Superb opportunity to discover Philadelphia’s great art collections
Private visit to the newly housed collection of the Barnes Foundation
In-depth view of the stunning Museum of Art
Visits to Longwood Gardens plus the Winterthur & Nemours estates
Central landmark hotel on Chestnut Street opposite historic Independence Hall
Philadelphia had an unlikely beginning. The early seventeenth century saw Dutch and Swedish explorers and religious refugees from Britain settle on the borders of modern Pennsylvania and Delaware, trading with the indigenous people. Back in Britain, Charles II owed substantial amounts of money to the wealthy Admiral Sir William Penn, whose son (also William), had been frequently imprisoned for his Quaker ideals. The king settled the problematic debt and also rid himself of the Quaker son by giving the Penns a huge tract of American land, from which Penn Junior created what would eventually be the modern states of Pennsylvania and Delaware. Pennsylvania became his ‘holy experiment’ giving Quaker pilgrims a safe home in a New World (Delaware soon went its own way as a separate entity). The new colony’s eventual capital, Philadelphia, would become his “City of Brotherly Love”.
Quaker principles encouraged prosperity, tolerance and scientific pursuits - so much so that Pennsylvania became the richest of the thirteen colonies. Philadelphia became the city for Atlantic commerce with political thought and science growing hand in hand, as exemplified in the restless mind of local printer, Benjamin Franklin.
Britain’s wars fought against the French and indigenous peoples caused it to impose heavy taxes on the colonies, inevitably leading to acts of protest and the eventual War of Independence. After independence, Philadelphia was briefly the nation’s capital whilst Washington was built. Philadelphia is the most handsome of America’s eighteenth century cities. More than in any other place it is easy to see its Georgian buildings develop a bolder ‘Federal’ style. Indeed, what we describe as ‘Greek Revival’, the political overtones of which were not lost on the locals, shaped the graceful ‘Athenian’ symmetry of the city.
The nineteenth century built on Benjamin Franklin’s legacy of inventive science, as the city became an enlightened beacon for intellectual pursuits, art collecting and the tradition of philanthropy which lies at the heart of all that is great about the United States. In later decades the collecting tradition of America’s great industrial dynasties emerged, with many of America’s famed collections of art now housed in Philadelphia’s museums, academies and foundations, the most important of which we shall visit.
On the border lands between Pennsylvania and Delaware, originally settled in the seventeenth century, one family, the Du Ponts, have left an indelible impression. Their great wealth has created several remarkable estates expressing a refined taste in collecting and in the sophisticated design of their sumptuous mansions and gardens. We shall visit three of these as we bring full circle this extraordinary story of settlement, consolidation and celebration.
This tour will be led and managed by James Hill. In Philadelphia and Delaware we shall use curators, art historians and guides provided by the individual museums, foundations and estates for all the guided visits. We stay at the 4* Kimpton Hotel Monaco, a landmark hotel in central Philadelphia, superbly located on historic Chestnut Street overlooking a compliment of iconic historic buildings including Independence Hall.
Day by day
- Day 1: Thursday 10 May
- We leave from Heathrow and fly with BA to Philadelphia, arriving mid-afternoon. There will be a bus transfer into the city after which we have our first group dinner, followed by an early night!
- Day 2: Friday 11 May
- We begin with the momentous events of 1776 at the Independence Hall, visiting the Assembly and Congress Hall where the Declaration of Independence was ratified and signed. The Carpenter’s Hall, an elegant yet simple building, is home to the oldest trade guild in the country. A number of fine Georgian and Revival buildings grace this part of the city and will be seen during our morning walk, including the Second Bank of the United States - one of America’s finest examples of the Greek Revival style. Prominent men of the colony were entertained at the exquisite early eighteenth century Powel House which we visit privately at the end of the morning. After lunch (not included) we travel by bus to leafy Fairmount Park to visit what John Adams called “the most elegant seat in Pennsylvania”, Mount Pleasant, a restored Georgian house maintained by the Museum of Art. We return to the hotel mid-afternoon and the evening will be free.
- Day 3: Saturday 12 May
- Today we focus on one of the world’s truly great collections at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As with many American museums, an integrated ‘At Home’ display style shows paintings in tandem with period furnishings - a tremendous visual impact. We begin the morning looking at the European Old Masters followed by a group lunch in the museum’s superb restaurant. We spend the afternoon looking at Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century American Art. The evening will be free.
- Day 4: Sunday 13 May
- Today we travel into nearby Delaware and a day dedicated to the remarkable Du Pont family. Henry Francis Du Pont’s Winterthur is a palimpsest of paintings, textiles, ceramics and furniture reflecting the interests of a remarkable man. We shall visit the garden and some of the period rooms in the mansion house. After lunch on site (not included), we conclude with a visit to Alfred Du Pont’s Nemours. A true homage to Versailles, the mansion and gardens are a gilded tribute to the family’s French heritage. We return to Philadelphia where the evening will be free.
- Day 5: Monday 14 May
- Our leisurely drive into the Pennsylvanian countryside is dominated by one place: Longwood Gardens. The gardening fruits of Pierre S Du Pont’s European ‘Grand Tour’ are simply breath-taking in what is one of the US’s best gardens. Stunning indoor and outdoor displays are juxtaposed with whimsical topiaries and some of the grandest fountain choreographies ever produced, much modelled on what he saw in Italy. Whilst we shall be formally guided, participants will have plenty of free time to enjoy the estate. We lunch as a group on site at the highly regarded ‘1906’ restaurant. We return to Philadelphia and the evening will be free.
- Day 6: Tuesday 15 May
- The morning will be free for private explorations. After lunch (not included) we meet in the early afternoon and return to the theme of the city’s collections at America’s oldest art school and gallery, the Academy of Arts, housed in a fine nineteenth century building, rich in superb American Old Master and Impressionist paintings. Following our visit we walk the short distance to visit the Barnes Foundation where we shall enjoy a private visit when it is closed to the public – the ideal way to enjoy Albert Barnes’ ensembles of mostly French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces. Later in the evening we meet for our final group dinner in Rittenhouse Square.
- Day 7: Wednesday 16 May
- On our final morning we return to the Museum of Art for our second and final visit of the week, dividing our morning between the complimentary collections of European Modern and American Modern Art. Following our final group lunch near our hotel, we make our final journey to the airport for our early evening departure and overnight flight, arriving at London Heathrow early on Thursday morning.
- Price: £3,335 per person
- Price without flights: £2,860
- Deposit: £450
- Single Supplement: £690 (Double Room for Sole Use)
- Tour Manager: James Hill
6 nights with breakfast at the 4* Kimpton Hotel Monaco
Outward: BA067 Depart Heathrow (Terminal 5) 1240 arrive Philadelphia 1530
Return: BA066 Depart Philadelphia 1845 arrive Heathrow (Terminal 5) 0650
2 dinners and 3 lunches with water, wine & coffee, all local transfers, entry fees & gratuities, services of James Hill, local guides & specialist lecturers
Travel to & from Heathrow, 5 dinners & 3 lunches
Weather Conditions for Philadelphia in May are:
Average Temperature between: 12oC - 22oC / 53oF - 71oF
Rainfall: 84mm / 3.3inches
We do expect a reasonable level of fitness. For full details see our frequently asked questions.