In 1798, Joshua and Samuel Peirce began Peirce’s Park, an arboretum and pleasure ground on 190 acres of rolling hills 30 miles west of Philadelphia. The industrialist Pierre du Pont bought the property in 1906 and transformed the landscape, adding formal and Picturesque stroll gardens. It is one of several significant du Pont family estates in the region, along with Winterthur and Gibraltar.
Du Pont’s first addition was the 600-foot gardenesque Flower Garden Walk, created in 1907 with flowering shrubs, rose-covered trellises, and annual and perennial beds. By 1921 du Pont had built an open air theater and a colossal, oil-heated conservatory with a pipe organ. He then installed lavish water features, including the 5-acre Main Fountain Garden. An expanded version of the fountains at the Villa Gamberaia near Florence, it features limestone canals, basins, and 380 illuminated water jets.
With du Pont’s death in 1954, the Longwood Foundation assumed management. Continuing with duPont’s vision for increased public visitation, new gardens have been integrated with the earlier gardens, including the Theatre Garden, Peony Garden, and Wisteria Garden designed by Thomas Church; Waterlily Display and East Conservatory building by Sir Peter Shepheard; indoor Silver Garden by Isabelle Greene; tropical Cascade Garden by Roberto Burle Marx and Conrad Hamerman; and an indoor Mediterranean Garden by Ron Lutsko. Today, Longwood includes 20 indoor gardens covering 4.5 acres, 325 acres of outdoor gardens, and 752 acres devoted to deciduous hardwood forests, spring-fed lakes, and wildflower meadows. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.