Like furnishings and interior home spaces, the porches, yards, gardens, and other areas that comprised the exterior domestic landscape served important uses for the Brandywine Irish community. As they adapted to life in the powder mill community, Irish families continued some practices they brought with them from Ireland, such as planting "lazy" beds of potatoes. They also acquired new ones, like storing food in spring houses and using porches as a buffer between outdoors and indoors.


The Mills on the Brandywine illustration, 1952

Local artist Frank Schoonover prepared this illustration for "DuPont: Autobiography of an American enterprise," published in 1952. The maps shows the powder mills and surrounding worker communities as they appeared at the turn of the twentieth century. The worker neighborhoods featured unique names, including Chicken Alley, Duck Street, Wagoner's Row, Free Park, Squirrel Run, Upper Banks, and Henry Clay.

William Buchanan interview, 1958

Born in 1892, William H. Buchanan grew up on Rising Sun Lane and Breck's Lane near the powder yards, where his father, Albert Buchanan, worked. In an interview in 1958, he described some essential aspects of daily life, such as spring houses, doing laundry outside, and bathing on porches. Here, he described some of the interior and exterior spaces on the family’s home and his memories of his grandmother Mrs. Gordon, who he says was "crippled up with rheumatism." The family is seen in the photograph below.

Albert Buchanan family and Gordon family photograph, circa 1890

Albert Buchanan, his wife, and children with his mother-in-law, Mrs. Gordon, and other members of the Gordon family are captured outdoors in this photograph. Mrs. Gordon lived on Rising Sun Lane, but she could not walk and appears to be seated in a specially cushioned rocking chair. The photograph was taken by Pierre A. Gentieu, a long-term employee of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company who created an invaluable photographic record of the Brandywine mills and its employees.

Workers' home photograph, circa 1900

This exterior view of “Windett’s House” on Breck’s Lane in Henry Clay village shows a semi-detached structure, which included two rental units, one of which once accommodated the Buchanan family. Behind the home is a trestle for the Wilmington & Northern Railroad.

Edward Cheney interview, 1958

Born in 1888, Edward Cheney grew up in Squirrel Run and other worker neighborhoods. His father had emigrated from County Fermanagh, Ireland, and worked in the powder yards. When interviewed in 1958 about his childhood, Cheney remembered how he and other children on the Brandywines picked wild berries for their mothers to preserve. He also lamented the most significant pitfall of this pastime – poison ivy!

Explosion damage to Upper Banks photograph, October 1890

The Upper Banks neighborhood was captured in this photograph after the explosion of 1890, one of the worst to ever hit the powder yards and which caused great damage to workers' homes. Although the focus of the image is on the explosion damage, the image also features information about the Irish families' daily exterior practices, as the foreground shows a large garden with “Flat Dutch” cabbages.

Duck Street or Chicken Alley at Louviers photograph, circa 1890

This exterior view of Duck Street or Chicken Alley shows front porches of worker homes. Cottages in Ireland typically lacked porches, so these structures required some getting used to by immigrants to the Brandywine neighborhoods. Whereas these small front porches provided shelter from rain and snow, side porches and rear porches were often large enough to be used as outdoor living and working spaces.

Additional Sources

Hagley staff compiled this map showing locations and historical photographs of neighborhoods, schools, churches, workplaces, and other noteworthy places that would have been familiar to Brandywine Irish community.

DuPont Company Brandywine powder yards and neighboring worker communities' photographs offer additional views of the community.