What could be better than taking in beautiful flowers while sipping on wine? Nothing, that's what! Two friends of mine and I decided we needed a girls’ trip, but we wanted to stay within about three hours of where we all live in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Our goal was to relax, check out the spring flowers, visit some wineries, and maybe squeeze in antique shop or two. We decided that Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley, bordering Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, fit the bill. And that included a visit to Winterthur - a first for all three of us!
Where is it?
Winterthur is in the Brandywine Valley, which is located in northern Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania. Winterthur is in Delaware, roughly 45 minutes from Philadelphia. Traffic can be, you know, challenging, so plan accordingly. We anticipated about 1.5 hours and it took us over 2 hours.
A VERY brief history of the Brandywine Valley
According to the National Park Service, the Brandywine Valley was home to the Lenape Indians, which they used for fishing. Originally, the Swedish and Dutch arrived, looking for navigable waterways, but determined that the Brandywine Valley waterways were not large enough. Then, the English settlers, primarily Quakers, arrived and began occupying the land. Several years later, King Charles II of England granted the land (45,000 square miles) to William Penn as repayment on a loan Penn had made to the King’s father.
Fast forward past A LOT of key details, like how the King even got the land from the Lenape in the first place (hmmm), William Penn, at a certain point, carved up the land to make sure the land wasn’t landlocked. He granted land access to the Lenape (aka, a reservation), and the Europeans broke the agreement with the Lenape, resulting in the Lenape being removed from the land. Penn eventually sold a part of the land to the Pennsylvania Land Company, which then sold it to Quaker settlers. The Brandywine Valley became an important farming and milling area.
The DuPont influence in the area
The DuPont family was, and is, a big deal in the area, specifically in Delaware. Around 1800, Eleuthere Irenee du Pont de Nemours, a chemist, left his native France for America where he founded a gunpowder manufacturing company that eventually became DuPont (yep, THAT DuPont). The family acquired significant portions of land and a portion of the family’s vast land holdings became Winterthur, which was the home of Henry Francis DuPont - an avid gardener.
The daffodils were in full bloom at Winterthur! And we attended a special event called, “Sip Among the Daffodils”. For $50 per person you received a gift bag that included four tickets for wine tastings at various points along the designated path, a stemless wine glass (which is also good for beer! Just sayin’…), and a packet of wildflower seeds. Each wine ticket had a part that you submitted for your wine. The stubs had factoids about the estate. The wine path meandered through flowering daffodil beds. And, while you enjoyed your wine, you could also listen to a jazz duo play. Before our self-guided wine and daffodil tour began, we took a tram ride around the grounds (60 acres of gardens and 25 miles of paths!). Our guide enthusiastically described the flowers and history of the grounds and its buildings. Theon the And the weather was warm and sunny. Overall a fantastic visit!
Tip for visiting Winterthur: Download a plant identification app. I downlowded a free one – PlantNet – and it was well worth. Or, you could just bring a master gardener with you. Whichever is easier.
Tram Tour: The 30-minute tram tour is included in all tickets, not just the event tickets we bought. I recommend doing the tram tour, but it fills up quickly, so grab a seat as soon as you can. It leaves from the visitor center, so, after you buy your ticket, head to the tram. The tour is a nice introduction to the grounds.
Factoid #1: Where does the name Winterthur come from? According to Winterthur information, “[I]n 1816 Irénée's daughter Evelina married Jacques Antoine Bidermann, an investor in E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. In 1837 the couple purchased 450 acres from her father's estate, built a 12-room Greek Revival house, and named the property Winterthur in honor of Antoine's ancestral home in Switzerland.”
Factoid #2: Do you say WinterTHur or WinterTur? According to our tram guide, either pronunciation is correct. You can pronounce the name with “TH” sound or just the “T” sound.
General admission tickets are $22 per person, but certain discounts may apply. Visiting Winterthur doesn’t appear to require reservations, except for special events like the one we attended. If you’re interested, you can pack a picnic. You can picnic anywhere on the grounds, but you do have to take your trash with you when you leave. Check the FAQs for more picnic information.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Winterthur, click on the link.