Leaflet Banner March 2017

Honoring the Legacy of Gay Gilpin Johnson

Awbury Al Fresco

Programs and Events – Art, Dinners, Summer Camp

Volunteer Notes

Awbury Garden Tours

Welcome New Staff – Aliyah Abraham

Capital Improvements

What’s in Bloom? Spring 2017

Scattergood Witch Hazel Walk

Wedding Wire Couples’ Choice Award again!

Board Member Spotlight –Shanna Halpern

Honoring the Legacy of Gay Gilpin Johnson

by Hideko Secrest, The Leaflet Editor

Gay Gilpin Johnson 1977

Gay Johnson at the Awbury Plant Sale in 1977

Gay Gilpin Johnson, who made the preservation and promotion of Awbury Arboretum her life’s work, and who lived for six decades in the neighborhood surrounding the Arboretum, passed away last July after a brief illness at the age of 91.

The green swath of land in Germantown that comprises Awbury Arboretum and its surrounding neighborhood was acquired in 1852 as a summer retreat by wealthy Quaker merchant Francis Cope. In 1916, the Cope family left the land to the city for the “quiet enjoyment of nature” and educational purposes. Hoping to safeguard the park in perpetuity, Gay Johnson was instrumental in establishing the Awbury Neighbors Association, and in 1985 pushed to make the Awbury Arboretum Association a nonprofit so that it could own and operate the park as a private entity.

Born in West Chester in 1924 to Margaret and Vincent Gilpin, Gay Gilpin graduated from the Baldwin School in 1943 and then Vassar College with a degree in geology in 1947. After college, she worked at the international school Collège Cévenol in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France.

Eric and Gay about 1950

Eric and Gay ca. 1950

In the late 1940s, she returned home to Philadelphia to work for the American Friends Service Committee. Through the committee, she met Eric Johnson, Head of the Friends Central School, and married him in 1949. In 1952, after the birth of their first child, Rebecca, the couple ran the International Quaker Center in Paris from 1952 to 1954. During this time, their son Jeffrey was born.

In 1956, Gay and Eric built a house within the Awbury Arboretum grounds and had their daughter Emily a year later. Mr. Johnson served as a teacher and administrator at the Germantown Friends School, and all three children attended the school.

Her daughter Becky reminisced: “Growing up at Awbury we had a lot of freedom…. We freely roamed the grounds and were in and out of each other’s houses. It was an idyllic way to grow up.” The memory that struck her most from her childhood was learning to climb the large weeping beech tree on the grounds of Awbury: “It took days, weeks, for us to learn to climb to the top. I was impressed that our mother let us do it without batting an eye…. She let us do and be whatever we wanted to be.”

In the 1970s, Gay Johnson, ever an enthusiastic volunteer and activist, helped establish the Awbury Neighbors Association and the Awbury Arboretum Association. “The Neighbors Association would have floundered without Gay’s quietly sending out dues reminders, organizing the annual fair and plant sale, and inspiring burning-out members to continued participation,” said Harold Ashe, past head of the Neighbors Association.

In the 1980s, Gay initiated the Awbury Children’s Nature Program, now called Field Studies, and kept it funded through her genius as a grant writer. “It would not be what it now is without Gay’s determination,” Ashe said.


Gay Johnson at annual Greens Sale in 1998

“Her participation was not just in the Arboretum, but also working with the historical documents relating to the Cope family,” said her son Jeff. In the mid-90s, she raised money to fund the archives and to have documents historically certified and assembled into an exhibition. She not only provided management and fundraising, she was also a tireless documenter of photographs of the Arboretum and collector of examples of its rich history, eventually becoming the “mother and grandmother of Awbury,” according to Alex Bartlett, Awbury’s Archivist and Curator. “One thing she always appreciated was the history of a place: its architecture and historic landscaping and, by extension, she understood the importance of documenting that history.”

According to Mark Sellers, a friend and neighbor of Gay’s, “Gay was the brain of Awbury. She was our institutional memory: she knew everybody…. Awbury without Gay seems impossible—she embodied the place. She understood the landscape and its history and she was happy to tell you all about it.” She actually knew a couple of the original five Cope family members who founded the Arboretum, and was zealous in following their vision for the place.

“Awbury without Gay seems impossible—she embodied the place.”


