Gates of Nemours Mansion and Gardens
Restoring a Grand Entrance
For centuries, cast iron gates of all shapes and sizes have been the portal to everything from modest townhouses to grand mansions. Since 1910, the gates at Nemours Mansion and Gardens have led guests into what is considered the grandest estate ever constructed in the state of Delaware, often called the “American Versailles.”
Built in 1910, at the end of the “Golden Age” in America, this 47,000-square foot mansion was a retreat for the industrialist and philanthropist Alfred I. duPont. The 300-acre country estate included the mansion and the largest formal French Neoclassical garden in North America. The grounds were entered through two massive wrought-iron gates, the front known as the English Gates, and the second, known as the Russian Gates. The entire estate and gardens contained other significant pieces of wrought-iron including balcony rails, a pond fountain and two life-size elks flanking the front entrance steps.*
About the Project
Nemours had been maintained through a clause in duPont’s will stating, “preserve and maintain the mansion and grounds.” A century of weather and wear took its toll and the Nemours Foundation committed its support to a $39 million complete restoration to celebrate the mansion and gardens’ centennial. Robinson Iron was engaged to provide cast-iron restorations throughout the mansion and grounds. The number of pieces, weight and fragility posed significant challenges during disassembly and removal, which had to be performed without endangering the site or creating a hazard. The removed pieces were shipped to Robinson Iron’s restoration facility in Alexander City, Alabama. Working with Virginia Naude’, principal of Philadelphia, PA-based Norton Art Conservation, and guided by historic photographs, Robinson Iron artisans spent three years restoring the numerous cast-iron pieces including the English Gates, window balconies, the elk and lily pond fountain.*
About Robinson Iron
Restoration of historic landmarks, historic buildings and other cultural resources of historical significance — these are the keys to preserving our heritage and the beauty of our public spaces. Robinson Iron is an established, highly qualified firm specializing in the historical restoration and preservation of historical cast iron, aluminum, and bronze. Robinson Iron specializes in accurate restoration of cast metal facades, art pieces, and sculpted ornamentations adorning historic properties throughout the United States and beyond.
*Thank you to CLEM LABINE’S PERIOD HOMES for the background information on the Nemours Mansion and restoration process.