Awbury Historic District, Oak Lane, Philadelphia PA 19138

Awbury Historic District

Philadelphia City, Philadelphia County, PA

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The Awbury Historic District [†] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

The Awbury Historic District consists of the designed landscapes, buildings, and sites of the Cope extended family enclave in the East Germantown section of the city of Philadelphia. This precinct includes the entire Awbury Arboretum, which takes up the majority of the land area of the district, and adjacent properties developed and occupied by Henry Cope (1793-1865), son and successor to prominent Philadelphia Orthodox Quaker merchant Thomas Pym Cope (1768-1854), his near relatives, and his descendants. The district is bounded roughly by the R7 SEPTA Chestnut Hill East rail line, Chew Avenue, Avonhoe Road, Boyer Street, Devon Street, Haines Street, Ardleigh Street, and the Arboretum property line northwest of Washington Lane. The district is characterized by suburban house and landscape garden styles of the mid-Atlantic region between the mid-nineteenth century and World War II. The district retains historic integrity in all its contributing buildings, of which there are 31. These are detached, masonry dwellings and secondary buildings, generally relatively substantial in scale, built by successive generations of the family in Gothic Revival, Italian Villa, Queen Anne, Tudor Revival, and finally Colonial Revival styles between 1849 and 1922. Generally speaking, these buildings are sited to stand at a moderate distance from each other, and most were built in loose clusters that relate to the roadways that wind through the interior of the district and at its edges. In addition to the contributing buildings, there are 3 contributing sites in the district, 2 of which consist of archaeological sites of former buildings near surviving buildings. The final contributing site is the Awbury Arboretum, developed between 1916 and 1940 from the landscape gardens and agricultural areas around and between the houses in the district. The Arboretum takes up the majority of the land area of the district, concentrated in its south, west, and northwest portions and in its eastern corner. Both the Arboretum and the private landscape between houses outside of the Arboretum is made up of open lawn area, separated by mixed woodlands and shrubs, with a pond in the west-facing meadow near the intersection of East Washington Lane and the R7 railroad line. Infill in the district has been minimal, and consists of two non-contributing buildings built after the period of significance that have little impact on the integrity of the district as a whole. The third and final noncontributing resource in the district is a small, historic garage that has lost its integrity through re-cladding. The district is generally distinguished by picturesque irregularity in the relationship of houses, roads, and landscape of both the country seats that were the mainstay of the vicinity before the Civil War, and of the early twentieth-century "garden city" developments that followed them. The district is visually distinct from the densely-built urban blocks that surround it on three sides, and from the level, open landscape of the city park on the northeast.

The first three houses built for the Cope extended family form a large, roughly triangular cluster in the southeastern third of the district and are the core of the original family "compound." The first of these was the John & Mary Cope Haines House and Stable (1849-50), followed shortly by Henry & Rachel Cope House, "Awbury," named for the family ancestral home in the town of Avebury, in Wiltshire, England (1852-3, and then by a villa built for Francis Cope, Henry's son (1860-62) and his wife Rachel Reeve. These first three houses were all constructed of native stone, probably quarried nearby, and are outstandingly intact examples of country house styles of the 1850s and 1860s; the restraint of their decorative detail derives from the relative plainness of the Quaker aesthetic. The first two, the Haines house and Awbury house, share several details of construction and ornament: both have a principal, southeast facing, gabled volume with attached secondary volumes and open wood porches with full-height windows behind them, ashlar-cut masonry on the symmetrical, main facades, bracketed roofs, 6-over-6 fenestration, and gabled dormers with simplified Gothic Revival detail. The Francis Cope House is a variation on these themes: the principal, southwest-facing volume is ornamented by a central wall gable with decorative braces, the masonry is cut and laid in random ashlar, the fenestration is both segmental-arch and rectilinear, and the decorative detail is generally more elaborate, and is a mix of Italianate and Gothic Revival styles.

