Nemours Mansion And Gardens — A.I.du Pont’s American Versailles

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Alfred I. du Pont (1864 – 1935) was an American industrialist, financier and philanthropist. A member of the wealthy Du Pont family, Alfred du Pont first rose to prominence through his work in his family’s Delaware-based gunpowder manufacturing plant, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (better known as DuPont), in which for many years he served as a director of the board and Vice President of operations.

Alfred married Alicia, his second wife, in 1907 and showered her with gifts. By far the grandest of these was the magnificent house that he built for her between 1909 and 1910 on 300-acres in Wilmington, DE. He hired Carrere and Hastings, a prestigious New York architectural firm, to design the mansion in the late-18th-century French style that Alicia adored.

Alfred named the estate Nemours, after the French town that his great-great-grandfather represented in the French Estates General. The mansion resembles a Château and contains more than one-hundred rooms spread over five floors occupying nearly 47,000 sq ft.

The estate has the most developed and largest “jardin à la française” (French formal garden) style landscape garden in North America. The design is patterned after the gardens of Versailles surrounding the Petit Trianon at the Château de Versailles. Their central axis extends ⅓ of a mile from the mansion facade. The grounds are beautifully landscaped with plantings, fountains, pools, statuary, and a pavilion surrounded by woodlands.

The estate, today, is owned by the Nemours Foundation.


2 responses to “Nemours Mansion And Gardens — A.I.du Pont’s American Versailles

  • Mike

    Can’t you just SEE the grubby peasant mob battering down the wrought iron gates and streaming up the driveway, screaming “Liberty! Fraternity! Equality!!”…

    • Coronare Modestus Faust

      Hah! I had the same thought, Mike! Two things, though, in regard to this place and A.I.du Pont…
      1) I love architecture, and though this grand estate by nature presses against my liberal priorities, it’s just quite simply a beautiful creation…existing where good architecture is just good;
      2) While extraordinarily wealthy (today, his remaining financial trust is still worth nearly $5 billion), Alfred du Pont was also a bit of a Progressive for his class in that he:
      a) As the Depression began, du Pont was expanding his philanthropic activities. He personally funded a pension plan program for seniors in Delaware in 1929 and turned his attention to revitalizing Florida after the devastation of a 1926 hurricane and the worked to mitigate the financial impact of the Great Depression.
      b) Having acquired an interest in Florida National Bank (FNB) of Jacksonville, Alfred du Pont personally kept it solvent during the Depression-era bank run of 1929 by putting $15 million of his own money into an account (or, the equivalent of about $1 billion in today’s money–how many wealthy bank execs risked their personal fortunes in our own financial crisis of 2008?). During the early 1930s, six other Florida National Banks were opened throughout Florida, as A.I. du Pont attempted to stem the effects of the Depression where he could.
      c) The Alfred I. duPont Testamentary Trust’s charitable beneficiary is the Nemours Foundation, which runs children’s medical facilities built by the du Pont funds in Delaware and Florida.

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