Excerpt...Country Roads of Maryland and Delaware Ordering Information
Chapter 12--Northern Delaware Loop
From Wilmington, take State 52 out of downtown Wilmington for the start of the drive.
Highlights: The quiet rolling hills of the Brandywine Valley; the Delaware Art Museum; the Delaware Museum of Natural History; Winterthur; Centreville; Brandywine Creek State Park; the Hagley Museum; Nemours. This drive is easily completed in a day.
Northern Delaware is dominated by the skyline of Wilmington, the state's largest city. But country road lovers are only minutes away from small towns, elegant estates, and interesting museums nestled to the north in the quiet rolling hills of the Brandywine Valley.
State 52 leads right out of Wilmington and into another Delaware. On the way out of town, art aficionados should take time for exploring the Delaware Art Museum. Follow State 52 (Pennsylvania Avenue) and then take a right on Bancroft Parkway. Follow Bancroft to Kentmere Parkway, turn left, and then follow the signs to the museum.
The Delaware Art Museum is an urban cultural haven. The museum was originally established to house 48 treasured works by Howard Pyle, a Delaware painter called the father of American illustration and founder of the Brandywine school of painting.
Along with Pyle's works, the museum's extensive 20th century collection focuses on the work of Pyle's students, such as N.C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, Stanley Arthurs, Elizabeth Shippen Green, and Maxfield Parrish. The museum also has an excellent collection of English Pre-Raphaelite art and many changing exhibitions and programs. It's worth the diversion from State 52 before heading into the Brandywine Valley.
Back on State 52, the scenery quickly changes to farmland and pretty countryside. The excellent signage throughout Delaware makes it easy to explore and find things of interest.
The first thing of interest is the Delaware Museum of Natural History, just five miles west of Wilmington on the left. This varied museum offers exhibits ranging from local Delaware fauna to the wildlife of Mt. Kenya, a walk across Australia's Great Barrier Reef, an undersea world teeming with exotic marine creatures, an a 27-pound egg of the extinct Elephant Bird.
Less than a mile up the road, Winterthur is not quite as wild. Spread over almost 1,000 acres, Winterthur is an elaborate museum, garden, and library all in one beautiful setting. It's just off State 52, five miles west of the city, and well-signed.
The information and museum tours office provides an introduction to touring Winterthur. General admission allows visitors to tour the galleries and the gardens at their leisure. The "Introduction to Winterthur" includes a one-hour guided tour of selected period rooms. The "Decorative Arts Tours" include in-depth one-hour and two-hour guided tours of period rooms.
Showcased in two buildings, the museum features American collector and horticulturist Henry Francis du Pont's world renowned collection of decorative arts made or used in America from 1640 to 1860. The galleries include: "Perspectives on the Decorative Arts in Early America;" artisan workshops; more than 100 period rooms; a "Touch-It Room" for family fun; and many more displays.
The garden is great for hours of wandering and wondering. There are beautiful vistas, quiet pools, and quaint corners throughout the rolling estate. Visitors find thousands of native and exotic plants in this lush setting.
The beauty of the Brandywine Valley continues back on the road. The small town of Centreville is just ahead and it's a great place for a rest stop. On the main drag, there's a quaint country store, many shops, several art galleries, local restaurants, and even a town square.
From Centreville, it's just a mile or so to the Pennsylvania state line. The best way to continue this Delaware country road drive is to head into Pennsylvania before looping back into Delaware on State 100.
State 52 runs through the quaint Pennsylvania village of Fairville before intersecting with US 1. Take a right on US 1 and continue through the Hamorton Historic District (we stopped at Chaddsford Winery for a taste of Brandywine Valley wines). In Hamorton, take another right onto State 100 back toward Delaware.
This winding country road runs along the Brandywine River through picture postcard landscapes. Don't be surprised to see landscape painters standing by their easels trying to put this beauty on canvas.
After passing through the quiet town of Montchanin, look for the turnoff to Brandywine Creek State Park. The rolling landscape teems with wildlife, including soaring hawks, foraging whitetail deer, a variety of songbirds, and elusive bog turtles in the freshwater marsh, Delaware's first dedicated nature preserve.
The park features 12 miles of trails for hikers, including the Tulip Tree Trail leading to 190 year-old tulip poplars. The year-round nature center offers a variety of programs, while the Brandywine River is great for hot summer months.
Back on State 100, two more elegant Brandywine Valley venues await. Take a right onto State 141 and follow the signs for the Hagley Museum.
The Hagley Museum was the original du Pont gunpowder mills, estate, and gardens. A visit provides a detailed look at nineteenth century American life at home and work. The 238-acre site features exhibits tracing America's expansion from small water-powered mills to the industrial revolution; period actors depicting social, family, and labor activities; and Eleutherian Mills, the charming Georgian-style mansion that was the first du Pont family home.
Drivers who want to explore more of the du Pont's lifestyle should follow State 141 further to the Nemours mansion and gardens. Alfred I. du Pont named his 300-acre estate after the site of the du Pont ancestral home in north-central France. This overwhelming adaptation of a Louis XVI French chateau contains 102 rooms and is exquisitely furnished with antiques. The French-style gardens extend for one-third of a mile along the main vista from the house. Nemours must be viewed on a tour May through November and visitors must be over 12 years of age.
Back on State 100, the winding country road turns into Wilmington's urban sprawl. But the beautiful Brandywine Valley is still a vision in the rear view mirror.
In the area:
All telephone numbers are within area code 302.
Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington); 571-9590
Delaware Museum of Natural History, (Greenville); 658-9111
Winterthur, (Winterthur); 888-4600
Brandywine Creek State Park, (Wilmington); 577-3782
Hagley Museum, (Wilmington); 658-2400
Nemours, (Wilmington); 651-6912