Skip to main content

The splendor of Longwood Gardens

07/02/2014 03:20PM, Published by ACL, Categories: In Print


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. J

oshua’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 

Image title

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 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 christmas at longwood


You might also like

Thumb_cfks-owners4-620x412

Stronger than yesterday

Members of CrossFit Kennett Square say that the exercise program provides functional fitness for any lifestyle
Thumb_carlin-005

Artist Neilson Carlin prepares image of faith for the world stage

Last January, Carlin was contacted by Bishop John McIntyre to paint a portrait of the Holy Family that would be the central icon for next year's World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Police seek bank robbery suspect

Local police are looking for the suspect in a bank robbery that took place in Kennett Square on August 15.

  • Milburn Orchards UPICK Cherry Adventure

    07/02/2015
    08:00am — 06:00pm

    Tons of sweet (both red & white) and tart cherries makes for a great UPICK Adventure for the whol...


  • Sunday Brunch

    07/02/2015
    11:00am — 02:00pm

    Every Sunday from 11-2PM Continental Buffet, Waffle bar, fresh fruits, Mimosa, Bloody Mary an...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    07/02/2015
    06:00pm — 07:00pm

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


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


  • Sunday Brunch

    07/04/2015
    11:00am — 02:00pm

    Every Sunday from 11-2PM Continental Buffet, Waffle bar, fresh fruits, Mimosa, Bloody Mary an...


  • Fitness Walks

    07/08/2015
    08:30am — 09:30am

    Turn off the treadmill and forget the gym! Start your day with an invigorating hour-long hike thr...


  • Native Plants of Summer

    07/08/2015
    09:30am — 11:30am

    When the exuberant spring wildflower display is over, summer challenges us to find eye-catching p...


  • Awaken Your Inner Artist: Drawing Workshop

    07/08/2015
    09:30am — 11:30am

    Release the artist within you! Enhance your creativity and artistic confidence by turning off you...


  • Awaken Your Inner Artist: Drawing Workshop

    07/08/2015
    09:30am — 11:30am

    Release the artist within you! Enhance your creativity and artistic confidence by turning off you...


  • Gentle Yoga

    07/08/2015
    05:00pm — 06:00pm

    Reduce the aches and pains of age by increasing your range of motion through the practice of yoga...


  • Hatha Yoga

    07/08/2015
    06:30pm — 07:30pm

    This series of vigorous exercises is designed to strengthen the body and increase flexibility whi...


  • Sunday Brunch

    07/02/2015
    11:00am — 02:00pm

    Every Sunday from 11-2PM Continental Buffet, Waffle bar, fresh fruits, Mimosa, Bloody Mary an...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    07/02/2015
    06:00pm — 07:00pm

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


  • Milburn Orchards UPICK Cherry Adventure

    07/02/2015
    08:00am — 06:00pm

    Tons of sweet (both red & white) and tart cherries makes for a great UPICK Adventure for the whol...


  • West Chester Applebee’s, located at 1107 West Chester Pike, will be hosting two lemonade stands: ...


  • Sunday Brunch

    07/03/2015
    11:00am — 02:00pm

    Every Sunday from 11-2PM Continental Buffet, Waffle bar, fresh fruits, Mimosa, Bloody Mary an...


  • Milburn Orchards UPICK Cherry Adventure

    07/03/2015
    08:00am — 06:00pm

    Tons of sweet (both red & white) and tart cherries makes for a great UPICK Adventure for the whol...


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


  • Sunday Brunch

    07/04/2015
    11:00am — 02:00pm

    Every Sunday from 11-2PM Continental Buffet, Waffle bar, fresh fruits, Mimosa, Bloody Mary an...


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


  • Half the Money, all the bottle. Every Tuesday

    07/05/2015
    11:00am — 09:00pm

    EVERY TUESDAY ‎Half the money, all the bottle.1/2 Price Bottle of Wine / Every Tuesday with your...


  • Delaware Aerospace Overnight Academy

    07/05/2015
    12:00pm — 03:00pm

    Destination Moon academy is for students entering 7, 8, & 9th grade. The academy will run from J...


  • Week long academy at University of Delaware, Clayton Hall, from July 5th through July 10th for st...


  • Steamin' Day at Auburn Heights

    07/05/2015
    12:30pm — 04:30pm

    Celebrate stars, stripes, and steam during Steamin’ Day at Auburn Heights over the 4th of July ho...


  • Taste Kennett Food Tours

    07/05/2015
    01:00pm — 04:00pm

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


  • Taste Kennett Food Tours

    07/05/2015
    01:00pm — 04:00pm

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


  • Half the Money, all the bottle. Every Tuesday

    07/06/2015
    11:00am — 09:00pm

    EVERY TUESDAY ‎Half the money, all the bottle.1/2 Price Bottle of Wine / Every Tuesday with your...


  • Monday's are Whiskey nights at Minihane's

    07/06/2015
    05:00pm — 11:00pm

    Whisky is not the same as Whiskey! There is some debate about whether or not Scottish distill...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    07/06/2015
    06:00pm — 07:00pm

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


  • Half the Money, all the bottle. Every Tuesday

    07/07/2015
    11:00am — 09:00pm

    EVERY TUESDAY ‎Half the money, all the bottle.1/2 Price Bottle of Wine / Every Tuesday with your...


