Skip to main content

The splendor of Longwood Gardens

05/27/2014 04:06PM, Published by ACL, Categories: In Print, Arts+Entertainment


The Chimes Tower at Longwood.



By Gene Pisasale

Correspondent


Many people assume that renowned businessmen focus almost exclusively on one thing -- the success of their business. Yet some of our nation’s great industrialists have aggressively pursued hobbies, such as the preservation of scenery near Kennett Square. 

Image title

After the turn of the 20th century, Pierre du Pont purchased a local farm to save an old grove of trees for posterity, reflecting a passion for horticulture which evolved into one of our nation’s most beloved floral sanctuaries. 

In 1700, George Peirce emigrated to Philadelphia from England and purchased 402 acres in Chester County, a portion of which was given to his daughter as a marriage gift. The remaining acreage was given to his son Joshua, who built a house and cleared the area to create a working farm. Joshua’s enterprising Quaker grandsons later decided to start an arboretum covering 15 acres, 

Image title

bringing in included trees from North America, Europe and Asia. With wild tulip trees, cucumber magnolias, Kentucky coffee trees and hundreds of other varieties acquired in their travels, and from nurseries around the country, the two men nurtured a collection which became known to visitors. When the farm later passed to George Washington Peirce, the acreage was maintained and amenities like croquet courts, summer houses and a rowing pond were added. 

Despite his dedication, George’s heirs demonstrated little interest in maintaining the property, and they sold it. The acreage was later resold twice, and the third buyer had plans to cut down all the trees to produce lumber for his sawmill. The possibility of losing this natural treasure caused 36-year-old Pierre du Pont to buy Peirce’s Woods, along with additional nearby land totaling 202 acres. He spent roughly $16,000 in 1906 to preserve it forever. 

Image title

This treasure became Longwood Gardens -- the name change from Peirce’s Woods coming from its proximity to the Longwood Friends Meetinghouse.  

Du Pont's worldwide travels generated the idea to develop this horticultural gem. Stops at dozens of chateaus in France and several Italian villas gave him different concepts for architectural design and development. He actually had hands-on experience with plants -- he’d owned a commercial florist business with seven greenhouses by the age of 28. He also knew a bit about landscaping and design, supervising the building of 150 houses and later heading up the team that built the Du Pont building in downtown Wilmington. 

He used this experience to develop an immense tapestry of buildings, walking paths, fountains and gazebos amidst a huge assortment of plants, trees and shrubs,  unequaled in the western hemisphere. 

His initial project was laying out the property’s first true flower garden, a 600-foot-long Garden Walk filled annuals, biennials and perennials. A 20-foot-wide pool, with the first fountain, was built at the intersection of the main paths. Utilizing his experiences at the Villa d’Este outside Rome and the Villa Gori in Siena, du Pont built the Open Air Theatre and later hosted an elaborate garden party in 1914 that was a huge success. 

He also had the Longwood greenhouse built to grow vegetables, fruits and flowers. This was 

Image title

later greatly expanded into an enormous building that is 181 feet wide and 204 feet long, with arched windows.  Alongside were single-story structures connected to pavilions with their own heat, water and power supplied on site. 

Visitors could see a huge assortment of locally grown fruits -- apricots, peaches, figs, grapes, melons, pineapples and nectarines. There were even experimental plantings, which included coffee, pomegranates and coconut palms, that were maintained by eight full-time gardeners. 

Over the ensuing years, du Pont wanted to entertain the public even more, so he had a concert hall and dozens of fountains constructed nearby. The concert hall and ballroom were perfect for his pipe organ, which has 10,010 pipes. Later, an Italian water garden and an expansion of the Open Air Theatre continued his dream of building a world-class complex which people could enjoy for decades to come.

Subsequent improvements included hundreds of additional pools and fountains, accompanied by ornate sculptures imported from Italy, as well as an intricate lighting system with glass filters which allowed the fountain displays to take on a surreal look at night. Years later, these would be accompanied by music, creating a spectacular synchronized panorama.

The expanded fountain complex was largely completed by the mid-1930s, and this marked the end of major construction during du Pont's lifetime. He’d clearly succeeded in attaining his goal to create “a place where I could entertain my friends.” 

