There is something about the smell of a library. I don't have a word for it. It's like trying to describe the smell of a hospital. We all know it, that smell, but there are no words to conjure up the emotional image that comes to mind when you enter the building.
That is how I felt when I entered the library at Winterthur Museum. Located on a rambling, 1,000 acre estate built in 1928 by Henry Francis DuPont in Greenville Delaware, Winterthur has a class act library - and staff to go with it.
I did not know much about the DuPonts until I had lunch with my cousin who happens to live near the estate. He told me the company started in 1800 manufacturing gunpowder. It wasn't until the turn of the 20th century that they got into the chemical business. Like the Vanderbilt estates I have visited, this is an estate built for entertaining and to show off wealth. It has a small village, with farmland, dairy buildings, and homes for the staff. The U.S. version of royalty and castles. I wish I was visiting in the spring and not now when the temperature outside is 10 degrees F.
Unfortunately the museum was closed and the main building is being repaired, but I managed to take a few pictures of interest. The display case filled with soup tureens in the front hall of the library was unique. I never thought of soup tureens as an art form, but apparently they are.
I came here to go through Craig Gilborn's collection of material he gathered while writing the Durant family biography in the 1980s and what looked like other research he continued well into the early 1990s. I found a few interesting things that are helpful in my research.
I found a reference to a Miss Kirby living at her camp on Raquette Lake - was it Minnie or her cousin Cornelia? And by 1895 it was clear that William was living on the Barque of the Pine in the summer while his estranged wife Janet stayed either at Pine Knot or Uncas.
I also discovered that in 1976 William West Durant's daughter Heloise Timbrel Durant Seeley donated numerous items to the Adirondack Museum. The list of those items were recorded but no copies of the material were ever made. Then in 1977 her son took the items back. One of those items? The guest registry to William's yacht Utowana.
Where is that now? Perhaps with one William's great- grandchildren.
The mystery continues.
Libraries and Mysteries: Winterthur
2/20/2015 11:12:13 pm
Makes me want to visit when the weather turns nice. My brother in law went to The Citadel in Charleston SC.
2/21/2015 05:01:43 am
It is worth a visit for sure - in nicer weather.
2/21/2015 12:14:56 am
Wintherthur is one of my gotta get to house museums. Two of my G? grandfathers were killed in Dupont powder mill explosions! I learned that Dupont was pretty progressive about employee benefits.
2/21/2015 12:47:34 am
I think it will come eventually!!
2/21/2015 08:30:15 pm
Sheila, I'm lounging on the beach in North Bali. Just finished the book youmgave me at the Winter Benefit, Ephemeral Summer. Really good read! Thank you! Looking forward to the next!
2/22/2015 03:00:43 am
Arrgghh! I'm so jealous of you! I had a dream last night that I saw grass. Thanks for reading Ephemeral Summer. Perfect for a beach.
Comments are closed.
Sheila Myers Professor at Cayuga Community College in Upstate New York.
Follow me on Facebook or Twitter!