Brandywine Weekend

I am just back from a long weekend spent in the Brandywine Valley spanning the border of Pennsylvania and Delaware. A few friends and I drove down principally to visit Winterthur, but I think we were blindsided by all the attractions of this beautiful region: the lush landscape was a welcome escape from still-Spartan New England too! As usual, time was limited, so I felt like I was rushing around trying to see and capture as many houses, gardens, and treasures as possible, but there was simply too much. I’m going to have to go back and spend a week or more. So what you will see in these next two posts are rather impressionistic views of the region in general and Winterthur in particular. When I return, the first thing I’m going to do is drive down every single road slowly (or maybe bicycle) so I can see as many old houses as possible: stone, brick, wood, and combinations thereof, small and large.


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Just a sample of the many beautiful houses in the Brandywine Valley: you can see that I was drawn to the stone as it’s more unusual in New England. We were fortunate to be taken to see Primitive Hall, a 1738 manor house in Chester County, Pennsylvania, with its double (“pent”) roof, a common architectural feature of early houses in the region, including the Gideon Gilpin House at the Brandywine Battlefield site. The Battle of Brandywine was the Marquis de Lafayette’s first American battle, and he was quartered at the Gilpin House.

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Primitive Hall exterior and interior and the Gideon Gilpin House at the Brandywine Battlefield site; outbuildings of both houses—I could write an entire post on historic Brandywine sheds!

The region is beautifully preserved, in large part due to the work of the Brandywine Conservancy, as well as the institutional presence of the Brandywine River Museum, Winterthur, and Longwood Gardens, and the efforts of farm (horses! mushrooms!) owners as well, I am sure. What really stood out for me, besides the abundance of open land, were a number of really stately trees—and I am no tree girl. Looming over the public part of the Brandywine Battlefield site is an American sycamore tree dating to 1787–almost a witness to the Revolution. We saw a seventeenth-century “Penn Oak” on the grounds of the London Grove Friends Meeting House in West Marlborough, Pennsylvania, and many old trees in Longwood Gardens.





Longwood Gardens, the lifetime passion and achievement of industrialist and philanthropist Pierre S. du Pont (1870-1954) was almost overwhelming in its beauty, scale, organization and administration. What a resource for this community! I would live there if I lived nearby. I think we visited at the perfect time with abundant spring blooms everywhere, but I’m sure it’s beautiful in every season and I intend to visit in every season. There was rather dreary day on the Friday we visited, but the sun miraculously appeared for the afternoon, so no filters were needed for these photos!












20190426_153431Longwood Gardens + Conservatory and “Green Wall” surrounding restroom doors!

I don’t think that we were completely prepared (yet again) for just how charming the Brandywine River Museum of Art is, with its comprehensive yet intimate focus on multiple generations of the multi-talented Wyeth family. I was pretty familiar with patriarch N.C. Wyeth’s illustration work,, somewhat familiar with that of his son Andrew, and a bit familiar with that of his grandson Jamie, but I had no idea that all of his children were so talented, that he was mentored by my favorite illustrator of all time, Howard Pyle, and that he suffered such a tragic death (crushed by a train, along with his little grandson, in 1945). There was also a poignant tribute to Phyllis Mills Wyeth, the wife and muse of Jamie Wyeth, who died just this past January, in the form of an exhibition of Jamie’s works which depict and were inspired by her—including a series of charming Christmas cards which he made for her every year. A visit to the Wyeth family home and N.C.’s studio nearby enhanced the whole experience, and also highlighted how and why the Brandywine Valley was and is so inspirational.

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20190426_115536Treasures of the Brandywine River Museum of Art, including: Howard Pyle’s influential “historic” illustrations and a N.C. Wyeth cover, Andrew Wyeth’s Snow Hill  and Jamie Wyeth’s Lime Bag, N.C.’s studio exterior and interior and in Andrew’s North Light, N.C. Wyeth, framed by his parents and looking down on his talented family, a Jamie Wyeth Christmas card for his beloved wife Phyllis.

18 responses to “Brandywine Weekend

  • az1407t

    What a stunning collection of photos. One of the ares in this country that I haven’t visited yet. I’ve been wanting to go to Winterthur – is it big? I think I could spend a few weeks in this area and take in Philadelphia too. So much history there.

  • Jenni Haas

    Loved all of this! Friend of mine was Phyllis’ assistant for years. Thank you for your blog.

  • fbradking

    Donna, yet another feast for the eyes! Your photos are fabulous and present a part of the world I haven’t seen much of yet. And that touch-down on the Wyeths! Just extraordinary. Thank you, thank you … (fbk)

  • Laura

    Gorgeous wonderful photos. Your selection of houses to photograph just wonderfully interesting.

    When you said you would love to live at Longwood, so to speak–that and these photos helped me make a decision. I’d been looking at two independent retirement communities (got about 3-4 years). One near Longwood and one in Maryland. The apartments/cottages were smaller at the place near Longwood. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Longwood, but your photos reminded me how absolutely beautiful it is. And the retirement community near it has been also declared an arboretum itself. Yeah, who cares about apartment size! 🙂

    Again, wonderful photography. I think you said once you don’t use fancy equipment, but clearly, selection and angle counts for so much more!!

    • daseger

      I was not only impressed with how Longwood looks, but also how it is run–everything was so perfect and clean and blooming! Apparently it operates with something like 800 volunteers: I would sign right up if I was in the area!

    • Carol

      My mother was a Nursing director at one of those communities and my first job was also there. They are gem facilities. I am sure you would have so much to do in Southeastern OA that apartment size won’t matter.

  • Eilene Lyon

    I really need to get to Philadelphia to research family and you’ve just given me another great reason to head east. These photos are sooo enticing! If you like du Pont’s gardens, you should see the Huntington in California that I visited and blogged about recently. Thanks for this lovely tour.😊

  • Sarah Desjardins

    Next time you visit, you HAVE to see the Village of Marshallton, PA. You’ll love the history, stone houses and trees there. There’s Martin’s Tavern, which is a partially restored inn used by Revolutionary War soldiers, the old Blacksmith’s Shop, the Marshallton Inn, and there’s also an educational area where you can learn all about the history of the Village.

  • Carole Anderson

    Beautiful pictures! Having been here, the pictures bring back fond memories. Thank you for sharing. 🌷

  • Carol H

    Wow! You did A LOT in your short visit! Wonderful blog and amazing photos! I had the privilege of growing up in Chadds Ford. Needless to say-‘raised’ in the cusp of the Pyle, Wyeth, and DuPont gifts. I still have family there and luckily do not live too far away so as to allow for frequent visits to all the treasures.

    • daseger

      I’m really impressed by the conservation of land, so much beautiful architecture, and so many great cultural institutions. It must have been a lovely place to grow up, and to live in or near.

  • Frank LaManna

    That mustve been awesome trip. I live in Pennsylvania as well, and I think I’d like visit there sometime. 💕💕

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