All three houses retain integrity, with their original fenestration and the most of their original exterior trim and porches; the Henry Cope House has lost its original front porch, revealing a segmental relieving arch behind its former position, but its side porches with ogee-arch detail survive. The Haines House was altered in 1890 by the addition of a wing to the northwest in the same material and details. A number of the secondary buildings of these first three houses also survive with much of the decorative detail of their original construction. The Haines House Stable retains its central cupola, decorative barge boards, and fenestration, and is an unusual survivor of its type, although its original porch has been enclosed; the Awbury Gate Lodge also retains most of its original exterior woodwork. The Awbury Stable also survives. It was altered for residential use, probably before 1886, and retains most of its original exterior features. The Awbury shed behind the former stable survives with integrity, retaining most of its original frame structure and decoration. The board-and-batten carriage shed of the Francis Cope House also survives with integrity, although altered. The former Henry Cope ice house site, on the northeast side of the Henry Cope house, consists of masonry remains above ground and a depression corresponding to the former building's interior.

In the period before the Civil War when the original three houses were constructed, the three principal landscape types that would continue at Awbury into the early twentieth century were established around this cluster of three houses. The first of these, farming, had dominated the area before the family purchases, and was continued in a more abbreviated form in the westernmost area of the district in what was known as the "Paramore farm," now an area that consists principally of open meadow framed by trees and sloping toward the railroad, and a pond. The open landscape of grazing meadows and cultivated fields was transformed in the areas around the first houses into two types of garden settings: first, the park-like, picturesque landscape garden consisting of lawns interrupted by concentrated areas of trees and shrubs, undoubtedly arranged to frame views toward the south and the Delaware River several miles to the east (no longer visible due to later development); and second, more intimate flower and vegetable garden spaces near the houses. An extensive flower garden was developed in the area to the north, south, and east of the Henry Cope house, beginning in the earliest period of Cope occupation; box bushes that survive in this area are likely remnants of some period of this garden, and the area near the Haines house was the site of a large vegetable as well as an ornamental garden. I Agricultural activities, a typical feature of country seats from the eighteenth century, were segregated into areas outside of the landscape garden and flower/vegetable gardens near the houses.

Succeeding generations of the family continued to develop the tracts of Henry Cope and John Haines after their deaths. Most of the family residential development occurred to the north and south of the original cluster, in areas under the control of Henry Cope's sons Francis and Thomas (the latter occupied the Henry Cope house after their father"s death). The first houses of this period of development were built for the daughters of Francis Cope and their husbands. The first two of these were designed by Addison Hutton: the Jonathan & Rachel Cope Evans House (1872) and the Alexis T. & Elizabeth Cope House (1882-3). A third house, since demolished, was designed by Addison Hutton and built ca. 1877-80 for Thomas Cope's daughter Eleanor and her husband George Emlen on the site of the present, non-contributing Bethesda Court Building. The final houses for this generation were the Cope/Evans Double Houses (1885-6) and the William Draper Lewis House (ca. 1892-3, all designed by Cope & Stewardson. The five surviving buildings reflect the changes in architectural taste in the decades following the Civil War: the Jonathan & Rachel Evans House shares the gray-stone, segmental-arch openings, and simplified Gothic decoration of the houses of the previous generation, but its plan, unlike those of the earlier buildings, is more pronouncedly picturesque in its asymmetry. The Alexis & Elizabeth Cope house and the Cope/Evans double houses demonstrate the fully developed eclectic Queen Anne, with varied surface materials (including stone, shingle, and brick), multi-light windows, and decoratively shaped, corbelled chimneys. Finally, the William Draper Lewis house marks the shift to more simplified surfaces and the historic styles of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in its abstracted blend of English and colonial details.

In this period, the family holdings were expanded by the purchase in 1885 of property northwest of Washington Lane by Clementine Cope (1835-1899), Henry Cope's niece.[2] The existing 1793 Unruh-Garretson-Cope House on this property was added to and renovated by Carl A. Ziegler in 1921, overlaying Colonial Revival details on an eighteenth-century house and adding a cottage to the northwest. The land use in the significant parts of this portion of the district was agricultural and today is partially overgrown; areas were landscaped as garden as well, particularly in the twentieth century under the direction of landscape architects Harrison, Mertz and Emlen. Current community gardens on the northern portion of the site (part of the present-day Arboretum property) recall its historic, small-scale agriculture.

