A few weeks ago at my volunteer shift at the Peirce–du Pont House, I saw a family—parents, kids, grandma— drive slowly by in their car across the patio in front, then up the footpath behind the Outdoor Theater to the Five Points intersection. Before I could give it much thought, one of the security people ran in with their 2-way radio at their ear, asking me which way they went. Finding the family in their car on the footpath was a surprise to everyone. No doubt it was a mistake, and they were only looking for the parking lot.
I later told this story to another couple at the senior center, both recently retired from responsible jobs. They were not surprised at all. They said when they first moved to the area twenty years ago, they found themselves in the same predicament at Winterthur, another former du Pont mansion open to the public in the Wilmington area (the former home of Pierre’s cousin, Henry Francis du Pont, and now one of the premier museums of furniture). They must have missed a sign for the parking lot, and somehow found themselves driving along a footpath filled with pedestrians. They knew something was wrong, but didn’t know how to correct it. All they wanted was the parking lot.
Such mistakes are rare at Longwood, but with over a million visitors a year, almost anything can happen—with any of us, I kid you not. The rare mistakes are used to improve procedures so they cannot happen again.