Place: Abandoned Luxury Pool & Sports Complex, Bellevue State Park
Location: Wilmington, DE
History: A sports complex built for the wealthy couple William du Pont Jr and his No. 1-ranked tennis wife Margaret Osborne. They married in 1947 and the complex was built shortly after that and included a underground tunnel to the mansion. Inside were state-of-the-art locker rooms, indoor hard and clay tennis courts, a stunning pool with a glass ceiling, other racquet sport courts and more.
Notes: It took quite a bit of digging to come up with the history of this place. It may be the most goliath building, and right next to the exquisite yellow mansion used for so many functions and weddings, but no one seemed to talk about the green blot in their eye-line. In a state park used for horse rides, bike trails, tennis, hikes, fishing and outdoor concerts there are a fair number of people who pass by this building and yet no one looks at it.
Of course, it was my focus and I couldn’t stop looking at it. I came back with my sister in tow in the guise of a bike ride 😉 and had her hike me up on her shoulders so that I could poke my camera in through some of the broken side windows. Of course, it was even better than I had imagined. A beautiful blue pool, windows everywhere, vines hugging every fixture, and trees growing right through the conservatory-style roof! I think I prefer it this way, jungle-like, rather than what it must have been.
While nature has been busy reclaiming it, I set about with my research. Nothing found online. I waited months until a tour of the mansion came up and booked a spot immediately. I don’t think the tour guide appreciated my suspicious 😉 interest in an abandoned building but she told me that it had once been an elaborate pool and tennis sports complex. Mr du Pont and his wife were quite sporty of course. The glass over the pool wasn’t built well, especially for our heavy snow-filled winters and it was in disrepair. That was all, she told me. She did let us take the walk through the tunnel; the door into the complex is heavily boarded up now.
Then another breakthrough: a little feature serendipitously in the local paper with original historical photos! And connections I hadn’t thought to research! Margaret had one child with William. Even though she didn’t let that stop her illustrious tennis career, he threatened to divorce her if she ever went so far as Australia to compete in the Open that eluded her. In the 1960s she did divorce him and lived the rest of her life with her female partner in Texas. Her step-son, and William’s son by his first wife, was of the subject of the recent Foxcatcher movie.
Update: I went back (to the yellow mansion) for a Christmas concert recently and to cement its obvious and inevitable fate there is a large “demo soon, etc, etc.” sign posted in front. What a shame. – – – Demolished May 2015 🙁