He was more than a visionary horticulturalist. He was also a major history buff, collecting and translating hundreds of family documents from French to English, and compiling a family genealogy going back almost five centuries. In 1950, he hosted a 150th anniversary celebration to commemorate his family’s arrival in the U.S., with a gala event that drew 632 family members and guests from around the world. 

On April 2, 1954, du Pont was recognized by the French government for his lifetime achievement and awarded the Cravate de Commandeur of the French Legion of Honor in a ceremony at Longwood. A few days later, he passed away, but his accomplishments will last forever -- a testament to brilliant foresight, unending dedication and a love of nature which has benefited mankind.


Gene Pisasale is an author and lecturer based in Kennett Square. He’s written eight books and conducts a lecture series focusing on topics related to the Philadelphia/Mid-Atlantic region. His books are available on www.Amazon.com. For more information, visit www.GenePisasale.com or e-mail  Gene@GenePisasale.com. 


Like what you're reading? Subscribe to Chester County's free newsletter to catch every headline



kennett square longwood gardens gene pisasale pierre du pont


You might also like

Community is invited to playground opening at Anson B. Nixon Park

A new playground at Anson B. Nixon Park will be formally opened on June 2 at 1 p.m. The 106-acre park in Kennett Square is opening the first phase of the playground after the Longwood Rotary Club stepped forward

Kennett Square Borough Council approves contract extension for borough manager

Kennett Square Borough Council approves three-year contract extension for Borough Manager Brant Kucera.
Thumb dsc 0850

Honoring Kennett Square’s finest

Kennett Square police officers are recognized for going above and beyond

  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    09/03/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    09/07/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience wit...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Tail Waggin' Tutors

    09/09/2015
    04:30PM — 06:00PM

    This relaxed animal friendly atmosphere allows students to practice the skill of reading. With c...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    09/03/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • The Chester Springs Studio wood kiln is a two chamber noborigama, constructed in 2014 during a wo...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • The Chester Springs Studio wood kiln is a two chamber noborigama, constructed in 2014 during a wo...


  • Steamin’ Day at Auburn Heights

    09/06/2015
    12:30PM — 04:30PM

    Join the Marshall Steam Museum for Steamin' Day, a fun-filled day celebrating local history and l...


  • Taste Kennett Food Tours

    09/06/2015
    01:00PM — 04:00PM

    Taste Kennett Food Tours, creators of memorable, unique and fun food experiences, offer three-hou...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    09/07/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience wit...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Bird Walks At Middle Run

    09/08/2015
    08:00AM — 10:00AM

    Free! Every Autumn, more than 30 species of warblers pass through this county park and birders ...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Tail Waggin' Tutors

    09/09/2015
    04:30PM — 06:00PM

    This relaxed animal friendly atmosphere allows students to practice the skill of reading. With c...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Warm Season Grass Walk

    09/10/2015
    09:00AM — 12:00PM

    By creating a yard with vegetation that offers food and cover, you can create a refuge for severa...


  • Little Music Makers

    09/10/2015
    11:00AM — 11:30AM

    Every Thursday at the USTC, come Jam Out with… Little Music Makers …a mommy and me music class ...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    09/10/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


  • 64th Brandywine Open House and Kickoff

    09/10/2015
    06:30PM — 08:00PM

    The 64th Brandywine Scouts of the Baden-Powell Service Association (BPSA) will hold their annual ...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Glen Willow Combined Driving Event

    09/11/2015
    08:00AM — 05:00PM

    Come enjoy the excitement, spectacle and thrills of carriage driving at the Glen Willow Combined ...


  • Parents Night Out: Marsh Monarchs

    09/11/2015
    06:30PM — 08:30AM

    Parent's Night Out: Set mom and dad loose to have dinner along Wilmington's Riverfront while you ...


  • Parents Night Out: Marsh Monarchs

    09/11/2015
    06:30PM — 08:30PM

    Parent's Night Out: Set mom and dad loose to have dinner along Wilmington's Riverfront while you ...


