Marian Coffin Gardens at Gibraltar

About The Marian Coffin Garden

If you ever need a peaceful setting in which to reflect while in Wilmington, you will have difficulty locating a location that compares favorably to Marian Coffin Garden. The sight of the gardens, which are lavishly extending over the grounds of the now-abandoned Gibraltar mansion, is calming to the spirit.

Click here for more info.

When Isabella Mathieu du Pont Sharp, Hugh Rodney Sharp’s wife, and Hugh Rodney Sharp were acquired in 1909, the Gibraltar estate was already a sprawling home from the 19th century with over 80 acres of excellent landscaping. Sharp intended to expand the existing residence by constructing several two- and three-story extensions east and west of the property, a greenhouse, a swimming pool, a conservatory, a carriage house, and most significantly, an extravagant garden.

Enter Marian Cruger Coffin, a young lady who aspires to be successful and has a deep interest in landscape design. Coffin’s father passed away. She and her mother were just seven years old when they split up. Financially reliant on their extended family. The casket was born in 1876 into a wealthy upper-class family, but When she was just seven years old, her father died away. Coffin wanted to cultivate her independence and pursue her passion for gardening, so she applied to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of a select few universities that would allow female students at the time. Because she lacked formal schooling, she was turned down at first because of her lack of knowledge in some disciplines, such as mathematics. After making a significant effort to complete her remedial classes and reapplying to college, Coffin was accepted in 1901 as one of just four women to be taken into the institution.

To meet the challenges posed by some of the most innovative thinkers in the fields of horticulture and landscaping, Coffin looked for ideas in a wide variety of styles from throughout Europe. Marian Coffin’s professional life got off to a sluggish start when she graduated from college since the discipline of landscape design was dominated by males and painfully closed to women. She applied to several different architectural companies in New York City, but they would need someone else to hire her. As a result, in 1905, she started her own company and quickly became quite successful.

Coffin earned a reputation for herself as an inventive, innovative, and dynamic architect by bringing a unique flare to landscape design. She began her career by designing relatively tiny flower gardens in suburban settings. She made it a point to give women a chance to establish themselves in a sector that was dominated by males and employed both men and women as employees. Hugh Sharp gave Coffin the commission to design the gardens at the Gibraltar estate in 1916. Coffin chose the Italianate Beaux-Arts style for the project, and he envisioned each section of the grounds as if it were a room or corridor in an outdoor palace of its own.

A winding marble staircase leads down from the mansion, perched atop the rocky hill, to the flower garden that Coffin planned. The villa overlooks the garden. Each terrace has its distinctive concept or component, expressed via a vibrant and carefully curated composition of plants, bushes, and trees of varying heights. Each garden section is given its point of interest thanks to the garden’s primary components. Flowers surround statues that have been collected from all around the globe. A spacious tea house with lofty colonnaded archways looks out into a tranquil stretch of colorful blooming shrubs and a line of cypress trees.

After Hugh and Isabella Sharp passed away, the estate and the garden they had created gradually deteriorated over time. Hugh went away in 1968, while Isabella died in 1946. Their property ultimately ended up in the hands of Hugh Rodney Sharp Jr., who did not inherit his parent’s enthusiasm for gardening. The estate continued for many years without the essential upkeep to maintain the gardens free of weeds and pests. By 1990, all that was left of Marian Coffin’s original vision was a heavily overgrown shell.

The grounds, now known as the Marian Coffin Garden and open to the public all year round, are the replica of Coffin’s concept that comes the closest. Preservation Delaware repaired the weathered sculptures with great precision, replaced the weeds with the original flora wherever feasible, and restored the exquisite flagstones and marble steps around the property. Ultimately, 

the swimming pool was transformed into a stunning lotus pond home to various indigenous flora and fauna, such as dragonflies and frogs. The dynamic brilliance that Marian Coffin brought to her art is now on display for everybody to marvel at and take pleasure in.

Not only does the Marian Coffin Garden reflect a piece of Delaware’s recorded history, but it also exemplifies the zeal and perseverance of a woman who fought to break free of the conventional gender stereotypes preventing her from attaining her goal. Marian Coffin could realize her vision despite the obstacles presented by custom, just as the gardens have been preserved despite the effects of time and deterioration with the assistance of a dedicated community of individuals such as yourselves. Participate actively in the history of your community. Donate to Preservation Delaware so that the heroic tales of people like Marian Coffin might continue to inspire future generations.


Preservation Delaware, Inc. is a statewide nonprofit organization committed to preserving Delaware’s architectural legacy and historic settings via the promotion of education, the development of public policy initiatives, and the provision of technical support.


Preservation Delaware envisions a future in which committed community people can actively conserve and maintain historical assets despite the threats posed by development and deterioration, thanks to the reasonable allocation of resources provided by the government.

Gibraltar and Marian Coffin Gardens

PDI rehabilitated the gardens on the long-abandoned Gibraltar Estate in 1998 and 1999. As a result, the perfect beauty of the gardens was restored. The gardens were the first in a long run of high-profile contracts in Marian C. Coffin’s outstanding career in landscape architecture, a sector dominated by males at the time. The gardens were designed and created by Coffin in the early 1900s. The gardens, which formerly thrived with magnificent sculptures and colorful plants from around the globe, were allowed to deteriorate until PDI secured funding and restored their former splendor. This process has been challenging. Now, PDI continues to maintain the garden, which is accessible to the general public throughout the whole year and offers a priceless haven of tranquility tucked away behind its tall stone walls.

For more information, visit their website or call them at (302) 322-7100 Continue reading about Wilmington.

0/5 (0 Reviews)