Houses of the succeeding generations of the family were grouped to form loose clusters near earlier buildings owned by their parents or grandparents. The land surrounding the demolished George Emlen house became the site of the most intensive developments, beginning with the Alfred G. & Mary Scattergood house (1909) to the south. This was followed by the George Emlen, Jr., A. C. & S. Emlen Development House, and Sharpless Ewing houses (1911,1914,1911) to the north, at the corner of Ardleigh Street and Washington A venue. The final house of this group was the Shippen & Esther Lewis house (1921) built to the north of the Scattergood house. A smaller duster was created to the west of the Jonathan Evans house: the Anna C. Evans and Algernon Evans houses (Carl Ziegler, 1922). All of these houses, along with the renovations to the 1793 Unruh-Garretson-Cope house and the Caroline Cope Cottage, were built in a simplified version of the Colonial Revival, looking to vernacular traditions of Pennsylvania in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Scattergood house, built on a grander scale, demonstrates the link between Tudor Revival and this vernacular version of the Colonial Revival in the early decades of the twentieth century.

In the southeastern-most portion of the district, in the area that corresponds to the property holdings of John Haines, family development was limited to the William C. Kimber house of 1914 by Edmund Gilchrist. The Kimber house, which faces northeast, continues many of the details of earlier buildings in the district: the use of local stone, the predominance of gabled roof forms, and a relative simplicity of ornamental detail. Its leaded casement windows and limestone quoins around the first floor windows indicate the popular Cotswold style of the period, a specialty of the architect and an early example of his work. To the southwest of the Haines and Kimber houses, the land of the Haines property on that side of Haines Street was developed as a denser residential area for purchasers outside the family, beginning in the 1910s.

The landscape garden areas established in the nineteenth century around the periphery of the district and the agricultural zones to the north and west of the clusters of Awbury houses became the essential core of the Arboretum, established in 1916 (see map for Arboretum boundary). The 1930s also saw the construction of substantial stone walls built under the WPA that survive in the district. Between 1934 and 1938 walls were erected on the perimeter of the district and along Washington Lane in several locations, including the barn-dashed walls along Ardleigh Street (see photograph 10). These are included in the inventory as uncounted landscape features along Ardleigh Street.

There are two contributing sites known to be associated with Cope family occupation in the district: the Henry Cope House Ice House site and the Caroline Cope Stable/Garage site. Neither have had any archeological investigation, and the potential for archeological resources exists in these sites.

The physical integrity of the historic resources in the district is high overall, with minimal alterations or changes to contributing buildings and generally good condition predominating. There have been some minor losses in the form of missing portions of original porches on the Awbury house, the Jonathan & Rachel Cope Evans house, and the removal of a small, rear porch from the Francis Cope house, but in no case has there been complete loss of these features. The only historic building whose integrity has been lost to alteration is the small electric car garage for the Shippen Lewis house. The non-contributing resources in the district are few. The Eric & Gay Johnson house sits in one of the historic building clusters near Awbury house; it is non-contributing by virtue of its date, but its scale, style, materials, and details harmonize well with the historic buildings. The Bethesda Court Building differs in scale, period, and style from the district's contributing buildings, but a buffer zone of trees surrounding its property separates it from historic resources, and its position at the district's perimeter renders it relatively unobtrusive despite its size.


  1. See Veronica Aplenc, "Cultural Landscape Inventory, Part 1: Site History, Existing Conditions and Analysis, Recommendations for the Master Plan and Beyond of The Awbury Arboretum," 1997,65.
  2. Deeds in the Awbury Arboretum archives.


The Awbury Historic District is significant under Criterion C for its high concentration of buildings and landscapes by designers significant both regionally and nationally. Beyond the substantial merit of these individual design features, Awbury's significance derives from its identity as a perceived whole that integrated buildings and landscape, and was created by an extended family group that shared design, planning, and conservation interests. The district is significant under Criterion A for the manifestation of those planning and preservation interests in the conservation of the landscape created by those designers as a publicly-accessible arboretum established in the early twentieth century. The district's period of significance begins with the first Cope extended family occupation of land in the district in 1849 and concludes with the end of the historic period of development of the Awbury Arboretum, which was the final outgrowth of the family enclave begun in 1849.

