtcubacenter.org

Philadelphia-based freelancer Julia M. Klein regularly writes about the arts. Her work has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.


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