  • Mysterious Moths

    09/11/2015
    08:15PM — 10:00PM

    Join insect expert, Alyssa Molin-Graves, and TLC to explore the interesting and mysterious lives ...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Monarchs And More

    09/12/2015
    09:30AM — 11:00AM

    The amazing Monarch and other butterflies are busy in the meadow! With net in hand, search for th...


  • Monarchs And More

    09/12/2015
    09:30AM — 11:00AM

    The amazing Monarch and other butterflies are busy in the meadow! With net in hand, search for ...


  • The Chester Springs Studio wood kiln is a two chamber noborigama, constructed in 2014 during a wo...


  • Second Saturdays

    09/12/2015
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Join us on the Second Saturday of each month for special programming in our native plant gardens....


  • Secret Gardens of West Chester

    09/12/2015
    10:00AM — 03:00PM

    Now in its eleventh year, Barclay Friends is hosting an exclusive walking tour of 14+ private gar...


  • Trees of Newlin Nature Walk

    09/12/2015
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Discover the unique trees of Newlin on this walk that explores big trees, old trees, rare trees, ...


  • Mattress Sale Fundraiser

    09/12/2015
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    High Quality Mattresses at great prices and for a great cause!


  • Explore a loose and contemporary approach to Spontaneous Plein Air Painting. Workshop with Georga...


  • Food Truck Festival

    09/12/2015
    12:00PM — 05:00PM

    Calling all Foodies!!! Join us on Saturday, September 12th from 12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. for a Food...


  • Victory for the Headwaters

    09/12/2015
    12:00PM — 08:00PM

    Victory Brewing Company (Victory) will host Victory for the Headwaters, a daylong celebration and...


  • Hootenanny Hoedown

    09/12/2015
    05:30PM

    Our 4th annual Hootenanny features a fantastic list of conservation minded partiers, delicious fo...


  • Sweet Sweet Music

    09/12/2015
    07:00PM

    An Evening of Fabulous Entertainment and Sweet Indulgence in a Landmark Venue to Benefit Chester ...


  • Milburn Orchards Grandparents Weekend Festival

    09/12/2015
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Grandparents get in FREE when accompanied by their grandchildren! Fall Festivals include unlimit...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • The Chester Springs Studio wood kiln is a two chamber noborigama, constructed in 2014 during a wo...


  • Taste Kennett Food Tours

    09/13/2015
    01:00PM — 04:00PM

    Taste Kennett Food Tours, creators of memorable, unique and fun food experiences, offer three-hou...


  • Milburn Orchards Grandparents Weekend Festival

    09/13/2015
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Grandparents get in FREE when accompanied by their grandchildren! Fall Festivals include unlimit...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Join us for a golf outing at Broad Run Golfer's Club. Event proceeds help to prevent and end fam...


  • Ready to Read

    09/14/2015
    10:30AM — 11:00PM

    Join our storyteller for book readings, songs, rhymes and crafts. From Monday, September 14 - Mo...


  • Tail Waggin' Tutors

    09/14/2015
    04:30PM — 06:00PM

    This relaxed animal friendly atmosphere allows students to practice the skill of reading. With c...


  • Meet & Greet Dharma

    09/14/2015
    05:00PM — 06:00PM

    Meet Dharma, a sweet German Shepard that is super smart! All are invited to meet her (without ap...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    09/14/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience wit...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Bird Walks At Middle Run

    09/15/2015
    08:00AM — 10:00AM

    Free! Every Autumn, more than 30 species of warblers pass through this county park and birders ...


  • Tail Waggin' Tutors

    09/15/2015
    04:30PM — 06:00PM

    This relaxed animal friendly atmosphere allows students to practice the skill of reading. With c...


  • Meet & Greet Lizzy

    09/15/2015
    05:00PM — 06:00PM

    Meet Lizzy, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi show dog champion! She is affectionate, smart and works at th...


  • Kids Book Club

    09/15/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Read or listen to a book of your choice and join us to talk about it with the group. Bring a fri...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Tail Waggin' Tutors

    09/16/2015
    04:30PM — 06:00PM

    This relaxed animal friendly atmosphere allows students to practice the skill of reading. With c...


