"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Historical Philadelphia and Winterthur, Delaware

For a little less than a week we stayed in West Chester, PA at a very nice KOA. While in the area we visited Longwood Gardens (see previous two posts), downtown Philadelphia, and the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library in nearby Delaware.

The area, called the Brandywine Valley is known for its historical richness, and this was evident on every back road.  Small, two story stone homes (some of them plastered and painted white) accompanied at times by huge stone barns are nestled in valleys, along the rivers, in little towns and on the rolling hills. I wanted to take many pictures, but there were rarely any shoulders on the roads to pull off safely, and all the locals are going about their 21st century business at breakneck speeds.  This is, after all, a commuter suburb of Philadelphia and Wilmington, DE.

I was able to take pictures of one home that is typical of the area - the John Chad house, after whom the town of Chadds Ford was named. John Chad had a ferry that crossed the Brandywine.

 The stone is called blue stone according to the information on site, even though it is all different colors.

This barn was on a side road where I could safely pull off for a second. It was a real beauty. Notice the slits in the stone walls for ventilation.

We also spent a day in Philadelphia to basically see Independence Square. Parking was a hassle, as was finding our way around. We bought our tickets for the tour, had an uninspiring lunch somewhere and wandered around a bit.

I did like this view of a side street in the historic district.

Here's a view of Independence Hall.  We aren't wild about cities, so we were in an out pretty quickly. I'm sure we missed a lot of things that others would find interesting. Sorry Philadelphia.

In contrast, our visit to Winterthur was relaxed and inspiring. It was quieter than Longwood - fewer visitors, but the same kind of quality experience in every way. At the Visitors Center you get a tram that takes you on a long ride through the extensive arboretum and woodland gardens, then deposits you at the house/museum (below).  The house, once the residence of Henry Francis duPont and now a museum, is nine stories on the side you can see here, and four stories on the back. It is built into a hillside and surrounded by trees. Very low profile except for this view. Not particularly inspiring on the outside.

Henry duPont was a collector of antique American furniture, tools, and housewares of various sorts, and his home was completely furnished with them.  Each room of the house had a different style of furnishings. Below are a set of Paul Revere silver tankards in a room furnished in the same period as the tankards. 

Guests are led through the house in groups of ten, by a very informative guide.  Unlike similar places , guests are free to take pictures. I noticed that items (like silverware) that were sitting out on the furniture were strung with clear filament like fishing line - so fine you could barely see it. I suppose it was all hooked in to some kind of alarm system. There were times when the guide was way ahead of us, and it would be pretty easy for someone to pocket some silverware, so the security system must be effective.

This colonial era room was one of our favorites. 

This room had hand painted Chinese wallpaper from the 18th century.

An adjacent building is a more typical museum with other collections of American material culture including tools and primitive arts. 

This grand staircase is in the museum section.  Looks just like an eye from this angle, doesn't it?

Outside there are lovely gardens to wander through, but very low key compared to Longwood.  There was also an interesting gift shop and a excellent small cafe.  

Oh, I almost forgot the Campbell's soup tureen collection. We found it odd.  

Next stop, Fallingwater!

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