Awbury's extended family enclave began with the establishment of contiguous country seat estates in the mid-nineteenth century: the John S. Haines (1820-1886) tract, purchased in 1849, was followed closely by Henry Cope's (1793-1865) acquisition of adjacent land beginning in 1852 after his daughter Mary's (1819-1890) marriage to Haines in 1850.[1] The district sits on significant portions of the land tracts purchased by Haines and Cope; the larger divisions of their properties affected the pattern of development in the district in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Haines's property corresponds to roughly one quarter of the district on the southeast (northwest of Haines Street). His land originally extended beyond the district's boundaries in that direction, but much of it was sold for development beginning in the early twentieth century. These non-family development zones are excluded from this historic district. The central portion of the district, extending from the Haines property northwest to Washington Lane, corresponds to land acquired by Henry Cope. The house he built on that land was named "Awbury" after the family ancestral home in the village of Avebury in Wiltshire, England; as the nineteenth century progressed, the name came to indicate the entire enclave and not just Cope's dwelling. John Haines's and Henry Cope's tracts were augmented with purchases made by his Henry's son Francis on the southwest and south later in the nineteenth century. The family enclave was expanded in 1885 with a purchase of land made by Clementine Cope, Henry's niece, in 1885. The portion of the district to the northwest of Washington Lane corresponds to this property.

Cope extended family development of the property from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century consisted of two principal activities: the construction of single houses and secondary buildings, and the establishment of gardens and agricultural areas between arid around the houses, in which "large open areas were held in common - there were no fences - and privacy was obtained through the placement of plantings.[2] The vast majority of the buildings were designed by prominent architects of the region, including Thomas U. Walter and Cope & Stewardson. The gardens were also the work of professional landscape architects, beginning with William Saunders's design for the landscape garden near the Cope houses in the 1850s that established the character of what followed. In the 191Os, the family increasingly felt the need to ensure the conservation of the enclave as a semirural area that would preserve plants, natural habitat, and the special design qualities of Awbury that made it unusual as a place. In 1916 the Awbury residents created the publicly-accessible Awbury Arboretum through the donation of property and funds to the City Parks Association, a private organization in which a number of Cope extended family members were involved. The development of the Arboretum, based in part on the designs of landscape architect Arthur W. Cowell, continued into the period just before World War II, and included the addition of the former "McNabbtown," an area of post-Civil War, working-class immigrant rental housing just east of the railroad line and north of Awbury Road. This era also saw designs carried out by Harrison, Mertz & Emlen for specific garden features. The City Parks Association, which helped establish some 30 parks in the Philadelphia region, governed Awbury as an arboretum into the 1980s. The first director for the Arboretum, Howard S. Kneedler, was appointed in 1933, but much of the control of Awbury remained partly or largely in the hands of residents (in the guise of the Awbury Arboretum Committee).[3] There have been few if any major changes in the district since World War II, although replacement plantings and spontaneous growth have altered the landscape gradually but have not destroyed its essential character. Residents' increasing concern over the City Parks Association management led to an important institutional shift in 1988, when the establishment of the Awbury Arboretum Association, which now governs the Arboretum, was established, with headquarters in the Francis Cope House. The site is now run by a professional director and staff with a governing board made up of residents of the historic district and the neighboring community and interested experts.

The role of important designers at Awbury is abundantly documented, beginning with the house and stable for John S. Haines in 1849 by Thomas U. Walter (1804-1887), one of the dominant figures in the American Greek Revival and the architect of the U.S. Capital from 1850. Although he is arguably best known for his neo-classical work, he was equally adept at other mid-century styles, including the Gothic and the Italianate, as the Haines house demonstrates. It is not certain how Walter came by this particular commission, but as a member of the Philadelphia elite, John Haines would have been familiar with Walter's work and reputation. Along with his public commissions, which are arguably his best known (including Girard College in Philadelphia), his designs for country estates and suburban villas, beginning with his work for Nicholas Biddle at his property Andalusia on the Delaware River (1834-1836) were also significant and influential. Walter worked on several other Germantown projects, including the gargantuan, now-demolished mansion "Phil-Ellena" on Germantown Avenue at Gorgas Lane for George W. Carpenter at the beginning of the decade, and the surviving "Ivy Lodge" at 29 East Penn Street for John Jay Smith, built the same year as the Haines house and on much the same scale.[4] The Haines house is a substantial example of Walter's residential work from this period, and the stable is an unusual surviving document.

