On Visiting Winterthur

Taking full advantage of a day off for Good Friday, my mom and I visited the Winterthur estate in the Brandywine Valley of Delaware. Originally the home of Henry Francis du Pont, the property is over 100 acres large and boasts a museum, garden, and library. My main attraction was the grounds, consisting of a sprawling 60 acre naturalistic garden which models the way that the decorative plants, shrubs, and trees contained therein would arrange themselves if found in nature. The photos below are my attempt at capturing a portion of the early springtime beauty to be found on the gorgeous property. My mother and I took countless pictures of majestic magnolia trees, paper-thin pink azaleas, brilliant yellow branches of forsythia, delicate white snowdrops, and a whole host of tiny buds just starting to bloom. Even at $20 a pop just to enter the grounds without a museum tour, the garden is such a sight to behold that it makes the property worth a visit.

Although we didn’t tour the museum this time, the history of the building is what made most of an impression on me. Originally a much smaller home for the du Pont family occupying the property, eventually it grew to be an unimaginable 9-story, 175-room home. Today the house is occupied by the Winterthur museum, showcasing decorative arts and galleries of textiles, ceramics, antique furniture, and more.

As we approached the home, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the 2012 documentary The Queen of Versailles which provided a portrait of an incomparably rich American family, the Siegel’s, in their attempt to build the States’ largest house, modeled after Versailles. The sheer enormity of 175 rooms rings as rather wasteful to me. Obviously the du Ponts lived in a vastly different time, but the inequality inherent in a world where homes such as this one and the one which the Siegel family aimed to build exist is impossible to ignore. The fact that any family has the ability to be so over-housed while others have no homes whatsoever or live in properties that are falling down around them makes me unspeakably frustrated and angry. As my mom pointed out, at least the du Pont estate opens this home up to the public, however this comes at a price of $30 per ticket for the museum tour.

We can fawn over the wealth and property of others all we like, but doing so ultimately serves as a stamp of approval from society when it comes to vast income inequality. I would rather see Winterthur as a true relic of the past, a picture of exorbitant wealth that a universal middle class could visit (for free! or at least at a much lower ticket cost) with a sense of wonder since no such grand displays of money are to be found among modern men.

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