In order to understand the DuPont story, it is important to start at the beginning and that means heading to Hagley Museum in Wilmington, Del. The museum has recently been designated as a Smithsonian Affiliate which is a very good thing for the museum and for guests as well.
Hagley Museum consists of the original DuPont mills, the family estate and the gardens. Located in the Brandwine River Valley, the museum is situated on over 230 acres with the Brandywine River running through the grounds.
The Visitor’s Center is a good place to begin a visit, with displays located on three floors that acquaint visitors with both the history of the area and the black powder industry. Pick up the bus to be transported to the farther flung exhibits behind the visitor center. Visitors can get off at a variety of locations depending on their interests. On our last visit, we got to ride in the open air jitney which was a very entertaining experience.
Workers Hill is an interesting stop. A foreman’s house, the Sunday school and Belin House Restaurant are all open to visit. Belin House is an active restaurant, serving very good food, providing the opportunity to eat right onsite. Since there are no restaurants close-by, this is a very good thing and allows visitors to spend the entire day.
The powder yard and the machine shop provide a good look at the day to day operation of the powder mill. Docents are available in some of the buildings to provide additional information. It is a fascinating look at this extremely dangerous occupation. A gunpowder demonstration takes place on the hour and demonstrations in the mill shop on the half hour. Try not to miss the gunpowder demonstration; it is very loud and quite exciting. The bus times itself to these demonstrations.
On the very top of the hill is Eleutherian Mills, the DuPont family home. Visitors must take the bus up to this part of the museum and visited on a guided tour. The tour included the first office, the barn which has an interesting collection of vehicles and the house itself. Photography is not allowed in the house and the office. Be sure to stroll in the authentic French garden located in the front of the house. E.I DuPont was very interested in horticulture.
The house dates from 1803 and is Georgian in style. Climbing stairs is required to visit as both the second floor and the basement. The furnishings reflect the five generations of DuPonts who called this house their home. After a visit here, visitors will know who E.I. DuPont is, why he chose this location for his new business and why he left France for the new world.
Hagley has been open as a museum for more than 55 years and still there are new discoveries and additions being made all the time. This museum never gets old and this writer has visited at least four times and will no doubt return again.
Allow at least three hours for a visit to Hagley and honestly, the better part of a day can easily be spent here without seeing everything. Don’t miss the gift shop, it is one of our favorites and we always find some interesting gifts here. Visit their website for the latest events going on and entrance fees.