Pierre S. du Pont’s Longwood Gardens was once a complex that seemed like it would be more at home in the rural aristocratic lands of Europe than Pennsylvania.
With a taste for ornate and opulent styles, du Pont, a Philadelphian businessman of French descent, was determined to emulate his ancestors’ grandeur.
Since construction finished on Longwood in the 1930s, du Pont had one of the most dazzling and decorated fountain systems at his disposal. However, after 80 years of existence, the time has come to restore Longwood’s main fountain garden with a comprehensive makeover both above and below ground.
A team led by Beyer Blinder Belle is taking up the task. Dan Lepore & Sons, the firm in charge of stone restoration, had the painstaking task of returning over 4,000 unique pieces back to their former glory. To complete the task, each stone element was given a barcode so it could be individually tracked with all changes and processes being logged on the way.
Kate Brown, an architectural conservator at the firm, spoke of the “shell inclusions” in the limestone that had caused it to “deteriorate in unique ways.” During the repair process, which involved extensive cleaning, the stones’ intricate detailing can finally be realized once again, while retaining their aged authenticity.
At the center of the garden are allées, a French term for “driveways” and a nod to the surrounding Baroque masonry that du Pont no doubt discovered on one of his many trips to France.
Here, West 8, who masterplanned the project and are in charge of landscaping, has lined the allées with Tilia cordata “PNI 6025” Greenspire little leaf linden trees. An abundant bloomer, these trees produce small fragrant flowers appearing in late June and July and are known for attracting bees. The French theme is also continued here with these trees being pollarded (a typical technique used to square off trees in France) to create a neatly sculpted aesthetic.