We had four guests visiting us over the Thanksgiving holiday: my in-laws and Mr Pict’s oldest friend and his partner.  After a day of over-indulging in feasting, we all felt the need to get some fresh air and burn off some calories.  We, therefore, headed to Valley Forge to hike around the site of the encampment and the surrounding fields.  I have blogged about a previous visit to Valley Forge, back in Spring of 2016, so will not repeat myself here.  Suffice to say it was a fair bit colder than it had been during that first exploration.  The wind was so biting that I lost feeling in my ears.  I also tried to recreate a previous “gargoyle” photo but had misremembered which son was the model.

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The following day, the six adults went on a child-free trip across the border into Delaware.  Our destination for the day was Nemours.  This is a French chateau style mansion that Alfred Dupont built for the woman who would become his second wife.  We learned that Alicia was not easily wooed and that the mansion was Alfred’s final pitch at winning her affections.  She agreed to marry him but I am pretty certain he did not win her affections.  Indeed, the subtext of our entire tour of the property was how problematic and dysfunctional Alfred’s marriages were – and obviously he was the common denominator – and how suspicious a few events in the biographical timeline were, including sudden deaths that removed the necessity for a divorce or the mysterious advent of infants.  I basically had my own little dramatic soap opera playing in my head as I moved from room to room and learned more about Alfred and his wives.

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After a quick pootle around the grounds, we embarked on a guided tour led by an enthusiastic young woman named Kat.  She started the tour in the mansion’s basement and that turned out to be my favourite part of the house.  I have visited hundreds of stately homes, palaces, and castles in my time and the public rooms tend to be much of a muchness.  What set this home apart from the others that I have visited was that basement level.  Since he had built his mansion from scratch in the early 20th Century, Alfred was not having to cram modern technology into a much older building or try to couple the old and new.  He also seemed to be especially enthralled with engineering and with the cutting edge of mod cons so there were lots of fascinating gizmos, gadgets, and gubbins going on beneath the surface of the building.  As someone who spends too much of her life doing laundry, I especially liked the spacious laundry room – housed in an exterior building but connected to the mansion through a tunnel so that undies need never be exposed to public view.

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Each room in the house had been decorated for the Christmas season.  The chosen decorations were on a theme connected to the space in which they were sited and I enjoyed the festive sparkle and the attention to detail.  Again, my favourite trees were to be found in the basement level – a steampunk tree in the boiler room and a bottle tree in the bottling room.

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The house is beautifully decorated and immaculately maintained.  I found myself admiring the skill of the people who must remove every speck of dust from the surfaces in advance of doors being opened each day.  There was a lot of opulence on display but it was not so lavish as to be garish or excessive.  My favourite room was the conservatory closely followed by the kitchen.

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After completing our tour of the house, we wandered over to the garage – which was larger than my house – to see the family’s collection of very shiny luxury cars.  We contemplated having a walk around the grounds, which are laid out in a French style, but it was far too cold and we were too hungry to tolerate the cold.  We, therefore, bid farewell to Nemours and its muffled tales of familial dysfunction.  Since we have also visited Hagley Museum (way back in 2015), we now need to visit Delaware’s other open-to-the-public DuPont property at Winterarthur.


20 thoughts on “Nemours

  1. What a lovely place to visit. And as you say spotless! I’ve cleaned big houses for a living and it’s a labour of love.
    As someone who spends her life scrubbing snow and mud off the rough cream wall tiles the previous owner put on the floor of our main hallway, (why? Why?) I find myself very envious of a cleaning staff. Even though with three dogs, the youngest of which is eating everything not nailed downs and somethings that are, I am used to my house looking shabby (charitable description) I still dream of an immaculate domain. One day eh?

    • You must have a very interesting perspective on these large historic homes given your work insight. I loathe dusting so I often find myself scanning the ornamentation in such places and thinking, “That would just gather so much dust”. You would be able to add professional experience to that judgment.

      I think a “shabby” house looks welcoming and cozy precisely because it’s lived in. I feel more relaxed in such houses whereas I’m always a little on edge in pristine houses. My house is often pretty messy (things not being put away) but it’s always clean.

    • It’s definitely worth a visit. I know that you, like me, enjoy spinning narratives out of snippets of someone’s story or from observations and the DuPonts certainly provide lots of material for that.

      • I’ve been familiar with the company since I was a child (we lived near a DuPont company town and my father’s bank branch where he was manager was in this town and pretty much the whole plant employee group was his customers, execs to factory floor workers) and so the history of the family and so on is familiar, and even more so when I came to PA. Quite an interesting group.

      • It is interesting to contemplate how our outlook on the world, our experiences of it, are affected by the ages etc of the people with us at the given moment… so often I find it so true that, as Marcus Aurelius said “we bring forth the world together”.

  2. I too enjoy old houses that aren’t “perfect”, and I enjoy listening for the tales the objects etc tell. Personally I, ahem, decorate in a mish-mash of used bookstore and art gallery aesthetic. I keep things fairly clean, especially in the kitchen and bathrooms, but dust does linger too long on my living room surfaces occasionally. Wonder what the tour guides would say about my collections… 😆

    • Oh I am right there with you on the dusting. As I have confessed many times on this blog, if I have to sacrifice a household chore in a week in order to grab some much-needed art time, it is dusting that gets postponed. It’s so time-consuming, with having to move all the odds and sods from surfaces, and then it seems like all the dust migrates back as soon as I turn my back.

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