Peirce-du Pont House

A stone and brick house is seen surrounded by autumn trees of yellow and orange and a morning fog
Style
Colonial, Historic, Storied
Best Seasons to Visit
Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn

History lovers rejoice, as you can step back in time for a glimpse into the lives of the du Ponts and the Peirce family at one of the oldest buildings at Longwood. If you had any doubts about founder Pierre S. du Pont’s (1870-1954) passion for plants, consider his addition of a conservatory to his home—Longwood's first conservatory, and Pierre's way of beating the winter blues. Today it houses an impressive collection of tropical specimens and a Monstera deliciosa vine that’s been there since the mid-1900s.

About This Home

Centrally located within Longwood, the Peirce-du Pont House can be seen as an anchor—the home base for two very important stewards of this region’s land (and the evolution of the Brandywine Valley). As you tour the residence, enjoy the Heritage Exhibit, covering 300 years of history and horticulture at Longwood. Short videos, photographs, artifacts, and some of the original plans for the early days of Longwood are here, with many spaces to sit and take it all in. The gardens that surround the home provide shaded benches for resting, along with proximity to the stunning trees of Peirce’s Park just east of the house. Springtime brings a sea of flowering bulbs on the nearby lawns and the fragrant allure of wisteria. Come late summer and fall, look for the blooms of the Franklin tree. If you’re taking a break from the sun, or you’re craving a getaway on a chillier day, the warmth of the airy, sunlit conservatory is a great place to consider the earliest beginnings of Longwood.

A Bit Of History

“I have recently experienced what I would formerly have diagnosed as an attack of insanity: that is, I have purchased a small farm,” wrote Pierre in August 1906. In addition to the 202-acre property purchased from the Peirce family, he had newly acquired the farmhouse where they’d lived for generations. Built in 1730 by Joshua Peirce, house is the oldest structure at Longwood. In truth, Pierre did not need a new home, nor did he initially have any plans to build lavish gardens, but he did imagine it would be a lovely place to entertain his friends.

Pierre soon hired a property manager to address the necessary care for the arboretum and the property at large. It was time to focus on his new home, and the first step was making it more liveable not only for him, but for his caretakers and guests. He personally shopped for the décor and furnishings, from the wallpaper to the rugs to the furniture. As he created a warm and welcoming homestead for his new life at Longwood, other plans for the land were percolating, and in the spring, his love of gardening inspired the creation of Flower Garden Walk as well as the Round Fountain.

Black and white photo of historic brick house with a roundabout road leading up to it
du Pont Mansion Near Kennett Square, c. 1909-1912.

In 1914, he reported that Longwood was “rather dreary in winter” and that few guests visited his grounds. To resolve this feeling of bleakness, Pierre constructed a small conservatory as part of an addition to the main house. It was planted as a winter garden and was the first indoor display area at Longwood. This new space may have served as inspiration for a large-scale conservatory that would later draw crowds to Longwood, even during the cold winter months. By 1918, Pierre was planning the construction of a grand conservatory within the core Longwood landscape.

As a man who closely followed the innovations of the day, Pierre outfitted his expanded home with many state-of-the-art components, including radiator heating with thermostatically controlled dampers, fire protection systems, electric plate-warming ovens, and even a towel dryer. To the delight of his nieces and nephews, he installed a bowling alley in the basement as well as a glass-bottomed fish pond built at ground level, providing a unique skylight for anyone who was engaged in a basement-bowling competition. 

In 1992, the house was closed for additional renovations and to prepare for the opening of the Heritage Exhibit. The newly refreshed home was reopened in July of 1995 to celebrate the 89th anniversary of Pierre's purchase of the property. Today, the museum is an enlightening destination for those who yearn for a glimpse into the past, as our gardens continue to evolve.