Crowninshield Garden

The Crowninshield Garden may be viewed from the Terrace of the du Pont Family Home - the garden is not open for public visitation.  Read more about current restoration efforts.

Click here to support Hagley's efforts to restore the Crowninshield Garden.

The Crowninshield Garden is a ca. 1920s neoclassical garden built on the terraced ruins of Eleutherian Mills. The garden defies stylistic categorization and simple explanation, with no known commissioner, hired designer, or original garden plan. It was constructed slowly over the course of a decade by local craftsmen and by the home's last residents, Louise du Pont Crowninshield and her husband, Francis Boardman Crowninshield.

The Crowninshields attempted to create exact scale replicas of architectural features they had observed on their travels in Rome. They built these classical features over industrial features, interpreting and reflecting the history and use of Eleutherian Mills even as they reinvented it.

Significantly, they intended this to be a garden of intentional ruin, with cascading layers of Italianate pools, columns, statuary, and colonnades crafted to appear worn away by time. No known classical garden in the United States to date has been so purposefully built to convey the patina of time. 

Today, the site retains the simultaneity of an industrial ruin, a carefully manufactured classical ruin, and an actual garden ruin, and is thus perhaps the most meta-textual garden in American history: a ruin within a ruin within a ruin. 

In early 2020 Hagley commissioned Nelson Byrd Woltz to evaluate the site and craft a phased concept design plan for restoration of the Crowninshield Garden. Immediate steps have been taken, with the help of contributions, to stabilize the site and to draft engineering plans. Next steps will be to repair walls and other features whose structural integrity are most in need of rehabilitation. Then as more “Foundational Donor” gifts are raised, Hagley will be able to continue restoration of some of the upper Garden features. When completed, visitors will be able to enjoy new vistas and perspectives of the Crowninshield Garden as phase work continues over the coming years.

The ‘reawakening” of this amazing Garden has caught the attention of the media, with features in the Washington Post, Smithsonian Magazine, and CBS News. Donations to the Crowninshield restoration project are welcome and can be made here or through the link above.

For those interested in supporting this project, a private tour may be arranged by contacting the Development Department at (302) 658-2400, ext 329.

Smithsonian Magazine Article (March 2023)

Washington Post article about the Crowninshield Garden (2021-08-18)