In 1906, Pierre du Pont purchased some land from Philadelphia-area farmers in order to preserve an arboretum that had been established on the acreage. Du Pont was the fourth-generation executive of a family business he had helped grow into a vast corporation. Amidst his business-building he was traveling the world and seeing technological wonders, architectural masterpieces, and magnificent gardens. He was impressed by the 1876 Centennial Exposition in his native Philadelphia, the Sydenham Crystal Palace in England, the Eiffel Tower, illuminated fountains in Chicago, and much more. He knew that the patch of land he had bought housed one of the finest collections of trees on the continent, and he grew determined to make his mark on it, incorporating some of the wonderful landscape features he’d seen and learned of.
He began hosting summer garden parties, and spent much time creating astounding new gardens and landscaping around his arboretum. He added a massive conservatory for indoor enjoyment of flowers and plants. He added classical columns and fountains and planting beds laid out in Italian and French styles rarely seen in Pennsylvania. Illuminated, colored fountains featuring complex hydraulics shot 10,000 gallons of water per minute as high as 130 feet into the air. And there were endless manicured displays of vibrant flowers.
After giving thought to the future of his gardens, du Pont in 1937 began the Longwood Foundation to support long-term public enjoyment and education. At his death in 1954 he left the foundation with a sizable endowment and a long tradition of astounding beauty. The gardens have continued to grow in complexity, size, and coherence, cementing Longwood Gardens as one of America’s garden gems.
- Longwood Gardens, The Story of Longwood, longwoodgardens.org/TheStoryofLongwood_1_3_2_1_1.html