Michele Hermann, the Vice Mayor of Nemours France was recently feted at a reception at Nemours Mansion, indubitably the most spectacular pied a terre in the state. Her city has been designated Wilmington’s most recent “Sister City”.
Madame Hermann was vacationing in America this summer. Next spring she will bring a contingent of 'citoyens de Nemours' (citizens of Nemours) to our fair state in reciprocity with a group of Delawareans journeying to visit her this past spring.
The French city, about 40 miles south of “La Ville de Lumineres” (the City of Lights), is the ancestral home of the du Pont family. In the 18th century, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (E.I.'s pere) was a government official in the Court of King Louis the XVI who opposed the French Revolution. He narrowly escaped Madame deFarge's favorite means of mayhem (the guillotine) during the Reign of Terror. In the following turmoil the famille du Pont emigrated with his family to Wilmington in 1799 where, a few years later, his son founded a petite company of some future renown.
(A contemporary analogy is Delaware's own Reign of Terror perpetrated by Christine O'Donnell. In lieu of deFarge's knitting needles, however, C O'D wielded a wand).
Nemours is joined with Kalmar Sweden, Watford England, Fulda Germany and Olevano sul Tusciano Italy and Osogbo Nigeria.
Dennis Sheer presides over the volunteer organization which seeks to foster international understanding at all levels of the community on a continuing basis. Officers are assigned specific cities through which communication is exchanged. Sister Cities operates exchange visits on both a personal and individual basis. Official Delaware visitors generally involve programs around performing arts, fine arts and sports. SisterCitiesWilmington.org
As a wedding present to second wife, A.I. Du Pont purchased 3000 acres just outside city limits. The mansion was designed in the late-18th-century French style that Alicia adored. Alfred named the estate Nemours.
The gardens are the finest examples in North America of formal French gardens, covering 222 acres. Continuing E.I.'s legacy of stewardship of the land, Delawareans are the beneficiary of the vision of P.S. at Longwood, Henry Francis at Winterthur and A.I here at Nemours.
In past years the Mansion was not user friendly regarding visitors. That has changed and there is a pro-active engagement with tourism agencies. Following the 2008 $39 million renovation, the gilded velvet ropes are down. Executive Director Grace Gary now encourages guests to walk about the grounds and experience how the du Ponts lived.
Sacre Bleu...living like the du Ponts! Hmm...let me see:
More than an acre under one roof. I have a roof that 'aches' to be de-mossed!
Doesn't everyone pine for a chandelier in the foyer once owned by the Marquis de Lafayette? How many citizens have a foyer?
In my garden there are brother and sister pelicans warily eyeing one another. In A.I's there is the statue “Achievement” whose paint was removed and replaced with 23 karat gold leaf.
The gate to my back yard is off its hinges. The Mansion's Wimbleton gates belonged to Henry VIII
Aisle Say retches at trite phrases. One of the worst: “best kept secret”. Yet I would suggest that less than 15% of all Delawareans have toured Nemours.
While the estate is beyond breathtaking, it pales in comparison to A.I's true legacy; the Nemours Foundation and the children it has saved over decades and decades and been a savior to my daughter Grace on two occasions...age 2 and age 8.