by Judy Bereza, Guest Blogger
I first heard the name “Winterthur” when I was a student at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This historic estate and museum in Wilmington, Delaware, has a unique connection to Grand Rapids. Winterthur is not only a grand 19th century house of 175 rooms on over 1000 acres of gardens and forests, it is also a museum. It houses one of the foremost collections of early American furniture in the country.
Kindel Furniture of Grand Rapids is licensed to reproduce the “best in kind” examples of Queen Anne, Chippendale, Federal, and Empire furniture from the museum’s collection.Kindel was chosen because “the complexities and details of these examples must be executed by a company whose skill and craftsmanship match those of the original artisans”.
How did this magnificent estate come to be? Early in the 1800s the Du Pont family began to manufacture gunpowder. This successful business venture became the base for the family to accumulate great wealth and eventually build the magnificent estate we see today. Henry Francis Du Pont is largely responsible for the furniture collection. Around 1920 he began collecting furniture, concentrating on the period between 1700 and 1850.He amassed 85, 000 objects along with the furniture, and displayed them in lavish period rooms, which visitors can tour today.
We visited in late October on a sunny day. The gardens were just past their fall display, and the house was sheathed in scaffolding. Not a problem for me, however, because the interiors were stunning, and the adjacent museum held a self described “blockbuster” exhibit of the costumes of
For me, it was the perfect example of the reality exceeding my expectations. Not only were the costumes beautifully presented, they were grouped around the scenes in which they were worn, while the actual scenes were projected on large video screens behind them. The script was also reproduced on the wall, so I could observe how much talent and interpretation could go into a simple line, “I’m certain I don’t know”. I learned how these exquisite costumes, some of them actual vintage originals, were chosen or created to translate to television. The exhibit also demonstrated the similarities and occasional differences between the fictional “Downton Abbey” and Winterthur, relating to the size and management of their employees.
To a breathless “Downton Abbey” fan,the exhibit was an enormous pleasure. It has also been an incredible boost to the financial bottom line for Winterthur. The exhibit will run until the middle of January, (just incase there are other “Downton Abbey fanatics out there).
Judy Bereza is a retired interior designer/kitchen expert, constant walker and “Nana” to three adorable grand children and another on the way. She and her friends have hiked in Wales, Cornwall, Switzerland, Smokey Mountain National Park, Ireland and California.
Occasionally she veers off the trail to explore a different kind of travel adventure that includes her husband.