Historic Homes & the Awbury Historic District
Awbury Arboretum and many of the houses and outbuildings associated with the extended Cope family and their estate was recognized as a National Historic District in 2001 and an Historic District by the Philadelphia Historical Commission in 2011.
“The Awbury Historic District consists of the designed landscapes, buildings, and sites of the Cope extended family enclave. This 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 generally distinguished by a picturesque irregularity in the relationship of houses, roads, and landscape that was typical of the area from the mid 19th century to the early 20th century”. ¹
The National and City designations recognize the historic architectural significance of the district’s buildings, as well as its landscape features, including former farmland, paths, and fences. The houses are clustered in a landscape of lawns, gardens, shrubs, and woodlands, and several areas were designed by prominent landscape artists, such as William Saunders in the 19th century, and the firm of Harrison, Mertz & Emlen in the 20th.
Each of the buildings in the Historic District has been associated with the extended Cope family in some way and, together, they illustrate aspects of this Quaker family’s way of life. The Awbury houses (which include two former carriage house/stables) are particularly significant because they illustrate a range of architectural styles — Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, and Tudor Revival, for example — that were popular from 1850 to the 1920’s. Individually, they reflect almost a century’s worth of designs by a series of prominent architects including Thomas Ustick Walter, Addison Hutton, Brockie & Hastings, Carl Ziegler, Cope & Stewardson, and Edmund Gilchrist.
¹Excerpt from Philadelphia Historic District Application Document