Pierre S. du Pont was born in 1870 in a DuPont Company house overlooking the Brandywine Creek just north of Wilmington, Delaware. His early years were influenced by the area’s natural beauty & by the du Pont family’s long tradition of gardening. But not even Pierre himself could have predicted that he would someday become one of the country’s most influential gardeners.
While he always preferred to live amid the quiet, familiar beauty of the Brandywine Valley, Pierre was greatly influenced by his frequent travels around the globe. He attended several world’s fairs & expositions, where he was astounded by grand architecture & the latest technology, including the huge display of water pumps at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia & illuminated fountains at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
While traveling, he was also exposed to a wide variety of garden settings, including Horticultural Hall at the 1876 Centennial, England's Sydenham Crystal Palace, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew & the flora of South America, the Caribbean, Florida, California & Hawaii. Visits to Italian villas & French châteaux focused on the architectural qualities & water effects of those gardens.
In addition to his travels, Pierre also built an impressive record of success in corporate America. This success brought great wealth & he felt great responsibility to use it wisely. Pierre & his wife Alice gave generously to public schools, universities, & hospitals. But gardening remained his lifelong passion.
At the age of 36, Pierre bought the Peirce farm & soon began creating what would become Longwood Gardens. He followed no grand plan; rather, he built the gardens piecemeal, beginning with the “old-fashioned” Flower Garden Walk. His later gardens would draw heavily on Italian & French forms.
Many generations helped create Longwood Gardens, but Pierre du Pont – industrialist, conservationist, farmer, designer, impresario, & philanthropist – was to make the most enduring contribution.
When du Pont died in 1954, he left most of his estate to the Longwood Foundation to preserve & maintain & improve the gardens. Today, nearly 70 years after du Pont’s death, his gardens continue to delight & inspire visitors from around the world. See: Longwood Gardens History for more.
“Beauty awakens the soul to act.” - Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)