April 23rd, 2011
Here, finally, are the pictures I took inside Winterthur on the general house tour. Some are a little blurry, as I kept my flash turned off (if all the other tourists knew how much damage they’re doing to the historic surfaces when they flash their cameras, they’d have done the same — and their pictures would have been blurry too).
The house, which was home to a few generations of the DuPont family during the 19th and early 20th centuries, has 175 rooms on 9 floors. Henry Francis DuPont, the last to live there, was a collector of American antique furniture. He filled the house with his collection, eventually moving out to a smaller building nearby so that he could open the house as a museum.
It’s an amazing tour — room after room (we only saw a small portion of the house on the excellently delivered hour-long tour) chock-a-block with fine antiques of every period from the 17th century through the mid-19th. Since it’s mostly a collection of antiques, some of the pieces don’t really make sense. For example, they have at least one secretary or escritoire in every single room. Sometimes two or three. No one writes that many letters. But they were sure beautiful to look at. There are also far more corner cupboards than any sane person would ever own, filled with dishes that weren’t purchased to hold food. An entire pantry was devoted to the display of porcelain candlesticks.
The few nods to social history date to the roaring 20s, when the DuPont family were living in the house and entertaining their fortunate guests amidst all the antiques. What a place to play hide and seek! The faux tea sandwiches and petit-fours were a nice touch.