On a brilliant fall day this past September, 43 members of the Friends of Ancient Road Transportation paid a visit to Nemours Mansion and Gardens, the 222-acre estate in Wilmington, Delaware, built by the early 20th-century businessman, financier and philanthropist Alfred I. du Pont.
Nemours Mansion and Gardens, which reopened in 2008 after a $39 million renovation, was a stunning setting for the pre-World War I automobiles—vehicles that had come from as far away as California, Florida, Canada, England and the Netherlands.
The cars included a 1907 Packard roadster owned by Evert Louwman of The Hague; a 1909 Stoddard Dayton belonging to Aneice Lassiter of West Palm Beach; a 1909 Thomas Flyer belonging to Richie Clyne of Las Vegas; a 1910 Packard roadster owned by Mark Lankford of Harleysville, Pennsylvania; a 1910 Simplex owned by Warren Kraft of Cold Spring Harbor, New York; a 1911 Stearns owned by Stu Laidlaw of Redding, Connecticut; and a 1914 Rolls-Royce belonging to Tom Heckman of Newtown
According to Mr. Heckman, who had organized the Nemours visit, "All of these cars have been driven thousands of miles over the years and are a testimonial to the great variety of automobile manufacturers that existed many years ago."
Friends of Ancient Road Transportation was established about 30 years ago by two antique car aficionados who had grown weary of dealing with the bureaucracy and strict rules and regulations associated with the existing antique car clubs. Regarding their new organization, they said, "There are no rules, no dues and no officers—just tradition!"
The group holds two main events each year: A Spring Motoring Weekend and the week-long Founders Tour in the fall. These events are voluntarily hosted by group members, and the locations change each year.
On the day of the Wilmington visit, the drivers all met at the Nemours Mansion and Gardens Visitors Center, and from there proceeded to the estate's garage to view Alfred I. du Pont's collection of vehicles on display. These include a 1924 Cadillac limousine on a 1934 Cadillac chassis, a 1921 Renault also on a 1934 Cadillac chassis, a 1950 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith, a 1960 Rolls-Royce Phantom "V" with a Parkwood Body and a 1933 Buick Sport Coupe that is known to have been driven by Mr. du Pont himself.
Next stop was the mansion, one of the grandest buildings ever constructed in Delaware. Built in 1910 and designed by the well-known architectural firm Car-rere and Hastings, it occupies nearly 47,000 square feet—fully "one acre under one roof."
Following the visit to the mansion, the motorists drove slowly through the surrounding 222 acres of formal gardens, where they were able to view fountains, reflecting pools, parterres and statues— including the 23-karat gold leaf statue, "Achievement"—as well as a huge fleur-de-lis jardin.
In high and appreciative spirits, the drivers and their passengers departed from Nemours and headed for other venues in the beautiful Brandywine River valley. .*■.
Ron and Annette Elenbaas's 1910 Thomas Flyer glistens like brand new a Peter Lehtola's 1911 Locomobile shows the company's quality-over-quantity century after it was manufactured. approach to automobile building.
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