Place: Bellevue Hall
Location: Wilmington, DE
History: Originally built in the 1850s by a Philadelphia businessman, this mansion eventually landed in the hands of the du Ponts, as it seems most estates around here did. When its most famous owner, thoroughbred-horseman William du Pont Jr, inherited the place in 1928 it looked like a cold and drafty gothic stone castle. A little upset that his sister had inherited Montpellier in the deal (the last private civilian to own the historic home of President Madison) he renovated the entire house to look like a mini replica of Montpellier. No it really does, see!
It still bears some of its gothic severe architecture and wood paneling inside but most of the home was renovated; there are several (now empty, of course) vaults hidden in walls and bookcases, several secret passages in fireplaces and cabinets and a smoking room in the basement complete with faux windows. As a keen horseman, William paid extra to have large single pane windows installed so that his horses could wander right up for a snack!
In the 1960s he divorced his second wife, champion tennis player Margaret Osborne. A year later he hit his head (I believe it was a fall in the shower) and never recovered. He died on the 31st of December 1965.
It went through several incarnations and in the 1990s it was even a restaurant. Today it is slowly but surely being renovated and preserved. The first floor is all done, including a floating staircase which is aapparently quite a feat. The second floor is done up just enough for wedding parties to have wonderfully old-fashioned changing rooms (oh, the bridal suite is filled with lace and a silky sofa and soft peach walls).
The master bedroom, larger than many places I’ve lived in, is still under rehab but it was enough for a king bed, a study/desk area, a sitting area and a table for chess plus your usual dresser wardrobes, vanities and more. The childrens’ rooms, the bathrooms and the third floor servant quarters (only open for spooky Halloween tours!) are still totally gutted with holes in the floor and ceilings, stripped wallpaper and dirt caked everywhere. They are working on the renovations as money allows and it’s coming along beautifully.
Notes: I first saw this mansion (usually just used for weddings) last month at an outdoor Beatles tribute concert 😉 I quietly snapped some photos through the windows to get a peak. It took a couple months later but I finally got my tour of the place.
A few days after that I was researching the hall and kept coming across haunted ghost stories; they do quite a business I’m sure in October during their haunted tours. Now I just need to find the courage to attend one because I’m a real baby about those kinds of things!
The best part is that since the hall wasn’t left in its original state, everything is replica or of the same period. So you can pretty much touch everything! After visiting so many beautiful historical homes behind velvet ropes and the suspicious eyes’ of security guards it’s a real treat to be able to sit on that fancy sofa, peek down the secret passage and touch the velvet lining in the hidden vaults.