Rental – FAQ

Awbury Rental – Frequently Asked Questions

What makes Awbury different from other rental venues out there?

● Awbury is a comfortable, welcoming space

●Our rental program supports our mission of preserving and interpreting our historic house and landscape and providing our urban community free access to nature and history 365 days a year.

● The Cope House, built in 1860, combines Quaker simplicity with Victorian elegance. Between the Wissahickon schist exterior, floor-to-ceiling windows, wrap-around porch, and surrounding 55-acres of historic English Landscape, we offer many unique and beautiful vistas for your celebration.

Check out this virtual tour made by Sean Leber of!

How do we get to Awbury Arboretum?

The Arboretum is easily accessible by public transportation: the Washington Lane Station on SEPTA’s Chestnut Hill East Line is directly across from the Station Road entrance to Awbury. SEPTA bus routes 18 and 26 stop on Chew Avenue and the XH bus stops on Washington Lane. If traveling by car, you will find the main entrance on Chew Avenue between Washington Lane and Haines Street.

How many people fit in the space?

The maximum for indoor-only events is 60 people; for events utilizing the outdoor space, we can accommodate up to 175 people.

When can I come see the venue?

We offer tours of the rental space by appointment during office hours (Monday-Friday, 9:00am – 5:00pm, or Tuesday-Friday during the wintertime). Please contact the office to schedule an appointment.

How do I reserve a date?

Once you have spoken with the Awbury staff and determined that a specific date is available, please submit a deposit and completed contract.

How much does the venue cost?

Price depends on the season and size of the group.  Please see our Rental Rates page.

What does the fee include?

Your rental includes the use of the foyer, three parlors, covered porch, kitchen (with gas stove, microwave, refrigerator, and dishwasher), bathrooms, and lawn near the house during event hours.  (Click HERE to see our floor plan.)

The fee covers one indoor Host and (for larger events) one outdoor Parking Attendant.
Rental price also includes a one-year membership to the Arboretum.

What time can I hold my event?

For groups of 20 or more people we offer a base rental of 8 hours, to which you may add hours. On Saturdays and Sundays you can begin your rental any time after 9:00am. We require music to be off by 9:00pm, which generally means clean up and your rental end by 10:00pm.

Concerning Fridays: The Awbury Arboretum offices are officially open until 5:00pm, but we can accommodate rentals that begin earlier than that. Please check with the staff about specific dates where times are of concern.

Concerning Saturdays: Awbury occasionally hosts community events (volunteer projects, horticultural workshops, health and wellness classes, etc.) on Saturday mornings. These are typically small gatherings and conclude by 2:00pm. Please check with the staff about specific dates where times are of concern.
We generally do not rent the venue on holidays.

Are the grounds private during my event?

Awbury Arboretum is open to the public from dawn to dusk- it is a large part of our mission to be an accessible green space. We will, however, strive to keep the Cope House and immediate gardens and grounds private for your event.

Is there a ceremony-only option?

Since we only book one event per day, we do not offer a shortened rental time. You do not, of course, have to stay for all eight hours of your rental.

May we have a rehearsal or extra set-up time?

The Cope House is generally locked during weekends and evenings except for private events, so plan to include all set-up and rehearsal time in your rental.

Saturday renters: we now offer a “Friday evening set-up package.” For $400 you may reserve the Friday before your event, including access to the house until 8pm. You may have a rehearsal and do some set up during this time.

How does catering work?

Clients are responsible for hiring a caterer to be on site during their event.

For 2017 events: Awbury offers a list of preferred caterers who are familiar with our grounds and policies, are properly insured, and offer excellent food in a range of tastes and prices.  If you wish to hire a caterer from outside our list, they must provide a certificate of insurance and set up a site visit with an Awbury staff member before the date of the event. There is a $1,000.00 charge for using a caterer not on our preferred list.

For 2018 events and beyondAwbury is incredibly excited to announce that we are partnering with Birchtree Catering as our Exclusive Caterer!  As you decide on holding your event Awbury, you can be in touch with the wonderful Birchtree team, booking them once you’ve finalized your contract at Awbury.


Why would you limit clients to one caterer?

We thought long and hard about the change!  Here are a few reasons we went this direction:

● Since we rebooted our rental program back in 2012, we’ve worked with dozens of caterers.  We loved getting to know them!  But, honestly, they weren’t all great.  Caterers play an enormous role in your event- in the quality of food, but also in managing details, welcoming guests, orchestrating rentals, and so many other little details.  It was hard to see clients’ struggle with caterers who didn’t care for their needs.

● It was hard on the facility!  We’re a preserved, historic house and garden, and not all caterers gave us the needed TLC.