  • Fitness Walks

    07/08/2015
    08:30am — 09:30am

    Turn off the treadmill and forget the gym! Start your day with an invigorating hour-long hike thr...


  • Native Plants of Summer

    07/08/2015
    09:30am — 11:30am

    When the exuberant spring wildflower display is over, summer challenges us to find eye-catching p...


  • Awaken Your Inner Artist: Drawing Workshop

    07/08/2015
    09:30am — 11:30am

    Release the artist within you! Enhance your creativity and artistic confidence by turning off you...


  • Awaken Your Inner Artist: Drawing Workshop

    07/08/2015
    09:30am — 11:30am

    Release the artist within you! Enhance your creativity and artistic confidence by turning off you...


  • Gentle Yoga

    07/08/2015
    05:00pm — 06:00pm

    Reduce the aches and pains of age by increasing your range of motion through the practice of yoga...


  • Hatha Yoga

    07/08/2015
    06:30pm — 07:30pm

    This series of vigorous exercises is designed to strengthen the body and increase flexibility whi...


  • Sunday Brunch

    07/09/2015
    11:00am — 02:00pm

    Every Sunday from 11-2PM Continental Buffet, Waffle bar, fresh fruits, Mimosa, Bloody Mary an...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    07/09/2015
    06:00pm — 07:00pm

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


  • West Chester Applebee’s, located at 1107 W Chester Pike is hosting a bake sale July 10 through Ju...


  • Sunday Brunch

    07/10/2015
    11:00am — 02:00pm

    Every Sunday from 11-2PM Continental Buffet, Waffle bar, fresh fruits, Mimosa, Bloody Mary an...


  • Evil Dead: The Musical

    07/10/2015
    08:00pm

    Bootless returns for a fourth round of Ash-Kicking! Five college students spend the weekend in ...


  • Friday Night Lights

    07/10/2015
    08:00pm — 11:00pm

    Natural Lands Trust's popular adults-only event returns for the fifth year! Enjoy a relaxing even...


  • How Not to Kill Your Tree

    07/11/2015
    09:00am — 11:00am

    Every tree is a masterpiece of form, function, and value. This homeowner-friendly workshop presen...


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


  • Second Saturdays

    07/11/2015
    10:00am — 04:00pm

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


  • Sunday Brunch

    07/11/2015
    11:00am — 02:00pm

    Every Sunday from 11-2PM Continental Buffet, Waffle bar, fresh fruits, Mimosa, Bloody Mary an...


  • Evil Dead: The Musical

    07/11/2015
    08:00pm

    Bootless returns for a fourth round of Ash-Kicking! Five college students spend the weekend in ...


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


  • Half the Money, all the bottle. Every Tuesday

    07/12/2015
    11:00am — 09:00pm

    EVERY TUESDAY ‎Half the money, all the bottle.1/2 Price Bottle of Wine / Every Tuesday with your...


  • Save Our Monarchs

    07/12/2015
    12:30pm — 03:30pm

    Monarch butterfly numbers have declined more than 90% over the past 20 years. Habitat destruction...


  • Taste Kennett Food Tours

    07/12/2015
    01:00pm — 04:00pm

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


  • Taste Kennett Food Tours

    07/12/2015
    01:00pm — 04:00pm

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


  • Half the Money, all the bottle. Every Tuesday

    07/13/2015
    11:00am — 09:00pm

    EVERY TUESDAY ‎Half the money, all the bottle.1/2 Price Bottle of Wine / Every Tuesday with your...


  • Monday's are Whiskey nights at Minihane's

    07/13/2015
    05:00pm — 11:00pm

    Whisky is not the same as Whiskey! There is some debate about whether or not Scottish distill...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    07/13/2015
    06:00pm — 07:00pm

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


  • Half the Money, all the bottle. Every Tuesday

    07/14/2015
    11:00am — 09:00pm

    EVERY TUESDAY ‎Half the money, all the bottle.1/2 Price Bottle of Wine / Every Tuesday with your...


  • Fitness Walks

    07/15/2015
    08:30am — 09:30am

    Turn off the treadmill and forget the gym! Start your day with an invigorating hour-long hike thr...


  • Native Plants of Summer

    07/15/2015
    09:30am — 11:30am

    When the exuberant spring wildflower display is over, summer challenges us to find eye-catching p...


  • Awaken Your Inner Artist: Drawing Workshop

    07/15/2015
    09:30am — 11:30am

    Release the artist within you! Enhance your creativity and artistic confidence by turning off you...


  • Awaken Your Inner Artist: Drawing Workshop

    07/15/2015
    09:30am — 11:30am

    Release the artist within you! Enhance your creativity and artistic confidence by turning off you...


  • Gentle Yoga

    07/15/2015
    05:00pm — 06:00pm

    Reduce the aches and pains of age by increasing your range of motion through the practice of yoga...


  • Hatha Yoga

    07/15/2015
    06:30pm — 07:30pm

    This series of vigorous exercises is designed to strengthen the body and increase flexibility whi...