Henry Cope's house "Awbury," which would become the name of the entire family enclave, is a substantial, porch-fronted villa constructed by carpenter Nathan Smedley, who was probably a member of the Society of Friends.[5] Like the Haines house, the Henry Cope house is oriented to the southeast to take advantage of the view that extended as far as the Delaware River and into New Jersey; the property was presumably chosen by Haines and Cope to take advantage of the view feature, a convention of country estates since the eighteenth century.[6]

The designers and builders of the 1860-2 Francis Cope (1821-1909) House, Yarnall & Cooper, straddled two professions like many of their contemporaries, and were responsible for a number of important commissions in the region, including the original Cooper Hospital in Camden, New Jersey.[7] Although they appear as carpenters and builders in Philadelphia city directories in this period, this project and others that preceded and followed it demonstrate their capabilities. The commission for the Francis Cope house probably came to the firm, like Smedley's, because they were members of the Society of Friends. Yarnall & Cooper's work at Haverford College, where they had constructed the first purpose-built faculty residence on campus just two years before and where both Henry and Francis Cope were involved, was also awarded to them in part for this reason.[8]

All three of these houses are substantial by contemporary standards, reflecting the prosperity of the Quaker merchants and landowners who created them; their relative simplicity of detail reflects both the tenets of Quaker simplicity of their original owners and notions of "rural retirement" common in the period.

At the time of their creation at mid-century, the Haines and Cope properties represented the transitional state of this area of Philadelphia. Due to its higher elevation relative to what is now the downtown of the city, Germantown had been a summer retreat since the eighteenth century (it is particularly known as an asylum for the yellow fever epidemic of 1793). The Cope family had habitually retreated to Germantown in the summer before the creation of Awbury.[9] The Haines family, whose primary seat was Wyck on Germantown Avenue at West Walnut Lane, had been among a group of wealthy landholders who had occupied the area along with smaller farms and mills that took advantage of the watercourses in the vicinity. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, significant changes in settlement had begun thanks to improved transportation. The arrival of one of the two branches of the Philadelphia, Germantown, and Norristown Railroad in 1832 opened an era in which more and more citizens would retreat to the area in the summer and, later, would commute to the downtown from Germantown as a suburb. Change was accelerated by the extension of the railroad from central Germantown to Chestnut Hill to the north in 1852-4; the line extension, located at the western edge of the district, allowed men like Henry Cope to commute to the city for business much more easily.[1O] Increased transportation access began to elide the difference between country estates and suburban properties in Germantown and the areas of the city to the north and east, as is demonstrated in the Tulpehocken Station Historic District. The architectural resources of this district are generally analogous to those at Awbury, with many of the same styles represented, although the Awbury district has more landscape resources, and is less densely built.

