Old Man River
George Alexis “Frolic” Weymouth’s penchant for good times is as legendary as his passion for land preservation along the Brandywine. But these days, self-preservation may be foremost on the mind of the “fun du Pont.” After all, there’s so much more to be done.
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There are words that ruffle George Alexis “Frolic” Weymouth. A long-undiagnosed dyslexic, he once struggled with most of them. Today, he winces over the simple ones others find comfort in—words like “passion,” “estate,” “gate,” “computer” and “cell phone.”
When it comes to electronic gadgets, he professes not to know how to use the “damn things.” And he’s never been good at hiding behind the masks of wealth—or anything, really. Unpretentious and without hidden agendas, his life has always been a work in progress on a public canvas.
In Chester County, Weymouth’s word has long been the gold standard. An accomplished portrait and landscape artist and a dedicated conservationist, the 72-year-old Chadds Ford resident is chairman of the board of trustees of the Brandywine Conservancy, a unique environmental, arts and cultural preservation organization he helped found in 1967. He’s been chairman of its Brandywine River Museum since it opened in 1971.
Weymouth is an internationally recognized four-in-hand whip with a fabulous collection of antique coaches and carriages. He has a permanently retired trophy at the Devon Horse Show, and one of his favorite coaching events is the Winterthur Point-to-Point in Delaware (both are this month).
For May 3’s Point-to-Point, Weymouth will host a weekend “thank you” party at Big Bend, his Swedes-built stone manor on a pronounced oxbow bend in the Brandywine River. It’s an annual happening others have dubbed “Frolic’s Frolic.”
A visionary, Weymouth is also a realist—as a painter and a man. His dreams typically come to fruition. But now he faces what may be the most serious challenge to his conservation work: the prospect of massive stretches of electrical and liquid fuel pipeline corridors snaking across conservancy land. The adversary—along with the power companies—is the federal government and its right to exercise eminent domain, or the legal seizing of private property for public good. Who will win out: Frolic or the feds?
“I don’t think we can stop it,” Weymouth says frankly. “We’re one agency, so I hope to God it’s not our demise.”
Weymouth’s work continues in the wake of the Jan. 16 passing of Andrew Wyeth, maybe America’s best-known artist and one of Frolic’s dearest friends. In the 2004 documentary The Way Back: A Portrait of George A. Weymouth, Wyeth said he didn’t “know of anyone who means as much to me.”
Then there’s Weymouth’s lineage and notoriety. He’s a du Pont heir and is oft-termed “the fun du Pont.” The connection both elevates and levels him. At times defined by his association with society soirées, bibulous escapades and randy trysts, he’s been more in tune with his own health and self-preservation of late. As others have suggested, future generations may likely salute him as the “Savior of the Brandywine, the Nile of Chester County.” But is that only if he staves off the utility corridors? Or only if he continues to save himself?
Neither threat, thus far, has deflated his flamboyancy. Ever eccentric, Weymouth still wears his eye-catching carriage driver’s mud apron—the one with the red heart over the crotch. He’s been compared to the Wizard of Oz. (Big Bend is his Oz.) And don’t let the Civil War-era crutches he uses to get around fool you. “I usually cause as much trouble as I can,” he says.
Frolic loves to play. After all, he’s named after a dog. When his brother, Gene, was 3, he lost his foxhound. “Where’s Frolic? Where’s Frolic?” he kept asking, driving their mother, Dulcinea (Deo) Ophelia Payne du Pont Weymouth, batty.
“Shut up!” she finally barked. “Here’s your damn Frolic.”
And she thrust Georgie before Gene.