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June 17, 2008 / howardmestas

Antiques Road Show on Steroids

Reflecting pond at Winterthur

Reflecting pond at Winterthur

 

 June 12 — 2008

I enjoy watching the Antiques Road show but have often found myself asking out loud, ” who in the world would pay $150,000 for a an old rocking chair?”  Well now I know; people like Henry Francis du Pont, whose Delaware seasonal estate we visited today.  I say seasonal because he would only have been found here in the early spring, and would probably have been in the Hamptons by June, and in one of is many other mansions in the winter.  But this estate in the Brandywine Valley named Winterthur, was the place he chose to call home and I can see why.

There are over 300 rooms filled with a priceless collection of 85,000 masterpieces of antiques and Americana and a renowned research library with manuscripts and rare books dating back to the 16th century.  Nicolas Cage may have been able to break into the Smithsonian in “National Treasure,” but I doubt he would have made it passed the men’s restroom in this place.  The security is intense and I’ll never forget the icy stares from the grumpy old lady who led our tour group, with taser in hand ready to zap you in the neck if you took just one step into the next room without permission.

I am not usually one who goes gaga over museum peices like furniture or fine porcelain, but I have to admit I was a little overwhelmed by some of the items, especially the fine wares used by Martha Washington to serve special guests.  My favorite part of the building was the spiral staircase that was disasembled from another home by du Pont’s carpenters and brought to Winterthur.

But my favorite part of the day was undoubtedly my tram tour and walk through the 60 acre naturalistic dreamscape which could easily be called America’s Garden of Eden.  Besides being an expert on early American furniture, du Ponte was a renowned horticulturist and he designed this acreage with a spectacular arrangement of rare trees, flowers, waterfalls, and reflecting pools; and an enchanted fairy-tale garden for kids of all ages.  This was a place where someone could have informed me that I was just about to die, and I would have said….well, okay.  This was a place that words cannot explain and pictures cannot describe, and one that I will not soon forget.

In descending order are photos from the Winterthur Garden:  Flower bush, close-up of flowers, forest, playhouse, mushroom playhouse made from the trunk of a dead tree…

 

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