The hallmarks of many of these country/suburban properties, like those in the district, were high aesthetic values in both architecture and landscape: in addition to T. U. Walter's commissions, several of the most important villas by John Notman (now demolished) could be found in the vicinity, including Fern Hill for Henry Pratt McKean to the south of Awbury and Alverthorpe for Joshua Francis Fisher to the east, the latter with landscape designs by the eminent Andrew Jackson Downing. An extraordinary concentration of landscape gardeners and nurserymen could be found in Germantown at mid-century, including the well-known Thomas Meehan, whose property was a short distance to the northwest of Awbury. Fellow British immigrant and Kew-trained gardener William Saunders (1822-1900) arrived in Germantown in 1854; he and Meehan formed a partnership for a period. Much of the original garden design at Awbury was the work of Saunders, who practiced and lived in Germantown between 1848 and 1862. Saunders's account records indicate that he worked at Awbury between 1856 and 1859. Like so many landscape designers of the period (with the notable exception of A.J. Downing), Saunders's name is relatively unknown, although his work was national in scope and significance.lI He began his career in the United States working for Johns Hopkins in Baltimore at his estate, Clifton Park. While in Philadelphia, he competed unsuccessfully for the design of Fairmount Park.12 It was this work that probably led to his appointment as horticulturist in the U.S. department of agriculture in Washington in 1862, where he was responsible for laying out parks and gardens in the capital. He was also the designer of a number of rural cemeteries, including the National Cemetery at Gettysburg. Like the Laurel Hill Cemetery National Historic Landmark in Philadelphia, where John Notman was responsible for the configuration of the original portion of the cemetery, the Awbury Historic District is a rare resource documenting a professional nineteenth-century landscape work by a known important designer. Despite the obvious differences between a burying ground and a residential development, Awbury and Laurel Hill both encompass important built resources set in a designed landscape setting.

Although no plan for Saunders's scheme survives, family members recalled his importance in forming the landscape at Awbury throughout the nineteenth century.13 The general character of his design can be assumed to have consisted of the fairly standard elements of landscape gardening in the period: lawns interrupted by clumps of trees and shrubs, with curvilinear drives and walks connecting the early houses to each other and to features of the garden, and probably including flower beds and garden structures near the houses. Plantings were undoubtedly arranged to frame views, particularly in the far distance toward the city and the Delaware River, which is no longer visible due to later development. Saunders's project is known to have included extensive earth moving. He is probably responsible for the picturesquely undulated terrain to the south and west of the Francis Cope house, and was likely to have also designed the serpentine path and drive system that partially survives in the road system in the district (see photographs 11, 12). Saunders also supplied box bushes for "edging" (perhaps in the garden adjacent to the Henry Cope house), trees (including sugar maples and "hemlock spruce"), asparagus, and grape vines.14 What survives at Awbury reflects the types of garden spaces and picturesque planning of the period. It is very possible that the curvilinear drive system that connected the original three houses, and which survives partially in the connecting roads in the district, were laid out by Saunders, given their character.

The houses built in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s also reflect the Quaker-centered yet sophisticated design sensibilities of the residents of Awbury. The Jonathan & Rachel Cope Evans house (1872) and the Alexis T. & Elizabeth Cope house (1882-3) were the work of Addison Hutton (1834-1916), another Orthodox Friend and one of the most important architects in the Philadelphia region in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Although a substantial number of his commissions were from his fellow Quakers, including Barclay Hall at Haverford in 1876, Hutton worked for a wide range of institutional and private clients in the region. Walter Cope (1860-1902), of the nationally significant firm of Cope & Stewardson, was the grandson of founder Henry Cope, and lived at Awbury for a portion of his life. After working in Addison Hutton's office, Walter Cope established a partnership with John Stewardson (1858-1896) in 1885. The Cope/Evans double house on Chew Avenue, begun that same year, is thus among their earliest commissions. The ca. 1892-3 William Draper Lewis House in the district was designed in the period when the firm had begun some of their most important work, including buildings at Bryn Mawr College and -at the University of Pennsylvania.

After the tum of the twentieth century, family members continued to pursue their design interests, both in construction and by hiring important regional architects and landscape architects. In contrast to previous generations, however, the designers they chose were no longer exclusively members of the Society of Friends. Alfred G. Scattergood hired Brockie & Hastings for his house in 1909; Arthur Brockie (1875-1946) was a Germantown native and had worked in the office of Cope & Stewardson (both of whom were dead by this date). Brockie's work, both in partnership with Theodore Hastings (1876-1950) and alone, included a substantial number of domestic commissions in Germantown and nearby Chestnut Hill. This was also the case for the other architects who worked at Awbury in the period before World War II, Edmund B. Gilchrist (1885-1953), and Duhring, Okie& Ziegler (and later Carl A. Ziegler [1878-1952] independently). These architects were, along with Robert Rodes McGoodwin, the shapers of the George Woodward developments in the Chestnut Hill National Register Historic District. Awbury shares a density of architect-designed residences in a suburban park-like setting with the Chestnut Hill District, although the Chestnut Hill District is larger in area. The hallmarks of their work in the Chestnut Hill District are also present in the resources at Awbury: the simplified historical styles that linked English Cotswold traditions with American colonial motifs, and complex modern planning in both individual dwellings and in the greater relationship of houses to each other, streetscape, and open space. Gilchrist's Kimber house at Awbury is an early, rich example of his Cotswold style. Duhring, Okie and Ziegler's Harold Evans house and Ziegler's Algernon Evans and Anna Evans houses all demonstrate their mastery of regional colonial detail. In the case of the remodeling and addition to the Unruh-Garretson-Cope House, Ziegler's work, he was able to work with eighteenthcentury fabric and add to it gracefully.

