The grandest French gardens in the United States, Nemours Estate is one of Wilmington’s most exquisite attractions. The spectacular mansion and grounds at Nemours were built in the early 20th century by Alfred I. Dupont, a notable American industrialist and financier. Now, it is a popular destination due to its historic elegance and grandeur.
13 min drive
Originally built in 1910 on a 3,000-acre plot of land in Wilmington, the mansion itself was designed by prestigious New York firm Carrère and Hastings in the 18th-century neoclassical style. This style, made popular by French King Louis XVI, was beloved during the American Gilded Age. The gardens were inspired by the luxurious grounds of the Petit Trianon at Versailles. The estate is named after the French town of Nemours, which was represented by Dupont’s great-great-grandfather in the 1789 Estates-General. Dupont built the estate as a gift for his second wife, Alicia Heyward Bradford.
The mansion itself is comprised of 105 rooms, 77 of which are open for guided and self-guided tours. The 200 acres of gardens are open to visitors as well. The house’s rooms are full of rare 18th-century French furniture, artworks, and other antiques. Among the notable items in the collection are one of Louis XVI’s clocks, as well as a clock that was built for Marie Antoinette. The estate also boasts a Chauffeur’s Garage, which is home to an extensive collection of vintage cars.
The stunning gardens at Nemours Estate offer numerous fountains, pavilions, and a one-acre Reflecting Pool in the Art Nouveau style. The grounds center around the Long Walk, which connects the pool to the mansion. This main vista is heralded by a pair of elk, which were sculpted by French artist Prosper Lecourtier. Other features of the gardens include the Temple of Love, which houses a statue of Diana sculpted by Jean-Antoine Houdon, the Boxwood Garden, in the French parterre style, and the Colonnade, a memorial to Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours.
The estate underwent an extensive, $39 million renovation from 2005 to 2008, commissioned by the Nemours Foundation. During that time, the house’s furniture, paintings, sculptures, and tapestries were refurbished, and its electrical system was overhauled. The formal gardens also received a comprehensive restoration.
Nemours estate is open to visitors Tuesdays through Sundays from May to December. Day passes, which allow access to the entire mansion, Chauffeur’s Garage, and grounds for the day, are $20 for adults. Staff are available across the estate to offer historical overviews of the Nemours Estate and the Du Pont family, and to answer questions.
One of the country’s most pristine Neoclassical mansions and French gardens, Nemours Estate is definitely worth a visit.
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