The spectacular, French-style mansion and gardens of Alfred I. du Pont are a much-illustrated symbol of Chateau Country splendor. A. I. du Pont grew fabulously wealthy during the years that the DuPont Company underwent rapid expansion, but he turned his back on both family and company following a messy divorce and scandalous marriage to a cousin. His second wife, Alicia, loved French culture, and Nemours was intended, in part, to gratify her taste. Du Pont assembled 1,600 acres in several parcels, which included a farmhouse of c. 1800 and its stone barn (1842), still extant near the carillon. Hundreds of acres are surrounded by a nine-foot stone wall, the construction of which was overseen by Tom Montgomery, who had helped build “Boss Henry” du Pont's walls (CH11) near Winterthur in the 1870s. Local boys were paid a penny for each glass bottle they collected, which were broken to stud the top of the wall with jagged shards. The story is that A. I. wanted “to keep other du Ponts out,” but his third wife, Jessie Ball du Pont, laughed at this notion in an interview in 1937, explaining that the wall with its glass simply suited the Louis XVI, French-chateau theme. She stressed, too, that the grandeur of the estate was intended as a memorial to A. I.'s parents and to his ancestor, Pierre Samuel du Pont—a deeply personal tribute, as A. I. had been orphaned as a boy, and as he was “eldest son of the eldest son” in the du Pont line, with an acute sense of history.
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