Important landscape designers also worked at Awbury in the period before the Second World War, both as part of the Arboretum development and in garden areas around individual houses not included in the Arboretum. Arthur Westcott Cowell (1879-1958), who later organized the department of landscape architecture at Penn State, was a key figure in the development of the Arboretum from its earliest phases, and continued to work there at least through 1930.16 The thrust of his work was to create a didactic collection that would represent botanic genera in different sections of the Arboretum. 17 Parts of his scheme were carried out, somewhat modified based on existing trees and shrubs in situ.[18]

In establishing the Arboretum landscape, Cowell also worked on at least one occasion (and probably more) in collaboration with the landscape firm of Harrison, Mertz & Emlen, of whom Arthur Cope Emlen (1882-1941) was an Awbury resident. The firm's work included projects for important institutional and private clients in the Philadelphia region and beyond, including Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges, Henry Francis Du Pont, and artist Violet Oakley. In addition to the work on the Arboretum areas, including the pond in the "Paramore Farm" field to the east of the railroad station just outside the district on the west (see photograph 13), Harrison, Mertz & Emlen also carried out designs for private landholders at Awbury in the period before 1933. These included a naturalistic concrete pond with plantings for Caroline Cope in the stream that runs from the springhouse site below her house, and garden work for Alfred G. Scattergood near his house.[19]

The final landscape designer to work at Awbury in forming the Arboretum was Thomas Sears (1880-1966), who was involved there in the 1940s, although it is unclear how much of Sears's ambitious plans were carried out.[20]

Sears began his career with work for the Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects, and first came to Philadelphia to work on projects for them there. Sears went on to establish an independent practice in New England, which he moved to Philadelphia, where his projects included the "restoration" of Penns bury Manor and the amphitheater at Swarthmore College, as well as private gardens.

The Awbury Historic District's significance under Criterion A in the area of conservation has its roots in the Haines and Cope early estates. Family reminiscences indicate that through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Haines and contiguous Cope properties functioned as an extended family compound, and even went beyond this to function like a small "garden city" suburb.21 Germantown historian Edwin C. Jellett effectively articulated the Awbury whole in the early twentieth century: "[it] is one of the largest, one of the finest and on account of its family life, the most interesting of many home estates. It is like a great park, abounding with walks, drives, rare shrubs, trees, and richly stored gardens .... [Of] all the experiments in so-named community life, to me , Awbury is the most practical and beautiful."22 The progressive thinking of those conducting this "experiment" led to innovative planning for its future in the early twentieth century and the creation of the Awbury Arboretum. The vehicle through which this occurred was the City Parks Association (CPA), a private organization founded in 1888 in which a number of Awbury residents were prominent, including Arthur Emlen, Francis Cope, Jr., Harold Evans, and William Draper Lewis.23 Oral tradition identifies Lewis, dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, as one of the prime movers in creating the Arboretum, and his motivations as preserving the open space that is so crucial to the district, providing public education, and creating a wildlife conservation area. The first concrete action creating the Arboretum occurred when his client and his wife's cousin, Caroline Cope, expressed written interest in 1916 to the CPA in establishing a publicly-accessible site for plant study and as a refuge for migratory birds. Donations of property and funds from other family members followed; eventually both the Francis Cope House, the Henry Cope house, and the majority of the land area of the district were included in the Arboretum.24 In the creation of a public arboretum from a private, landscaped, Quaker-owned property, Awbury parallels the genesis of the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, now the Compton and Bloomfield National Register Historic District. Like the Morris Arboretum, Awbury preserves the character of its nineteenth-century landscape garden beginnings, and is accessible to the public. Unlike the Morris Arboretum, however, where the main residence was demolished, the historic building resources at Awbury have been conserved intact to document the family's history and the architectural heritage of the region.

