Nestled in the heart of the historic Brandywine Valley near Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, Longwood Gardens stands as a true testament to how creativity coupled with enlightened innovation can transform simple natural pleasures, such as florae and moving water, into a legacy of grandeur and veneration. On July 20, 1906, 36-year-old Pierre du Pont, eager to preserve the trees on a gorgeous plot of land from being cut down, purchased the Peirce family farm. While he had no intention to do much more with the land initially, his passion for gardening, entrepreneurial spirit, and inspiration from landscape architecture and water-features witnessed on his travels eventually led him to transform a simple country farm into one of the nation’s leading horticultural displays.
After laying out his first project, the Flower Garden Walk, Pierre du Pont went on to create dozens of striking gardens throughout the property in an effort to entertain his friends, each one unique and impressive enough to rival the last. To that end, Longwood Gardens quickly became a popular attraction, with visitors coming in droves to experience the oasis Pierre had created by combining picturesque landscape architecture with water feature performances you needed to see to believe. There is no contention that Longwood Gardens in its entirety is a true work of art, but Pierre’s hydraulic masterpiece was, undoubtedly, the Main Fountain Garden. The completion of these fountains in 1931 marked an end to major construction during Pierre’s lifetime, although his vision of providing unbeatable entertainment for the guests of Longwood lives on, and was the beacon that guided the team in the Main Fountain Garden’s recent 90$ million New Heights revitalization.
After nearly two-years, a dismantling and near-total rebuilding of the Main Fountain Garden has revived this five-acre Longwood jewel. The current features had lasted an impressive amount of time, and now the team was looking for a way to preserve the historical significance of the Garden while sweeping it into the 21st century with the same level of quality and longevity Pierre himself would covet. As part of the master plan, the number of fountains in the Garden display increased from 380 to a shocking 1,719! Included in this brilliant upgrade are nozzles that weave together delicate streams to create the illusion of a basket, powerful air driven Titans that soar into the air, and even jets that culminate in a propane flare. As one of the fountain choreographers and Longwood’s Pierre S. du Pont Fellow, Colvin Randall, expressed, “Pierre du Pont enjoyed applying technology to create a grand aesthetic experience. I think he would approve of using the latest technologies to create even more remarkable fountain shows.” President and CEO Paul Redman also agreed, stating that they knew from the very beginning of the project that if the big guy was here, he would want the latest and most innovative fountain gardens he could get. The man was a forward thinker.” Amongst the many industry-leading innovations that now make the Garden so spectacular, Crystal Fountains was entrusted to develop new RGBACL LED technology to illuminate the water and landscape in an array of shades and tones never seen before in a fountain show, simply because they are “normally impossible to create,” as their head programmer testified. The ability of these lights to not only produce different colors, but nearly every possible shade of pantone, from high intensity to tunable cool and warm white, makes the night show of the Main Fountain Garden truly like none other before it; allowing it to remain as cutting-edge as when it was originally debuted 86 years go. Importantly to the revitalization team, as well, the new lighting tech was also able to match a very specific shade of amber that was preferred by Longwood Gardens in order to keep the vision of Mr. Du Pont’s original masterpiece intact.
“The lighting has changed a lot,” Paul Redman explained. “The original lights were massive, while the new ones are LED, smaller and more efficient. The original lights were primary colors. Now, we have the entire rainbow spectrum and the ability to mix and make colors - millions and millions of colors." The ability of the LEDs to express various tones helps to set the ambiance and mood for the choreographed show as the infinite color combinations change instantaneously to match the water as it sways, pirouettes, and leaps in synchrony with music, all while perfectly harmonizing with the surrounding landscape architecture.
Longwood Gardens is one of the premier horticultural display gardens in the world and plays host to over a million visitors year-round to enjoy exotic plants and horticulture (both indoor and outdoor), events and performances, seasonal and themed attractions, as well as educational programs for all ages. Crystal was honoured to work with Fluidity Design Consultants and the rest of the incredible team involved in this ground breaking project to truly ‘reach new heights’ in the Main Fountain Garden. There is no doubt that the revitalized Garden will continue to dazzle guest for years to come and create unforgettable memories, just as Du Pont desired.