[caption id="attachment_229462" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Granogue, the du Pont family estate of the late Irenee "Brip" du Pont Jr., has been acquired by Longwood Gardens and will eventually be opened to the public. | PHOTO COURTESY OF GOOGLE MAPS[/caption]
MONTCHANIN – Longwood Gardens, the renowned botanical gardens that is a major tourist attraction right over the Pennsylvania border, has acquired the roughly 505-acre du Pont family estate known as Granogue.Owned by Irenee "Brip" du Pont Jr., who passed away last year at age 103, the estate represents one of the largest undeveloped private tracts of land in the Montchanin area in Delaware’s northernmost border and, by all accounts, one of the best-preserved pieces of architecture in the du Pont family heritage that was still privately held.In February 2023, Longwood Gardens announced that it had signed a binding purchase agreement within the estate’s ownership LLC, Granogue Reserve Limited, and once completed it intended to open the property to the public.“Longwood Gardens is honored to play a part in the preservation of Granogue,” said Paul Redman, president and CEO of Longwood Gardens, in a statement at that time. “We understand the important role this iconic landscape plays in our region’s ecology, community, and quality of life, and we look forward to working with our partners to ensure this treasure is stewarded for future generations to enjoy.”On Jan. 11, Longwood closed the acquisition of the property, according to county land records. The terms of the sale “remain confidential,” according to Longwood, and the deed records don’t reveal the purchase price, which some real estate experts estimated could be as high as $50 million.The nonprofit reportedly did not pay a property transfer tax in the deal, suggesting that it may have obtained a tax exemption for open space preservation.In buying the property, Longwood concurrently transferred ownership of the property to a new LLC, Longwood at Granogue, and also signed a right of first offer agreement with the Longwood Foundation, a charitable organization also founded by du Ponts. That agreement, in effect for 75 years, allows the foundation to make an offer to acquire the land if Longwood Gardens ever seeks to dispossess it.
[caption id="attachment_229461" align="alignleft" width="300"] The preservation of Granogue would include more than 500 acres of undeveloped land near the Pennsylvania border. | PHOTO COURTESY OF GOOGLE MAPS[/caption]
How exactly Longwood Gardens will utilize the Granogue property that lies about 8 miles southeast of its own property remains to be seen. The filed documents spell out that the land should be used “to provide public access for outdoor recreation opportunities and hospitality services, including overnight accommodations, while preserving as much open space as possible, consistent with Longwood Gardens’ mission, stewardship principles and need to achieve and maintain financial sustainability, to ensure a lasting legacy of perseveration, conservation and public enjoyment of the property and quintessential culture, history and beauty of the Brandywine region.”When asked this week about updates to the plans at Granogue in lieu of the completed sale, Patricia Evans, spokesperson for Longwood Gardens, said, “We are continuing to explore how the property will evolve, mindful that our first priority is the conservation of this iconic and important cultural landscape.”The ties that bind Granogue and Longwood Gardens are quite deep, making the deal symbiotic for the widespread and well-known du Pont family.Pierre S. du Pont, uncle to Brip du Pont, acquired a 202-acre arboretum in the Kennett Square, Pa., area in 1906 to preserve it for the public. About 30 years later, the Longwood Foundation was established to protect, maintain and operate the property that now encompasses a 1,100-acre public botanical garden that saw 1.6 million visitors last year.“Preserving this beautiful land is important to our family,” said Grace Engbring, daughter of Brip and family representative for GRLLC, said in a statement last year. “Longwood Gardens has shown great care in stewarding our great-uncle Pierre’s former estate, and I know Longwood will ensure Granogue thrives into the future.”“My father was committed to keeping Granogue as open space to be enjoyed by many and he did this very gracefully just as Longwood will continue to do,” she added.Discussions between the du Pont family and Longwood Gardens, facilitated by The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit that helps facilitate large-scale land preservation, began in 2016. A preliminary study assessing site conditions and a future master site plan was developed in 2018-2019.Du Pont family ties will also continue to support the Granogue, as the Mt. Cuba Center and the Longwood Foundation – both founded by du Ponts in prior generations – have donated to help fund the estate’s acquisition. In addition, du Pont family members have established a permanent endowment for future operations and advancement of the vision for Granogue.The Granogue estate was established by Brip’s father, Irenee du Pont Sr., who brought his family there in 1923 while he was president of the DuPont Company – meaning a transition of ownership comes on its century anniversary.While much of the 505 acres is preserved forest or meadow, or actively farmed for corn, soybean and more, the stately Colonial Revival house is the key asset. It could find new life as a preserved architectural museum, like another nearby du Pont estate, Winterthur.Designed by architect Albert Spahr, a classmate of du Pont Sr. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the brick home is faced with granite mined in Germantown, Pa., according to the Society of Architectural Historians. Flourishes like iron hardware from metal craftsman Samuel Yellin, a romantic landscape mural by artist Maxfield Parrish and an antique Aeolian pipe organ also adorn the home’s interior.
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