To comprehend the wonderful richness of these lands we have to go back far through history (and pre-history). In the Peirce-du Pont house, Longwood Gardens displays several quartz spear points found around the grounds. These are evidence of primitive tribes who enjoyed Longwood thousands of years ago.
The Indian tribe associated with Longwood were the Lenni Lenapes. They fished its streams, hunted its forests and even planted crops in its fields. Walking through Longwood you can really picture the mysterious, timeless life that went on here. The Lenape were quite different from us. For instance, they were organized into matrilineal clans – meaning the mother was more important than the father. In fact, it was the uncle who was the most significant male in the family, the father belonging to a different clan than his children.
English Quaker, William Penn, who founded the state of Pennsylvania, dealt with the Lenni tribes, purchasing at very fair prices much of the land they used. Penn’s commissioners sold Longwood to Quaker farmer George Peirce in 1700. His son, Joshua Peirce, in 1730, cleared and farmed the land and built the farmhouse that remains today.
Joshua’s twin grandsons, Joshua and Samuel started the arboretum (tree place) due to their burgeoning interest in natural history. They went looking for specimens themselves around the wild places of Pennsylvania and they also purchased exotic plants from leading botanists. By 1850 the arboretum had a terrific tree collection, attracting many locals for enjoyable picnics and outdoor frolics.
A series of heirs lost interest in Longwood and the trees became threatened by a lumber mill operator gaining local political power. Then luckily Pierre S. du Pont, a rich philanthropist, purchased the grounds in 1906 in order to protect the trees. Du Pont was proud of Longwood and spent much money restoring and developing it, chiefly to impress his high society friends. Yet we today are the beneficiaries of this chance turn of events.
Today this premier horticultural oasis consists of a vast 1000-acre tract of gardens, woodlands and meadows with an incredible plant collection of 10,000 taxa. Half of which reside in one of the world’s greatest greenhouse structures, Longwood Conservatory.
Longwood hosts literally hundreds of events every year, from horticultural shows to performing arts displays. You are welcome to come along to enjoy flower shows, concerts, fountain and firework displays. Since 2012 an incredible one million people have been making annual visits to Longwood.