Marian Coffin Garden – Wilmington, Delaware - Atlas Obscura

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Marian Coffin Garden

Enchanting gardens surround a derelict mansion, all hidden in plain sight behind a stone wall. 


Practically hidden in plain sight behind an impressive stone wall, this derelict mansion towers above enchanting gardens. Though ivy climbs the mansion’s stone walls and its shattered windows reveal a gloomy, deteriorated interior, the gardens are meticulously maintained and bursting with vibrant life.

Named for the standing rocky entablature the estate stands upon, Gibraltar’s mansion was originally built in the 1840s by John Rodney Brinckle. It was later expanded, and its lush gardens were added in the early 1900s by Marian Cruger Coffin, one of the first female professional landscape architects in the United States.

By the late 1960s, the estate belonged to Hugh Rodney Sharp Jr., who sadly had no interest in its grand gardens. By the time he died in 1990, the gardens had become a tangled mass of overgrown flora, no longer the manicured landscape they were in their prime. After Sharp’s death, the mansion, too, became abandoned and overlooked.

Thankfully, the gardens were restored to their original grandeur in the 1990s by preservation organizations. Verdant vegetation once again fills their many terraces, which connect to the shuttered mansion via an elegant, curving staircase.

When you first enter Gibraltar, you’re greeted by a pair of iron gates leading into the Flower Garden and the rest of the beautiful gardens, as well as the abandoned carriage house, greenhouse, and garage.

Wandering through the exquisite greenery reveals urns, sculptures, fountains, and iron gates embedded among the plants. You’ll also find large, though still charming structures like a teahouse and carriage house. There’s also a flower garden and a water garden, complete with a reflection pool filled with koi and water lilies. In the spring, azaleas, bluebells, and tulips add pops of colors to the sea of greenery. 

Know Before You Go

Entrance into the mansion itself is not permitted, however, the gardens are open from dawn to dusk, free to enter.


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