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Chester County Press

Longwood Gardens to acquire du Pont estate

02/07/2023 11:38AM ● By Richard Gaw
Photo by Jie Deng                  Longwood Gardens and The Conservation Fund have entered into an agreement with Granogue Reserve, LTD., LLC to acquire the 505-acre property known as the Granogue Estate in the Chateau region of northern Delaware.

By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer 

For those residents of Chester County and nearby Delaware who proudly acknowledge the area’s rich history, applaud the preservation of its legacy and believe in the retention of its wide open spaces, they recently became the recipients of a gift from Longwood Gardens that will be enjoyed in perpetuity.

Longwood Gardens and The Conservation Fund have entered into an agreement with Granogue Reserve, LTD., LLC (GRLLC) to acquire the 505-acre property known as the Granogue Estate, a transaction that will include all land and buildings.

The home was originally built in 1923 and served as the long-time residence of Irénée du Pont, Jr. -- an engineering executive and heir to the chemical company fortune who died on Jan. 16, 2023 -- and his wife, Barbara, who died on April 27, 2021.

While the financial details of the sale have not been made public, the acquisition was funded in part by the Longwood Foundation and the Mt. Cuba Center, a Delaware botanical garden incorporated in 1989 by Lammot du Pont Copeland.

“Longwood Gardens is honored to play a part in the preservation of Granogue,” said Paul B. Redman, President and CEO of Longwood Gardens. “We understand the important role this iconic landscape plays in our region’s ecology, community, and quality of life, and we look forward to working with our partners to ensure this treasure is stewarded for future generations to enjoy.” 

Located in the Brandywine River Corridor of northern Delaware near the Pennsylvania border, Granogue provides one of the most breathtaking vistas in the entire region and remains one of the last unprotected open spaces in the area. The property contains acres of farmland, forest, pastures, meadows and stone water towers, and with Longwood’s purchase, it will form a significant component of conservation efforts in the region. 

Negotiations that ultimately led to the sale of the estate first began in 2016, when GRLLC began discussions with Longwood Gardens and The Conservation Fund about the future of the property. It was followed by a preliminary study that provided an assessment of site conditions, and a master plan for the site was developed in 2018-19, with a commitment that Granogue would remain a pastoral cultural landscape.

“We are proud to play a role in preserving this ecologically vital parcel of the Brandywine River Corridor and ensuring it remains a pastoral jewel for the Brandywine Valley region to enjoy,” said Blaine T. Phillips, senior vice president of The Conservation Fund.

Continuing a long legacy of philanthropic leadership, du Pont family members and related cultural institutions have joined the effort to advance the collective vision for Granogue. While Longwood Gardens will own and operate Granogue, Mt. Cuba Center and the Longwood Foundation have provided generous support to help fund the acquisition. In addition, du Pont family members have generously contributed funds to establish a permanent endowment for future operations and advancement of the vision for Granogue.  

While Longwood Gardens has earned worldwide acclaim for its illustrious gardens and a solid reputation as a leader in horticultural education, it counts conservation as one of its key assets and missions. Its conservation efforts focus on the areas of conservation horticulture; land stewardship and ecology; agriculture, soils and compost; and floriculture production.

“Our gardens began with Pierre S. du Pont’s act of preservation to save a 202-acre arboretum that was important to the region and community,” Redman said. “Today, we are honoring the legacy of Longwood through an act of conservation to protect another landscape and add another open space that is important to our region and community.”

“Preserving this beautiful land is important to our family,” said Grace Engbring, daughter of Irénée and Barbara, who served as the family’s representative for GRLLC. “Longwood Gardens has shown great care in stewarding our great-uncle Pierre’s former estate, and I know Longwood will ensure Granogue thrives into the future.

“My father was committed to keeping Granogue as open space to be enjoyed by many and he did this very gracefully, just as Longwood will continue to do.”

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].