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The House That Gunpowder Built

By Linda Tancs

Gunpowder, also known as black powder, is the earliest-known chemical explosive. In the U.S., French émigré E.I. du Pont founded DuPont Company in 1802 to become the largest gunpowder and explosives producer in the country and ultimately one of the leading engineering firms in the world. That history is evident at Hagley, the du Pont family estate in Wilmington, Delaware. Built along the banks of the Brandywine above the gunpowder mills, it was the family’s first home in America and arguably the least known. You can journey through the powder yards, where you’ll find the only operating black powder roll mill in the country as well as historic stone structures that housed the powder manufacturing process. The home itself is a Georgian-style mansion, filled with furnishings and collections of American folk art and family heirlooms brought with them from France when they left in 1799. The gardens facing the residence are stunning and illustrate the passion that du Pont had for botany. This time of year the brilliant orange of the Oriental poppy is on display, which, according to family tradition, E. I. du Pont introduced into America with seeds sent from Le Jardin des Plantes in Paris. Hagley is part of the Greater Philadelphia Gardens network.

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