● We had to confirm that each new caterer was properly insured, and if they weren’t, our clients had to cover the cost of purchasing day-of insurance.

● Awbury aims to be a sustainable venue, and it made us sad to see many, many bags of plastic- from flatware to decor- thrown away after event.  We know disposable plastic is a cheap and easy option, but we appreciated when caterers found other ways, like purchasing local, sustainable food and composting.  (Ask Birchtree about their one trash bag policy!)

● New caterers don’t know the space inside and out.  Having one team who knows and loves every quirky detail of the venue means clients get the best service and efficient staffing.

● With our new partnership, Birchtree is able to give Awbury clients special (i.e. discounted) rates!

We interviewed an extensive lineup of caterers before choosing.  During the selection, we emphasized competitive pricing while still providing amazing quality.  We asked how they would support our mission of providing our urban community free access to nature and history 365 days a year.  We quizzed them about their menu flexibility and how they customize to fit every customer’s palate.  We read hundreds of reviews.  And we tasted a lot of their food!

We couldn’t be more proud to introduce Birchtree Catering to you and to work with them for years to come!

May we serve alcohol?

Yes. You may provide your own alcohol, but for insurance reasons a professional bartender must serve all alcoholic beverages.
Service of all alcoholic beverages must end at least 30 minutes before the end of an event.

Do you have heat and air conditioning?

Yes! Thanks to several generous grants, we now have both air conditioning and heat in the Cope House.

Are there restrictions on décor?

Due to the historic nature of the house, no nails, staples, tape, or tacks may be used when decorating. “Command Hooks” are allowed, provided they are removed cleanly. The following are also prohibited: open flame (with the exception of birthday candles on a cake), sparklers, rice, confetti, and flower petals- both real or fake. Glitter is also prohibited, including that on costumes, decorations, and party favors.

Please note the fireplaces aren’t operational.

How do we schedule tents?

For 2017 events:

We recommend booking a tent for your event, particularly if there will be 60 or more people. It is recommended that you discuss tent options with your caterer.
If you decide to use a tent, we require that you use one of our two approved rental companies: Tents for Rent and Ocean Tents & Party Rentals.

When scheduling, assume that your tent may only be up for your single day and that you assume responsibility for any related fees. That said, couples holding events at Awbury in the same weekend often split a tent (and therefore the tent rental price), which we strongly recommend. Please contact the Awbury staff to discuss this potential opportunity.

For 2018 events and beyond: 

Awbury plans to have up a seasonal tent from April – November.  This saves our clients the effort of booking their own.   We will be incorporating a charge for the tent for all groups of 60 or more people.  We are still researching options, but we’ve found that clients are currently paying $2,000-$4,00 for their tents; our fee will be less than that.


What about other rental items?

You may have rental furniture, china, linens, or other items delivered to the Cope House prior to your event, generally on Thursday or Friday. Similarly, rental items may be picked up after the event, generally on Monday or Tuesday.  Please coordinate with the Awbury staff about any scheduled deliveries or pick-ups; delivery crews must contact the Awbury staff before unloading any items. Items will be stored in the sheds until your event and must be returned to the shed before the end of your event. Awbury accepts no liability for theft or damage of these items.

Note: Awbury is considering purchasing an inventory of chairs and tables which clients may choose to rent. Please contact staff about related details.

Does the Arboretum allow smoking?

Absolutely no smoking is allowed in the house or on the porch. If there are smokers in the group, renters must establish a smoking area away from the porch with proper disposal systems. Renters assume responsibility for clean-up of these areas.

Where will guests park?

The guest parking lot at the Francis Cope House accommodates about 15 cars. Overflow parking for another 20 or so cars can be made available along Station Road- a lovely 5-minute walk from the Cope House. Finally, ample free parking is available on the streets surrounding the Arboretum (Chew, Haines, and Ardleigh), a 5-10-minute walk from the Cope House.

Renters are welcome to hire a bus or valet service. If you choose this option, please notify the Awbury staff so they can coordinate with the vendor.

May we have amplified music?

We do allow amplified music.  All bands and DJs should set up in the parlors and use Awbury’s professional-grade audio system.  In order to comply with city noise ordinance and out of respect for our neighbors, music must be kept at an inoffensive level.  All music must end by 9pm.

Please note: We encourage all clients to work with our Preferred Vendors.  For all 2018 events, DJs or bands from outside of our list will be required to visit the venue in advance and sign an agreement outlining our regulations.  Similarly, any group not hiring a professional DJ or band but using our audio equipment will sign an audio agreement.

For a full list of our policies, please review our Event Rental Policies and Contract.