Monday, May 8, 2017

House at Winterthur

See previous Winterthur posts about the gardens and the children's garden at the links.

The house at Winterthur has grown over the years. The original twelve-room home was built by Jacques Antoine Biddermann and his wife Evelina (a daughter of the first du Pont to own the land) in the late 1830s. In the early 1900s, the du Ponts began adding wings and new facades until the "house" included a library, a museum, and 175 rooms!

View of the house from the garden tour

Current entrance between the library, the museum, and the house

Different tours are available. We chose the "Time Travelers" tour since it is intended for children. The tour began with an elegant colonial-era hutch that Henry Francis du Pont purchased on a trip. He was so taken with it that he started collecting all sorts of items from the American colonial period, many of which can be seen throughout the house.

A late 1700s hutch

A wood carving from the American colonial era

The tour took us through several rooms in the house, including one of the porches that overlooks the "back yard."

View of the yard and the library

Cool stairs leading down (not part of the tour, alas!)

Inside, we saw the dining room as it was set for one of the many dinners they had. Henry Francis du Pont was a meticulous man who kept extensive notes about which plates and silver were used, what was served, and what flowers were taken from the gardens to decorate the table. He never repeated the same combination!

The main dining room (George Washington's portrait over the fireplace!)

Several of the sitting rooms are also decorated in colonial style, with authentic or replica furniture.

Sitting room with a table that has a secret drawer!

Chinese Parlor with wallpaper popular in the colonial days

A gaming table in the parlor

The family went on a world tour in 1935 and 1936. Unbeknownst to the wife and children, H. F. du Pont had a marble staircase replaced with an elegant spiral staircase. Supposedly one of his daughters thought the new stairs were more exciting than the world tour, which is pretty hard to believe.

"New" spiral staircase with photos from a wedding reception in the room

More of the staircase

The conservatory also shows a bit of the colonial collecting that du Pont loved.

An eagle from a Boston carver

A Dutchman and a Native American with other symbols from colonial times

The entrance from the Conservatory (those busts are du Ponts in classical garb)

Another sitting room off the Conservatory has high tea ready to be served. If only the cakes and fruit were real!

High tea service off the Conservatory

Another sitting area has some spectacular "colonial harbor" wallpaper that fits the house's overall theme quite nicely.

Fancy wallpaper and some spare silver

We finished our tour of the house by visiting the "Touch-It Room" where children are encouraged to try out life in the house.

I thought the braille on the sign was an appropriate addition

The room has a dry-goods counter where my daughter pretended to sell us items, mostly through bartering (e.g., a pound of coffee cost one squirrel pelt!).

Dry goods for sale

A small fireplace is equipped with cooking utensils. A nearby shelf has plastic fruit, vegetables, and meats. My toddler started working on some stew.

Ready to cook old-school-style

Dropping in a sausage

Other activities include planning a room layout or a fancy party.

Choosing an activity

We only saw ten or twelve of the 175 rooms but that was plenty for the children. A good time was had by all!

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