  • Sunday Brunch

    07/16/2015
    11:00am — 02:00pm

    Every Sunday from 11-2PM Continental Buffet, Waffle bar, fresh fruits, Mimosa, Bloody Mary an...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    07/16/2015
    06:00pm — 07:00pm

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


  • Sunday Brunch

    07/17/2015
    11:00am — 02:00pm

    Every Sunday from 11-2PM Continental Buffet, Waffle bar, fresh fruits, Mimosa, Bloody Mary an...


  • Evil Dead: The Musical

    07/17/2015
    08:00pm

    Bootless returns for a fourth round of Ash-Kicking! Five college students spend the weekend in ...


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


  • Sunday Brunch

    07/18/2015
    11:00am — 02:00pm

    Every Sunday from 11-2PM Continental Buffet, Waffle bar, fresh fruits, Mimosa, Bloody Mary an...


  • Civil War Brass Band Concert

    07/18/2015
    05:00pm

    On Saturday, July 18th the Mill at Anselma Preservation & Education Trust will present a concert ...


  • Evil Dead: The Musical

    07/18/2015
    08:00pm

    Bootless returns for a fourth round of Ash-Kicking! Five college students spend the weekend in ...


  • Integrated Pest Management

    07/18/2015
    08:30am — 05:00pm

    Every garden is home to a host of life. Unfortunately, some of these six- and eight-legged arthro...


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


  • Half the Money, all the bottle. Every Tuesday

    07/19/2015
    11:00am — 09:00pm

    EVERY TUESDAY ‎Half the money, all the bottle.1/2 Price Bottle of Wine / Every Tuesday with your...


  • Milburn Orchards Sundae Sunday

    07/19/2015
    12:00pm — 05:00pm

    Celebrate National Ice Cream Day at Milburn's on 7/19 with FREE face painting from 12-3pm, plus a...


  • Taste Kennett Food Tours

    07/19/2015
    01:00pm — 04:00pm

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


  • Taste Kennett Food Tours

    07/19/2015
    01:00pm — 04:00pm

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


  • Life in the 1860s Weekend

    07/19/2015
    10:00am — 04:00pm

    How did people dress and live in the 1860s? What was it like to be a miller at this time? Come ou...


  • Vacation Bible School

    07/20/2015
    09:00am — 12:00pm

    Vacation Bible School will be held July 20-24, 2015, 9 am until noon at The United Church of Chr...


  • Half the Money, all the bottle. Every Tuesday

    07/20/2015
    11:00am — 09:00pm

    EVERY TUESDAY ‎Half the money, all the bottle.1/2 Price Bottle of Wine / Every Tuesday with your...


  • Glee Club Camp

    07/20/2015
    01:00pm — 03:00pm

    A half day Glee Camp for ages 7-14! Have fun singing and dancing to popular new songs! Small perf...


  • Monday's are Whiskey nights at Minihane's

    07/20/2015
    05:00pm — 11:00pm

    Whisky is not the same as Whiskey! There is some debate about whether or not Scottish distill...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    07/20/2015
    06:00pm — 07:00pm

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


  • Half the Money, all the bottle. Every Tuesday

    07/21/2015
    11:00am — 09:00pm

    EVERY TUESDAY ‎Half the money, all the bottle.1/2 Price Bottle of Wine / Every Tuesday with your...


  • Glee Club Camp

    07/21/2015
    01:00pm — 03:00pm

    A half day Glee Camp for ages 7-14! Have fun singing and dancing to popular new songs! Small perf...


  • The Spayed Club now has THREE transport locations throughout the Greater Philadelphia area -- Pot...


  • Fitness Walks

    07/22/2015
    08:30am — 09:30am

    Turn off the treadmill and forget the gym! Start your day with an invigorating hour-long hike thr...


  • Native Plants of Summer

    07/22/2015
    09:30am — 11:30am

    When the exuberant spring wildflower display is over, summer challenges us to find eye-catching p...


  • Glee Club Camp

    07/22/2015
    01:00pm — 03:00pm

    A half day Glee Camp for ages 7-14! Have fun singing and dancing to popular new songs! Small perf...


  • Awaken Your Inner Artist: Drawing Workshop

    07/22/2015
    09:30am — 11:30am

    Release the artist within you! Enhance your creativity and artistic confidence by turning off you...


  • Gentle Yoga

    07/22/2015
    05:00pm — 06:00pm

    Reduce the aches and pains of age by increasing your range of motion through the practice of yoga...


  • Hatha Yoga

    07/22/2015
    06:30pm — 07:30pm

    This series of vigorous exercises is designed to strengthen the body and increase flexibility whi...


  • Sunday Brunch

    07/23/2015
    11:00am — 02:00pm

    Every Sunday from 11-2PM Continental Buffet, Waffle bar, fresh fruits, Mimosa, Bloody Mary an...


  • Glee Club Camp

    07/23/2015
    01:00pm — 03:00pm

    A half day Glee Camp for ages 7-14! Have fun singing and dancing to popular new songs! Small perf...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    07/23/2015
    06:00pm — 07:00pm

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


Chester County High School Sports