The Brandywine River Valley contains some of the world’s most beautiful rolling landscapes, famously dotted with elegant estates, many of which were built and maintained through generations by the du Pont family. Thanks to the annual Bayard Taylor Home and Garden Tour, fans of gorgeous living spaces will be given a rare peek behind the doors of a select handful of these important properties on Saturday, June 2.
From a grand hilltop mansion to beautifully restored historic homes (one dating back nearly three centuries), to creatively updated newer homes and gardens, the tour will provide an intimate look inside many stately manners you’ve likely unknowingly passed from your car for years.
Event chair Helen Wagner says that “tucked away” feature inspired the theme of this year’s tour: “Hidden Gems.”
“The thing that makes the tour this year probably more exciting and interesting than any other time is the historic significance and uniqueness of the properties,” said Wagner. “Four of them were built before 1940. And they were all owned by members of the DuPont family. These are really pretty significant and notable properties.”
The private owners of six exquisite Chateau Country manses have generously opened their doors for the day to support free children and adult literacy and English as a Second Language programs at the Kennett Library.
Squirrel Run – Keeping with the du Pont family’s custom of naming houses, S. Hallock du Pont retained the name Squirrel Run for the home he built in 1926-1927 on property that had been the location of forty-eight mill workers’ homes.
The name was adapted from Sqerrell Runfrom early Delaware maps. It was designed by R. Brognard Okie, a prominent early 20thcentury architect who designed many homes in Philadelphia’s Main Line. It was the first and largest of the five du Pont houses he designed.
As Daniel DeKalb Miller notes in his book Chateau Country: Du Pont Estates in the Brandywine Valley, “Each bears his trademark features: undressed fieldstone exteriors, three stories, prominent chimneys, spacious fireplaces, flat lintels, solid oak or cypress window and door frames, shutters and wrought iron details.”
Formal gardens surround the house with a series of steps connecting the front and back terraces. Clipped hedges form garden rooms enclosing colorful perennial beds with roses, specimen trees, and shrubs.
Crooked Billet – Nearby Crooked Billet, originally a tavern and inn dating back to the early 18th century, was also owned by members of the du Pont family from 1864 until just recently. It is on the National Register of Historic places and legend has it that it served as a rendezvous spot for General George Washington and his troops en route to the Battle of the Brandywine in September, 1777.
The 8,875-square-foot house was enlarged in the mid-20th century and is one of the finest du Pont estates in the Brandywine Valley. The grounds include a pool house, currently used as a guest house, and a pool, which is set in a beautiful garden with mature plantings and three-season blooms.
Current owner, Crooked Billet LLC, is developing the remaining property which surrounds the original house into “Crooked Billet,” a 19 home 55+ community.
Dauneport off Old Kennett Road was built by Amy du Pont in the early 1930’s, and intentionally resembles George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Though Dauneport is slightly larger than Mount Vernon, both are built in the Georgian Neoclassical style and feature white clapboard siding, a colonnaded front porch, brick chimneys, dormer windows, and an eye-catching cupola.
Miss Amy E. du Pont enlisted California architect Mary Craig for the design of Duaneport. Du Pont, an avid horseback rider, introduced dressage to Delaware and hosted the Fairfield Farms Horseshow on the property. She also was known for the fundraising fashion shows she held there. Du Pont also endowed the Music School at the University of Delaware. Marie McHugh, notable philanthropist devoted to Catholic education and the arts, also lived at Duaneport for many years until her death in 2010. The current owners purchased the home the following year.
When the current owners visited the house, they fell in love with many design aspects, completed vital repairs and moved their family of seven into the home. Visitors will note several features which have been completely refurbished, including the expansive and modern kitchen as well as the backyard patio and swimming pool.
Hod House, the original name of the home built in 1936 by Margeretta du Pont and her husband, Crawford Greenewalt, is a remarkable estate atop a hill with views all around. Its current owners renamed the estate Stonehouse.
Home & Garden Chair Wagner says, “As far as the gee-whiz factor goes, it has to be Stonehouse, which has never been on any home or garden tour. It is really exquisite.” For a period of time, former MBNA executive Charlie Cawley owned the estate, turning it into a conference center for the bank. The current owners purchased the property from MBNA 23 years ago.
A magnificent four-acre garden featuring native plants, conifers, and trees with interesting bark; and a home and garden that has evolved since being purchased new by its owners round out the 2018 Bayard Taylor Home and Garden Tour.
Tickets are $40.00 each and they can be purchased online, by mail or visiting the Kennett Library.