10 miles N of Wilmington; 35 miles W of Philadelphia; 73 miles N of Baltimore
The Brandywine Valley combines natural beauty with the best in art and craftsmanship. The valley's hills, rivers, and forests are dotted with mansions, gardens, and museums.
Here, between Wilmington and across the Pennsylvania line, you'll find the famous homes and gardens of the du Pont family -- which give the Brandywine the nickname "Château Valley" -- as well as the rolling hills and woodlands where three generations of the Wyeth family have lived and found inspiration for their art.
Meandering north from Wilmington, the Brandywine River has a long, storied history. The river and its valley provided for early settlers, powered the first du Pont industry, and inspired a school of art. To the Native Americans, the river was the Wawset or Suspecoughwit, cherished as a bountiful shad-fishing source. The Swedes and Danes later called it the Fishkill. Quakers and other English settlers renamed it the Brandywine and made it an important mill center in the 18th and 19th centuries. At its peak, more than 100 water-powered mills along the river produced everything from flour, paper, and textiles to snuff and black powder, on which the American du Ponts first made their fortune. In more recent times, the valley has been home to a school of artists and illustrators, beginning with Howard Pyle and Frank Schoonover and including the Wyeth family -- N. C.; Andrew, who still lives and paints here; and Jamie.
The Brandywine Valley begins near Wilmington and stretches into Pennsylvania. Those who wish to see Winterthur and Longwood Gardens can do both in a day, since they're only a 20-minute drive apart. Some Pennsylvania sights are included because they're part of the area. Two main arteries, routes 52 and 100, comprise the Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway -- see www.byways.org for a map.