This week Eliot and I traveled to the Woodlawn property of First State National Monument, outside of Wilmington, Delaware. It was a 4 day trip which consisted of extensive research at the Hagley Library, a visit to the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum, and site exploration along the Brandywine River. The trip was very productive – we were able to find a few key maps that will significantly aid in our site documentation for Woodlawn – a map drawing from 1914 that shows historic landscape features like orchards and forests and a property map of the site.
During the visit to the Brandywine River Art Museum, renowned for its holdings of the Wyeth family of artists, we saw some lovely paintings of the region – but unfortunately did not find any painting of our specific tract of land…still on the hunt!
The site visit was really inspirational – the landscape is really beautiful and valuable natural resource. There are rolling fields of meadows, tall majestic trees, and the gentle sounds of the Brandywine River in the background. Along the trail we walked, there were alcoves that provided moments of enjoyment – such as this lovely little pebble beach where an owner and dog were playing in the creek. We also came upon a corn field that marked the fork in the trails.
Aside from the natural beauty of the landscape – the site is also very rich in cultural and historical significance. A research document speculates that there may have been a property that was part of the Underground Railroad! We also were able to confirm the location of a historic cave on the site. There is a rich layered narrative to be uncovered and revealed regarding the Quaker culture, civil war history, Mason-Dixon line, industrialism, and landscape architecture/planning – models of industrial communities/new urbanism.
I was particularly intrigued to find the original planned development drawings of the Brandywine Hundreds drawn my landscape engineer/architect Charles Levitt. It was interesting to see his boulevard ideas and little pocket parks throughout the Brandywine. He and William Bancroft envisioned a well- connected green city.