The Bristol Summerhouse

An Archives volunteer recently brought a magazine article to share with us. It was “Focal Points” by Garden Antiques dealer, Barbara Israel. She describes a visit to Winterthur to see an exhibit called “Follies: Architectural Whimsy in the Garden.” The exhibit included one of her favorite follies, one commissioned by Henry du Pont in 1960. It was called the Bristol Summerhouse, and du Pont acknowledged that it was a copy of a Bristol, RI summerhouse that he had seen and admired.

The striking resemblance to Blithewold’s summerhouse seemed more than a coincidence.

On scrutinizing the Guest Book in the Archives at Blithewold, it was discovered that Henry du Pont had, indeed, visited Blithewold on May 14, 1960. In our excitement, we prepared to share this little piece of history, and I called the Garden Structures Curator at Winterthur to share our side of the story and to ask for any archival plans or notes they might have on their summerhouse. Imagine my chagrin when I discovered that Henry du Pont had also visited Linden Place while he was in Bristol, and his notes made it very clear that their summerhouse is the one he admired and copied. Of course, Linden Place was built 100 years before Blithewold, so maybe the Blithewold summerhouse is a copy of theirs! Our pride was a little bruised, but we congratulate Linden Place for preserving their structure and inspiring the creation of a folly that is now seen and admired by more than 200,000 visitors a year in Delaware.