Nemours Mansion and Garden

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A Turning Point

Gunpowder workers who knew Alfred I. du Pont as a friendly, hard-working manager found the imposing portrait to be a poor likeness, even if du Pont rather liked it. Their congenial boss seemed stern and sullen in the painting. But 1913, the year du Pont stood for the portrait that now hangs in his former home, Nemours Mansion, was the beginning of a difficult period in his life. Things would only get worse in the next few years, as he became embroiled in a bitter legal battle over the future of the du Pont company and endured the death of his wife in 1920.

By 1913, in short, du Pont was at a crossroads. In all likelihood, he was headed towards an unhappy old age – a wealthy one, to be sure, but one without much purpose.

But things started looking up when the widower married an energetic young woman named Jessie Ball. Ball rejuvenated him. They travelled and together they turned his longstanding interest in science and medicine towards philanthropic ends. His most profound legacy was a trust that funds the Nemours Foundation, a charity dedicated to children’s health causes.

Today, Nemours Mansion and Gardens share a campus with the Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, one of the largest children’s hospitals in the country. This gives the site a unique opportunity to serve museum visitors, garden enthusiasts, and patients and families of the Hospital. It’s a legacy that makes you wonder if that portrait of du Pont is hiding a smile after all.

 

Visit Nemours Mansion and Garden

Location: 850 Alapocas Dr., Wilmington, DE 19803

Phone: (800) 651-6912

Hours: May-November, Tuesday-Saturday, 10AM-5PM, Sunday 12PM-5PM.

Admission: $17 adults, $15 seniors, $7 children.

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Connections: In Odessa, Delaware, a contemporary and relative-by-marriage of Alfred I. du Pont’s named H. Rodney Sharp left a different legacy by helping to preserve a number of the early buildings, establishing the Historic Odessa Foundation.