Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway – PA
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2021)
- Intrinsic QualitiesHistoric
- LocationDE, PA
- Length25 of 37.3 total miles
The Brandywine Valley lies in a corner of the mid-Atlantic, at the juncture of Delaware and Pennsylvania. It is an area where the unique bounty of the climate, the land, and the waters has long nourished nature and man. Since the early days of European settlement, the valley has become a particularly strategic crossroads of commerce, of agriculture, of artistic creativity and of political thought. It is here where one can discover many of the significant events that have shaped history from before the founding of the Nation until the present time.
Story of the Byway
A valley lies in a small corner of the mid-Atlantic, where the bounty of the climate, the land, and the waters has long nourished nature and man. The valley is a strategic crossroads of commerce, agriculture, artistic creativity, and political thought. It is here where one can discover many of the significant events that have shaped our history from before the founding of the Nation until the present time. The Brandywine Valley, and its natural resources, made those that passed through it recognize it as a special place. As a result, many decided to stay and partake of the abundance that this valley afforded and preserve its intrinsic values.
During a visit in the 1860s, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “The grazing pastures were so green ... the houses were so comfortable, the barns so ample, the fences so well kept, that I did not wonder, when I was told that this region was called the England of Pennsylvania.”
Today its 350 square miles seem little changed from that era, including its rolling hills, manicured estates, and the sparkling Brandywine River, offer visitors a seductive trip through history. Here George Washington faced the British at the September 11, 1777 Battle of the Brandywine, the largest troop engagement of the Revolutionary War. These days, one can canoe down the River, past the banks where Washington placed his troops, and visit the house in which he prepared for the battle. The perfectly preserved estates and mills that became the symbols of America’s rise to a global industrial power still exist and provide the settings for the world-class cultural attractions of horticultural gardens, industrial achievement, American furnishings, country estates, and American artists. The landscape inspired Howard Pyle’s Brandywine School, an artist colony in Wilmington, and Chadds Ford. Pyle’s most famous student, N. C. Wyeth (1882- 1945), was one of America’s foremost illustrators in the 20th century. His renowned images of swashbuckling pirates, armor-clad knights, and hard-riding cowboys fired the imaginations of readers for generations and can be seen at the Brandywine River Museum. All of this landscape is protected by nearly 65,000 acres of conserved open spaces in the valley.
The Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway is historically significant for five reasons. First, physical evidence of the settlement and development patterns still exists throughout the Byway region. The first settlers were agriculturalists and established the patterns that formed the basis for the rural landscape that exists today along much of the Byway starting in 1686. Many structures from these settlements, including the Barnes-Brinton House (1714), can be visited today. Many of the villages and hamlets that still exist are relatively unspoiled by modern development.
Second, the Byway passes through the landscape where the Battle of Brandywine was fought in 1777. Many of the sites associated with this pivotal Revolutionary battle are still extant and visible from the Byway. These resources include the John Chads House (1725), the Birmingham Meeting House (1722), which was used as a hospital both during and after the battle, and the Gilpin House (1754), which served as General Howe’s headquarters after the battle.
Third, the Byway is associated with the Underground Railroad. Many structures that physically represent the Underground Railroad are located within the Byway area. The Longwood Progressive Friends Meetinghouse, built in 1854, was the forum for Lucretia Mott, William Garrison, and Frederick Douglas as they advocated for the abolition of slavery. The Meetinghouse is located along the Byway at the entrance to Longwood Gardens and houses the Chester County Visitor Bureau.
Fourth, much of the Byway has provided the subject for works of art by many artists, including those of the Brandywine School of Art. Farmhouses, studios, mills, barns, springhouses, and other structures represent the focus of this important American school. Many subjects and scenes that are depicted in paintings are still extant today. N.C. Wyeth’s studio is the most famous example of this type of building.
And fifth, within the Byway is an enclave of country estates that represent the apex of the agricultural development of the area and an important era in the social history of the region. The country estate landscape, including the houses, barns, and other buildings, thus created is still visible today. The foremost example is Longwood Gardens. Pierre DuPont bought the Peirce’s Park in 1906, and by the time of his death, his Longwood became a world-famous horticultural garden.
The Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway winds its way through the historic and scenic landscape of the Brandywine Valley in southeastern Pennsylvania. The Byway as designated by the State of Pennsylvania traverses Chester and Delaware Counties and seven townships. At the PA/DE state line, the Byway extends directly northward from both legs of Delaware’s Brandywine Valley National Scenic Byway which originates in the City of Wilmington and terminates on both DE Routes 52 and 100 upon reaching the state line.
Points of Interest
The Progressive Friends Meeting House
Resulted from a split among their members on the issue of anti-slavery activities forcing the abolitionists to form their own meeting in 1855 and this became a beacon to reformers throughout the United States.
In 1906, Pierre du Pont (1870-1954) purchased a small farm near Kennett Square which has grown as Longwood Gardens into one of the world’s great horticultural displays, encompassing 1,100 acres of gardens, woodlands, meadows, fountains, 10,010-pipe Aeolian organ and 4.5-acre conservatory.
Mosaic of once-pastured grasslands, working farmlands, and woodlands that serves as a unique site for passive recreation, wildlife habitat, and scientific research encompasses 571 acres and nine miles of walking trails.
The John Chads House
listed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places, is a remarkable example of early Pennsylvania architecture standing above Creek Road with views of the Brandywine River where tours are offered through the Chadds Ford Historical Society each Saturday throughout the year.
Brandywine River Museum of Art
The Brandywine River Museum of Art in the renovated Hoffman’s Mill, a former gristmill built in 1864, has established an international reputation for its unparalleled collection and its dedication to American art with primary emphasis on the art of the Brandywine region, American illustration, still life and landscape painting, and the work of the Wyeth family.
Brandywine Battlefield Park
The Brandywine Battlefield Park represents the Battle of the Brandywine that was fought on September 11, 1777 with George Washington facing the British under General Howe in the largest troop engagement of the revolutionary War.
Winterthur Museum and Garden
duPont estate with decorative arts and 90-acre botanical gardens
Hagley Museum and Library
Located in Delaware, local history, du Pont family hisotry, and gunpowder mills,
Located in Delaware
Experience the Brandywine Valley
Start your quaint drive along the Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway along the border of Delaware and Pennsylvania on Kennett Pike. From there, you can head north through the Brandywine Valley and view some gorgeous homes and scenery. The first stop you can make to experience the beauty of the area and take in the history is Pennsbury Mill. This Mill was built in 1918 to generate electricity for the farm and is still in wonderful condition today.
When you continue to travel along the Byway, you eventually will reach Kennett Township, which is a quaint town to stop by and take in the local culture. Located here is Longwood Gardens, which has over 1,000 acres of the most beautiful flower horticultures. After your visit to the garden, you can head north along Lenape road and take in the wonderful views.
Your journey then brings you to the Brandywine Creek, where you can then turn onto Creek Road that travels parallel to the Creek for the rest of your journey. Along this road you can find the Brandywine River Museum of Art, which is located right along the river and is the perfect place to stop and enjoy some wonderful art.
From there, the journey becomes whatever you make of it! With plenty of walking trails along the Brandywine Creek, there is plenty of opportunity to do whatever makes you happiest along this wonderful Byway.
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