Hamilton died Tuesday at her home in Boca Grande, Florida, said Nancy Brent Wingo, executive director of the Hamilton Family Foundation. A cause of death wasn’t disclosed.
Hamilton, who embraced the nickname “Dodo,” was an avid gardener and tended to thousands of plants on her 10-acre estate in Wayne, just west of Philadelphia. She also had a home in Newport, Rhode Island.
Hamilton was the granddaughter of Campbell Soup Co. founder John T. Dorrance and was a longtime fixture on Forbes’ list of the country’s 400 richest people. The magazine estimated her net worth at $1.1 billion in 2006, but she dropped off the list in subsequent years.
She gave away millions of dollars to Philadelphia educational and cultural institutions, including $25 million to Thomas Jefferson University, a medical school; $25 million to The University of the Arts; $5 million to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; and at least $10 million to The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
Hamilton was a fixture at the Philadelphia Flower Show, winning countless ribbons over three decades before retiring from competition in 2014. She had many full-time gardeners working in the greenhouses around her red brick Georgian mansion.
Her longtime support of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which sponsors the flower show, allowed the organization to redesign and maintain civic landscapes around the city.
She and her husband established the Hamilton Family Foundation in 1992. It provides funding for literacy-based educational projects in underserved schools in Philadelphia; Camden, New Jersey; and Chester, Pennsylvania.
In 1999, she founded the Newport-based SVF Foundation, a nonprofit that works to preserve endangered breeds of food and livestock. She also helped develop Forty 1 North, a hotel marina resort in the city.
Born in New York on Aug. 16, 1928, Hamilton grew up on Park Avenue in Manhattan and in Newport.
She moved to Wayne, Pennsylvania, after marrying Samuel M.V. Hamilton in 1950; they raised two sons and a daughter. Samuel Hamilton died in 1997.