Sophisticated and important design work, and forward-thinking conservation planning intended for public benefit are associated with the Awbury Historic District, beginning in its inception in the mid-nineteenth century as adjacent country seats linked through family connection to its development into an "experiment in community life" and an arboretum. Thanks to the design, planning, and conservation sophistication of the family members who lived there over multiple generations that led to a place that is remarkable in detail and as a whole, the Awbury Historic District merits listing on the National Register of Historic Places.


  1. Cope began purchasing land in April 1852, acquired more property in 1854, 1856, 1859, and 1861. See Awbury Arboretum archives and Henry Cope Will, 1865, City of Philadelphia Will Book 56, 1.
  2. Francis Joseph Stokes, Jr., Stokes Cope Emlen Evans, Genealogical Charts of Four Closely Associated Germantown Families, 16821982 (Philadelphia, 1982), note 3b.
  3. Aplenc, 49.
  4. Smith was the prime mover in the creation of Laurel Hill Cemetery, and a descendant of James Logan (1674-1751), William Penn's Proprietary Agent and a crucial figure in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania culture and politics in the first half of the eighteenth century. 5 Smedley appears in Philadelphia City directories as a carpenter; the family name is one that is associated with Orthodox Quakers.
  5. Several family reminiscences note the importance of this view. See Eliza Cope Harrison, ed., Awbury Memories, Recollections 0/ Elizabeth Stewardson Cope, 1848-1937 and Margaret Cope, 1856-1948 (Philadelphia: Awbury Arboretum Association, 1994).
  6. On the firm, see Sandra Tatman and Roger Moss, Biographical Dictionary o/Philadelphia Architects (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1985), 891.
  7. Payments to Yarnall and Cooper for the Awbury commission are found in the Francis R. Cope Receipt ledger, Box 38B, Cope Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. The Haverford house is now known by its address, 9 College Lane. Documentation on the commission can be found in the Board of Managers' Meeting Minutes, Quaker Collection, Haverford College. A number of Awbury residents and other Cope family members were prominent members of the Board of Managers' at Haverford, including Henry Cope. Francis Cope was President of the Alumni Association for a number of terms in the 1850s and 1860s.
  8. See Harrison, ed., 12.
  9. Germantown and other outlying areas of the surrounding counties were consolidated the same year into the city of Philadelphia.
  10. For a period biography of Saunders, see The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography 10 (1900; facsimile reprint: Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms, 1967): 409.
  11. See William Saunders, Design for Fairmount Park (Philadelphia, 1859).
  12. See Harrison, 15, and Edwin Jellett, Gardens and Gardeners of Germantown (Philadelphia: Site and Relic Society of Germantown, 1914),329.
  13. William Saunders Cash book, Carl A. Krach Library, Cornell University Library, Ithaca, NY.
  14. See Tatman and Moss.
  15. See Veronica Aplenc, "Cultural Landscape Inventory, Part 1: Site History, Existing Conditions and Analysis, Recommendations for the Master Plan and Beyond of The Awbury Arboretum," 1997.
  16. See Aplenc, 51.
  17. See Aplenc, 54-5.
  18. See Harrison, Mertz and Emlen, Inc., Presenting the Work of Harrison, Mertz and Emlen, Inc. (Philadelphia, 1933), passim.
  19. Delta Group, "Awbury Arboretum Master Plan" (Philadelphia, 1998), Appendix B, Section E.
  20. See Harrison, ed.
  21. Jellett, 329.
  22. See Jefferson Moak, draft National Register Nomination for Awbury, Awbury Archives. It should be noted that the public park tradition in the Cope family went back to Thomas Pym Cope, Henry Cope's father, who had been important in the creation of Fairmount Park.
  23. The Henry Cope house was later returned to private property.


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