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From the beginning, this has been a blog mostly about interior design.  There are lots of you out there who are interested in the same things, judging from the over 11,000 views that you have made of my postings since last September.  Thank you for stopping by to have a look.

I thought that it is time that I focus on a place in Delaware that is magical.  Founded by Henry Francis du Pont, Winterthur (pronounced “winter-tour”) is the premier museum of American decorative arts, reflecting both early America and the du Pont family’s life there. Its 60-acre naturalistic garden is among the country’s best, and its research library serves scholars from around the world.

I have a very fond memory of Winterthur, located near Centerville, Delaware.  In about 1978, my mother who lived in Moulton, Iowa, gave me a scrap of paper with the name, “John Melody,” written in long hand upon it.  It seemed that a farmer near Moulton had learned that I often visited Delaware with my husband and daughter to spend time with Mike’s parents who were long time residents of Newark, Delaware.  The farmer, who was named, “Joe Steele,” told my mother that his son-in-law worked at Winterthur and that I should go to visit and ask for him.  Obediently, I took the paper from Mother and put it in my wallet where it stayed for about three years. I never really thought that I would get to Winterthur or that I would ask for John Melody if I did.

One summer we were visiting Newark and my husband asked if I would like to go to see Winterthur.  Grandma and Grandpa were willing to watch the girls so off we went.  After a tour of the museum which is really the 170 room house containing 90,000 objects, we stopped at the gift shop.  Suddenly, I remembered the piece of paper in my wallet and asked the clerk if she knew of a man there by the name of,  “Melody.

“Do you know him?” she asked.  I related the story about my mother and Joe Steele and she immediately called John Melody and handed me the phone.

“Are children with you?” he asked.  When I replied in the negative he asked us if we would like to see what he had been doing.  John Melody was the head furniture restorer for the whole museum.  He took us on an impromptu tour of the laboratory where he showed us the hat that Abraham Lincoln wore to Ford’s Theater the night he was shot.  We saw Benjamin Franklin’s baby cradle.  They were x-raying it to see what kind of joints had been used to put it together so that they could determine what carpenter had made it.  Mr. Melody took us to see silver that had been made by Paul Revere.

Then, we stopped in the textile room to see how they cleaned rare quilts.  There were tables larger than a quilt with springs that stretched across the top of the table in parallel lines.  A quilt was put onto the table and then water and soap would run over the textile and the table would gently move right and left in order to run the water and suds through the fabric.  Finally, clean water would rinse out the soap and the quilt would dry.  Amazing!

The University of Delaware has an art restoration degree.  Students go to Winterthur where they receive an oil painting that has holes in it.  Their job is to put it back to the original condition.  We saw oil paintings with holes in various places…the students were working to restore them to their original condition.

I left there that day with such respect for the men and women who study rare decorative objects and wished that I could enter the program at the university and learn to do such remarkable work. I was also very happy that I had listened to my mother and kept that little scrap of paper!

Let me share with you some photos of the Winterthur museum.  Mr. du Pont would go in person or send his staff to purchase whole rooms from colonial buildings. Below are two exterior pictures of the house/museum and then one of  a parlor from Port Royal, Virginia.  The building was purchased and then the room reassembled inside of Winterthur.

The proportions of the room are gracious and the antiques are sublime.  Below, notice the painting of George Washington, the arched china niches, and the extraordinary molding, paneling, and decoration on the mantel.  You tour the museum in small groups and actually get to enter each room and get an up close look at the objects, furniture and textiles.

Winterthur Estate

This free standing staircase is a masterpiece of construction….no visible support for the gracious curve.

Of course the period hand painted wallpaper in this room is of extraordinary significance.

Here is the other end of the room decorated for Christmas.  This is the time when the house is decorated with a tree in almost every room.  The candle light tour is one of the most popular of the whole year.

One tree is the dried flower tree.  Dry your hydrangea, roses, status, etc. and make one like it this year.

Diane and The Dried Flower Tree

Dried and True

A daffodil and snowdrop tree honored the blooms of early spring.

Delightful Daffodil and Snowdrop Tree

This Baltimore album appliqued quilt is beyond wonderful.

A fine Federal Period secretary is museum quality.

Winterthur in Delaware contains some of the moat refined examples of Federal Period architecture and furnishings. This sublime mahogany secretary is crowned with a curved bonnet and lovely finials. What a wonderful place to pen a letter.

photo Roy and Delores Kelley

The Winterthur library features a portrait of Henry Francis du Pont

Winterthur library

Winterthur’s 1,000 acres encompass rolling hills, streams, meadows, and forests. Founder Henry Francis du Pont (1880-1969) developed an appreciation of nature as a boy that served as the basis for his life’s work in the garden. He selected the choicest plants from around the world to enhance the natural setting, arranging them in lyrical color combinations and carefully orchestrating a succession of bloom from late January to November. Du Pont translated his love of the land into a unified work of art that embodies a romantic vision of nature’s beauty.

Photo by Jeannette Lindvigphoto by Jeanette Lindvig

Discover the magic of a fairy-tale garden with a visit to Enchanted Woods, a unique children’s garden at Winterthur. In a three-acre plot of the Winterthur Garden, the fairy folk created a magical landscape for children of all ages! Canopied by majestic oak trees, Enchanted Woods has been taken over by the woodland fairies who live here and is transformed into a place of enchantment, mystery, and discovery. From the Tulip Tree House to the Faerie Cottage, children will find a new world to explore.

A nest for children at Winterthur gardens…

A 'nest' for children at Winterthur Gardens

Azalea Woods in the spring…

Azalea Woods at Winterthur Gardens (PA/DE)

Winterthur Garden

I do hope that you enjoyed your mini-tour of the Winterthur Museum and gardens.  Create and be happy!

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