Monday, September 22, 2014

Touring Winterthur Museum

When we finished the Downton Abbey Costume Exhibit, we had a 12:00 p.m. introductory tour of the Museum.  The 45 minute tour covered the fifth floor, and was included in our general admission ticket.

A model of Winterthur was displayed in the waiting area.  Beneath the model was the following explanation:  "The original Winterthur residence, built in 1839, was a three-story, twelve-room house.  Henry Francis du Pont, the collector, was born here in 1880.  In 1902, a major addition was constructed across the north facade.  A large wing, extending southward down the hill, was added between 1928-30 to house a growing collection of early American decorative arts.  Winterthur became a museum in 1951.  A second wing was built in 1959-60 for administrative offices and additional tour space."  The museum is a 96,582 sq. ft., 9-story structure, containing 175 period rooms of American treasures, and is situated on 982 acres of land.

A foyer displayed a portrait of Henry Francis du Pont, and an American pine cupboard [called the Webb dresser] filled with pink Staffordshire transferware.  It was the inspiration for Henry du Pont's collection of American decorative art, and was later donated to Winterthur. The transferware, though made in England, was widely used in America.

The first formal room of the tour was the du Pont Dining Room.  To my amazement, photography was allowed, but no writing instruments, so I forgot a lot of details the guide shared because of sensory overload, but it was fabulous none-the-less.

China cabinets in the Dining Room [below].  Mr. du Pont had 58 sets of china, and it was he, not Mrs. du Pont, who meticulously looked after all the details of a dinner.  He kept a record of guests and table settings to ensure they wouldn't be repeated. The room's decor is Neoclassical, or Federal style, popular after the American Revolution.

The six silver tankards on the sideboard below were made by Paul Revere, and are the only known set.   Notice the two "knife urns" on the sideboard.

Below are large Chinese porcelain urns, signifying our country's early days of trade with China.  

A room exclusively for candlesticks!

~ Dining Room Cross Hall ~

Tea accoutrements in the Chestertown Room below.  When we were there, chimney's were being rebuilt, and 230 windows were being replaced, so in some photos you will notice green scrim over the windows, and plastic covering over fireplace openings as in the photo below.

China Hall had a display of china that belonged to George and Martha Washington.  Replica teacups were in the Cottage Gift Shop for $125.00.

The Chinese Parlor was beautiful.  Notice all the floral bouquets are one color.  Our guide said that Mr. du Pont, being a naturalist, preferred his arrangements that way instead of mixing colors within a bouquet.  

Below is Vicker's Alcove.  Doesn't that faux food look good?  ;-)

Pictured below is the Montmorenci Staircase. Ruth Ellen du Pont [the youngest daughter] threw her bridal bouquet from there.

~ The Conservatory ~

Below is the Marlboro Room [the woodwork is from the 1745 Patuxent Manor in Marlboro, Maryland].  Notice how it's set up for Afternoon Tea.  That's because the family gathered in that room every afternoon for tea when they were residents.  Custom tours featuring specific aspects of Henry du Pont's collection can be arranged with two week's notice.  I'd love to see his entire collection of teawares, wouldn't you?

Bruce Richardson made a comment on my September 8th blog post saying he and Jane Pettigrew agreed that Winterthur has the largest collection of exceptional tea things in America - maybe even better than the Victoria and Albert Museum collection in London, England!  

Our guide used the term "clustering" to describe Mr. du Pont's method for displaying his collection of decorative arts.  

This concludes the fifth floor tour.  From the museum we walked a short distance to the Cottage Gift Shop, which originally was the home Mr. & Mrs. du Pont moved into when the museum opened to the public. I wish I would have taken photos of it, but I didn't. Aside from a large gift shop, it has a Café that seats 20, with additional seating on the patio. It was a beautiful day, so we sat on the patio to enjoy some refreshments, and rest our weary feet.

Below are the items I purchased.  Some items were from the Costume Exhibition Gift Shop, and others were from the Cottage Gift Shop.  As you can tell, it's hard for me to resist books. Developing theme teas are always on my mind.

Winterthur tea from Eastern Shore Tea Company - a fine black Darjeeling tea.

A cobalt blue Winterthur commemorative plate. 

~ A teacup tea towel ~

And I previously showed the Downton Abbey CD and box of Mark T. Wendall Tea Company's HU-KWA tea.

We purchased 2:30 tickets to tour the sixth floor of the museum.  It was just our foursome and the guide, and no photography allowed on this tour.  It began in an indoor courtyard surrounded by four actual exterior building facades of Montmorenci in North Carolina; a 1756 summerhouse from Middletown, Rhode Island; a doorway from Springfield Massachusetts; and the 1800's brickfront Red Lion Inn, from Red Lion, Delaware. It reminded me of Michigan's Henry Ford Museum/Greenfield Village.

Following that tour we went to the nearby Dorrance Gallery to view Winterthur's Campbell Collection of Soup Tureens - tomorrow's post.

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Today I'm joining Rose Chintz Cottage for Tea Time Tuesday 
Antiques and Teacups for Tuesday Cuppa Tea


  1. Sensory overload for sure. Even from your pictures I feel it. What an interesting and beautiful place, I'm so glad you could visit it!

  2. You must have been like a kid in a candy shop! I have always wanted to visit Winterthru, but never made it. The sight of all the china must have been breathtaking! Thanks for sharing your visit with us!

  3. Wow! I've been to Winterthur once ... a very long time ago. Thank you for sharing your wonderful tour. I would have had a horrible time trying to look at EVERYTHING!!!! :) Happy Tea Day!

  4. I was lucky enough to tour Winterthur a number of years ago. What an amazing place. During that same visit I also toured the Brandywine River Museum and Longwood Gardens. What a great area to visit and so many things to see. I hope we can get back again sometime.

  5. Beginning with the model of Winterthur and on, I found it all fascinating! What wonderful collections are housed there and what a joy to be able to view them. The red transferware; be still my heart, as I do have a love for it! The books look wonderful. Thanks so much for taking us along on your tour and Happy Autumn Phyllis!


  6. Fifty-eight sets of china? Oh my goodness, I can hardly imagine! Loved seeing all the red transferware ... the candlestick room ... the Paul Revere tankards ... the tea accoutrements ... this must have been sensory overload indeed!

  7. 58 sets of china!...and a room for just candlesticks! over-the-top, but wouldn't it be fun?

  8. Thanks for this inspiring tour of Wintertur Museum. I've already searched the ceramics collection but seeing the rooms and the way the objects are displayed makes it all more real and fabulous. I'm sure you enjoyed it too much, as I certainly would.
    Hugs from Portugal

  9. The mansion is beautiful, and I enjoyed seeing the china. Have a great week, Phyllis!

  10. What a beautiful tour! So many wonderful items. :) Thank you for sharing this....

  11. thanks for the tour I've always wanted to go there

  12. What a fabulous display of china... The red ware is gorgeous.... Goodness, I would have to visit it two or three times to take it all in... and Yes , It so hard to resist books (Ha Ha)...but it looks like you'll be inspired for quite some time...Happy reading this Fall...Hugs


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