A Room with a Stereoview
If you had the right connections in 1929 and a little bit of extra cash, it wasn’t all that hard to buy a seventeenth-century room. Or at least that’s the position in which Henry Francis du Pont, one of the trendsetters of American antiques collecting, found himself when he heard that New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art had purchased the circa 1695 house of New Hampshire merchant John Wentworth (1671-1730). But the Met only had room for parts of the house, and so they sold the paneling and architectural beams from one of its second-floor chambers to du Pont.
Du Pont was already well on his way to assembling a collection of American antiques that eventually filled his 175-room mansion with 85,000 objects. Many of these rooms featured fragments of original structures like the Wentworth House that provided the context and backdrop for du Pont’s carefully curated displays. Over time, curators and librarians have added more gems to the museum and library collections and made new historical discoveries.
Some of Winterthur’s rooms are “frozen” so that they look exactly as du Pont left them when he converted his home into a permanent museum in 1951. Others, like the Wentworth Room, have changed over time. You can see some of this evolution when you compare a 1930s stereoview photograph of the room with a more recent photograph.
When you visit Winterthur’s rooms, you’ll see glittering silver, painted ceramics, and carved furniture. But don’t forget to take a careful look at the rooms themselves and think about their own fascinating histories.
Visit Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Location: 5105 Kennett Pike (Route 52), Winterthur, DE 19735
Phone: (800) 448-3883
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10AM-5 PM (last house tickets sold at 3:15PM)
Admission: $20.00 adult/$5.00 children (senior and student discounts)
Connections: One of Delaware’s only seventeenth-century houses, the Ryves Holt House, is preserved and interpreted by the Lewes Historical Society.