What is now Longwood Gardens was originally purchased from William Penn in 1700 by a fellow Quaker named George Peirce . Although it started as a working farm, in 1798 twin brothers Joshua and Samuel Peirce planted the first specimens of an arboretum, originally named Peirces Park, and has been open to the public almost continuously since that time. By 1850 they had amassed one of the finest collections of trees in the nation. Industrialist Pierre S. du Pont purchased the property from the Peirce family in 1906 to save the arboretum from being sold for lumber. He made it his private estate, and from 1906 until the 1930s, du Pont added extensively to the property.
A world traveler from an early age, du Pont was often inspired to add features to the garden after attending world's fairs, the most notable additions being the massive conservatory, complete with a massive pipe organ, and the extensive system of fountains. Mr. Du Pont opened his estate to the public many days of the year during his occupancy and was even known, on a rare occasion, to personally provide tours to visitors as happened one day with a lady requiring a wheelchair, as reported by Random House publisher, Bennett Cerf. Following the completion of the fountains, du Pont began planning for the sustained life of Longwood Gardens after his death. According to his will, filed in Delaware and dated March 21, 1946, he founded Longwood Foundation Inc. and left most of his estate "for the maintenance and improvement of the gardens." Upon du Ponts unexpected death April 5, 1954, Henry B. du Pont, president of the Longwood Foundation, announced, "There will be no change in our long-standing policy of opening the gardens and greenhouse to the public every day in the week."