  • Where Good Sleep Begins Workshop

    09/16/2015
    06:30PM — 08:30PM

    Banish Bedtime & Naptime Battles with The Sleep Lady's Gentle Method. Every parent knows getti...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Little Music Makers

    09/17/2015
    11:00AM — 11:30AM

    Every Thursday at the USTC, come Jam Out with… Little Music Makers …a mommy and me music class ...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    09/17/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


  • Teen Book Club

    09/17/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Read or listen to a book of your choice and join us to talk about it with the group. Bring a fri...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Eye Spy In The Forest

    09/18/2015
    09:30AM — 11:00AM

    Let’s play Eye Spy in the forest! Nests, toads, salamanders, mushrooms, leaf piles …what will w...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Thresholds of Chester County Seeks Volunteers

    09/19/2015
    08:30AM — 04:00PM

    Thresholds of Chester County is a nonprofit organization that teaches decision making tactics to ...


  • Walk for Life

    09/19/2015
    09:00AM — 11:30AM

    Join us for a day at the park! Enjoy a 2.5 mile walk through the lovely Anson B. Nixon park in Ke...


  • The Chester Springs Studio wood kiln is a two chamber noborigama, constructed in 2014 during a wo...


  • Free! Monarch Migration Celebration

    09/19/2015
    12:00PM — 04:00PM

    Celebrate one of nature's wonders…the great Monarch butterfly migration! Encounter live butterf...


  • Farm to Fork

    09/19/2015
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    This year’s Farm to Fork highlights the abundance of the season while honoring the important role...


  • Share a piece of Johnny Appleseed's Birthday cake, then pose and take pictures with the birthday ...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • The Chester Springs Studio wood kiln is a two chamber noborigama, constructed in 2014 during a wo...


  • Taste Kennett Food Tours

    09/20/2015
    01:00PM — 04:00PM

    Taste Kennett Food Tours, creators of memorable, unique and fun food experiences, offer three-hou...


  • Catch a ride on Coverdale’s hay wagon for a fun fall hayride through the preserve. Hop off at a...


  • Butterflies At Bucktoe

    09/20/2015
    02:00PM — 04:00PM

    Explore the beautifuln Bucktoe Creek Preserve in search of Monarchs, Swallowtails, and Fritillari...


  • Come join Lee Peterson, author of “Peterson’s Field Guide to Wild Edible Plants of Eastern/Centra...


  • Share a piece of Johnny Appleseed's Birthday cake, then pose and take pictures with the birthday ...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Ready to Read

    09/21/2015
    10:30AM — 11:00PM

    Join our storyteller for book readings, songs, rhymes and crafts. From Monday, September 14 - Mo...


  • Tail Waggin' Tutors

    09/21/2015
    04:30PM — 06:00PM

    This relaxed animal friendly atmosphere allows students to practice the skill of reading. With c...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    09/21/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience wit...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Bird Walks At Middle Run

    09/22/2015
    08:00AM — 10:00AM

    Free! Every Autumn, more than 30 species of warblers pass through this county park and birders ...


  • Backyard Explorers

    09/22/2015
    10:30AM

    Tuesday, September 22 at 10:30 AM, Ages 3 – 5, registration required. There’s so much to discove...


  • Tail Waggin' Tutors

    09/22/2015
    04:30PM — 06:00PM

    This relaxed animal friendly atmosphere allows students to practice the skill of reading. With c...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Green By Nature Preschool: Coolest Creatures

    09/23/2015
    09:30AM — 11:00AM

    They can climb walls, lift 500 times their own weight, fly thousands of miles - even though the...


  • Tail Waggin' Tutors

    09/23/2015
    04:30PM — 06:00PM

    This relaxed animal friendly atmosphere allows students to practice the skill of reading. With c...


  • Autumn Equinox Hike & Campfire

    09/23/2015
    06:00PM — 07:30PM

    Welcome the coming of autumn! We will head to the Hawk Watch to scan the skies for soaring rapt...


  • This is a great time to make sure that the students in your house have the most important school ...


  • Little Music Makers

    09/24/2015
    11:00AM — 11:30AM

    Every Thursday at the USTC, come Jam Out with… Little Music Makers …a mommy and me music class ...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    09/24/2015
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


Chester County High School Sports