When visiting Longwood Gardens, you are immersed not only in the breathtaking surroundings but in a rich history as well. The traditions and elegance of the gardens have evolved over decades to create the magnificence we have today. Step back in time to learn about these important cultural events and their contributions.
There have been many stewards of the land that is now called Longwood Gardens. For thousands of years, the native Lenni Lenape tribe fished the streams, hunted its forests, and planted its fields.
Pierre du Pont was born in 1870. His early years were influenced by the area’s natural beauty and by the du Pont family’s long tradition of gardening. But not even Pierre himself could have predicted that he would someday become one of the country’s most influential gardeners.
It didn’t take Pierre long before he started making his mark on what he called Longwood. In 1907, Pierre laid out his first garden – the 600-foot-long Flower Garden Walk, which is today one of Longwood’s most popular gardens.
Ten years after purchasing Longwood, Pierre du Pont was just getting warmed up. By 1916 he was contemplating grand indoor facilities. The result was the stunning Conservatory, a perpetual Eden, that opened in 1921.
From 1925 to 1927, Pierre constructed an “Italian” Water Garden in a low-lying, marshy site northeast of Longwood’s Large Lake with 600 jets in nine separate displays that shot from six blue-tiled pools and 12 pedestal basins.
By the mid-1930s, Longwood had grown from the original 202 acres to 926 due to Pierre’s purchase of 25 contiguous properties over the years. In addition to horticulture, agriculture had always been important at Longwood, which started out, after all, as a farm.
In 1954, just three days after being awarded the Cravate de Commandeur of the French Legion of Honor, Pierre died at 84 years old. With his usual foresight, Pierre had in place a well-funded yet adaptable mechanism for Longwood to continue.
The late 1950s and early 1960s saw tremendous change at Longwood, comparable to the building program of the 1920s except the emphasis was now on public comfort and education.
There is one project that took center stage during this time period. The enormous Azalea House – now called the East Conservatory – opened in 1973 with much fanfare.
Nothing compares to the growth of Longwood’s Christmas Display. Attendance soared as more features were added, by 1984 there were 81 trees outdoors with 60,000 lights.
Already one of the world’s premier horticultural display gardens, Longwood continued to improve its growing practices and add new and inspired garden designs during this time period.
As Longwood Gardens approached the new millennium, its full attention turned toward long-range planning and maintaining its place as one of the world’s great gardens.
The Longwood Gardens of today bears little resemblance to the farm that Pierre du Pont purchased in 1906. With a yearly budget of nearly $50 million and a staff of 1,300 employees, students and volunteers, Longwood is continuously evolving to meet the demands and tastes of the next century.