Road Trip! Destination: Brandywine Valley
By Alice T. Carter
Published: Sunday, June 26, 2011
Picture-perfect landscapes, stately mansions, historic sites and well-stocked art museums make the Brandywine Valley a destination you'll want to explore inside and out.
Radiating north from the city of Wilmington, Del., the Brandywine Valley ignores state borderlines to encompass attractions in Pennsylvania, including Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square and the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford.
The Brandywine Scenic Byway that connects Wilmington to Kennett Square and Chadds Ford via a loop formed of routes 52 and 100 is an attraction in its own right.
Route 52 takes you through a rolling landscape interrupted by history-laden towns that beg you to explore them. Centerville Village boasts 15 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Route 100 goes right past the Historic Inn at Montchanin Village, which is part of a restored town originally built for laborers at the nearby DuPont Powder Mills.
Often referred to as Chateau Country because of the wealth of mansions and carefully tended gardens that grace the region, there are abundant opportunities to pick up decorating or horticultural ideas or fantasize about living in other times and with larger incomes.
Brandywine River Museum
Housed in a 19th-century grist mill, the museum focuses on the region's artistic heritage, including three generations of the Wyeth family. N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945) was best known as the illustrator for magazine ads and classics such as "Treasure Island" and "The Last of the Mohicans," and a muralist and landscape artist. His son, Andrew, grandson Jamie and other members of the Wyeth clan followed in his footsteps, painting accessible portraits, landscapes and still lifes. Details: 610-388-2700 or www.brandywinemuseum.org.
By day, its 1,077 acres of well-tended floral displays, topiary, woodlands pathways and an indoor conservatory provide inspiration for the home gardener and opportunities for serene contemplation. Sundown brings out another side of Longwood. On select Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 3, fireworks and fountains entertain visitors with dazzling displays. On other evenings, a diverse selection of musicians from the North Indian Bhangra and Brass Funk group Red Baraat to the Philadelphia Orchestra are featured. Details: 610-388-1000 or www.longwoodgardens.org.
Hagley Museum and Library
This 235-acre site provides an abundance of hands-on exhibits. and working models demonstrate how gunpowder and the fortunes of the du Pont family were made and how workers and owners lived. In the early 19th century, E.I. du Pont used water from the Brandywine River to power the mills and machinery that soon made his company the largest American manufacturer of gunpowder. Within walking distance of the powder yards is Workers' Hill, where Gibson House offers a look at how foremen and their families lived. The Brandywine Manufacturers' Sunday School shows where 19th-century workers' children learned to read and write. Eleutherian Mills, the du Pont family's home and French garden, gives a glimpse into their private life and business practices. Details: 302-658-2400 or www.hagley.org.
Delaware Art Museum
The museum is a mecca for fans of American artist John Sloan or British pre-Raphaelite artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti or Kate Greenway. The museum has the largest collection of pre-Raphaelite art in the United States. Much of Sloan's art depicts life in Manhattan at the start of the 20th century. Victorian-era, pre-Raphaelite artists often turned to stories from the Bible, mythology or Shakespeare for inspiration. A large collection of American art spans the 19th and 20th centuries with works by painters Edward Hopper and Winslow Homer and glass artist Dale Chihuly. In the open-air Copeland Sculpture Garden, you'll find Tom Otterness' 13-foot-tall bronze Crying Giant. In a hurry• Hit the highpoints of the collection with public tours at 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Details: 302-571-9590 or www.delart.org.
Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library
Henry Francis du Pont didn't just collect early-American antiques. He bought entire rooms, in some cases, right down to the hand-painted wallpaper. The collection contains 90,000 objects that span two centuries of American decorative arts from 1640 to 1860. They are shown as they originally were used in 175 room displays and in permanent and changing exhibit galleries. Travelers with small children can explore the house and gardens via the interactive Once Upon a Family tour. Youngsters might enjoy visiting the Tulip Tree House and Faerie Cottage in the whimsical, 3-acre Enchanted Woods. Details: 800-448-3883 or www.winterthur.org.
During July, September and October, the 17th-century Dutch sailing ship docks at the Wilmington Waterfront complex on the Delaware River. The original Kalmar Nyckel transported the Delaware Valley's first permanent European settlers from Sweden in 1638. Details: 302-429-7447 or www.kalmarnyckel.org.
Granted to William Penn by King Charles in 1682, Delaware was known as the "Lower Three Counties of Pennsylvania," until Penn allowed Delaware to separate from Pennsylvania in 1704. The colonies continued sharing the same crown-appointed governor until separation from England in 1776.Additional Information:
Getting there: Wilmington, Del., is about 300 miles from Pittsburgh. Driving time is about 5 hours, 20 minutes. Driving direction at www.google.com
Details: 800-489-6664 or website
Deal: Through Sept. 5, the Brandywine Treasure Trail Passport offers admission to 10 Brandywine Valley attractions for one discounted price: $35 for an individual or $75 for two adults and up to three children. Among participating sites are Hagley Museum and Library, Longwood Gardens, Winterthur Gardens & Library, Brandywine River Museum and Delaware Art Museum. Details: Website.
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