Gay with children & grandchildren, summer 2014

Gay attended the Germantown Monthly Meeting most of her life, finally joining as a member of the Society of Friends in 2014 at the age of 89. Despite this late conversion, she was devoted to Quaker values, and her methods were quiet and patient. Bartlett recalls that, whenever she encountered an opinion she didn’t like, she would let others know she disapproved by the unhappy look on her face, accompanied by a drawn-out, “Well….” Her method was quiet persuasion; “I never heard her say, ‘I don’t like that,’ or ‘I disagree with you.’”

Sellers had a similar memory of her calm demeanor and steely resolve. He testified with Gay at the Historical Commission in their bid to have Awbury designated an historical district. “She spoke first in a very Quakerly fashion, [making] a strong, simple case for the designation.” In effect, she said, “If you agree with the proposition that Awbury is a significant Victorian landscape, then it has to be worthy of protection.” She spoke so persuasively that, “When it was my time to speak, I realized I had virtually nothing to add. I threw away my prepared remarks and just stated that I agreed with everything she said. The Commission approved [the historical designation] unanimously.”


Gay Johnson, 2008

Her daughter Becky said, “She used to be very good at untangling things: she would sit there for hours patiently untangling knots. That’s really what she did for everything in life: she would get together people who didn’t get along and make them work things out, untangle the situation.”

At her memorial service this past October at the Germantown Friends Meeting, she was remembered fondly by friends and family. She is survived by her three children and four grandchildren. Her husband Eric died in 1994.

This May, in celebration of her life and her love of Awbury’s educational mission, there will be an evening celebration of a new fund created in her honor, the Gay Gilpin Johnson Archives and Education Fund.

Awbury al Fresco

Saturday, May 20th, 2017
4:30 to 7:30 pm
at the Awbury Agricultural Village

This event will serve as the inaugural celebration of the Gay Gilpin Johnson Archives and Education Fund. The evening will start with a self-guided tour of the Agricultural Village, showcasing the Arboretum’s many partners and programs. Guests are invited to traverse the property with a libation and enjoy small bites at every stop. Many of our sponsoring partners will have a  representative present to share their mission and activities.

After the tour, guests will convene in front of the Education Center for remarks about Gay and her many contributions to the Arboretum and where they will enjoy a locally sourced farm-fresh dinner, with many of the ingredients harvested directly from the property.

Money raised through this fund will support Awbury’s educational programs and archives which serve thousands of individuals each year and preserve the rich history of this property.

Sponsoring partners include:
The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
Weaver’s Way Co-op Mort Brooks Farm
The Philadelphia Orchard Project
Food Moxie
The Philadelphia Beekeeper’s Guild
The Awbury Pollinator Habitat in partnership with the
Philadelphia office of Penn State Extension Master Gardeners
Teen Leadership Corp at Awbury Arboretum

Click here for more information on Awbury al Fresco and donating to the Gay Gilpin Johnson Archives and Education Fund.

Programs and Events

by Heather Zimmerman, Program Director

Welcome, Spring!  After the surprise winter storm of last week, balmy weather and bursting blooms have returned, and Awbury has many exciting events and classes on the horizon this season.

On April 1st from 1-4pm w20170329_121955e open “Creature Comforts,” a collaborative art installation with Arcadia University and the Wissahickon Charter School. The works consist of whimsical ceramic creatures installed in tiny habitats hidden throughout the grounds of the Arboretum. Visitors can explore this campus-wide installation of 24 habitats with a scavenger-hunt type map from the opening event on April 1st through the end of June.

Awbury-Easter-Egg-BasketApril 15 brings our beloved annual Easter Egg Hunt, which is free and open to the public, no preregistration required. The hunt begins promptly at 10am, and children should bring their own baskets or containers for the eggs. Light refreshments will be available for purchase, and, as always, donations to the Arboretum will be appreciated.

Flea Market Web ImageOn April 29th from 9am-1pm we welcome back our Spring Flea Market and White Elephant Sale, so, whether you are treasure hunting or looking to clear out all those unused items after spring cleaning, please join us for a day of bargains. Items may be dropped off for donation at the Francis Cope House (One Awbury Road), from April 17-28. Vendors, call 215-849-2855 Ext 21 or email hzimmerman@awbury.org to register. Bring your own table—$15; rent a table—$20.

In May we will host our first ever Awbury Al Fresco Education Fundraiser at the Agricultural Village honoring Gay Johnson (see featured article), and in June we will be presenting the third annual Heartwood Music Festival, a day packed with folk music, music for kids, artisanal food trucks, craft-making, and performances. Grab your lawn chair and shades and join us for a great day of music, food, and community!

Classes, Camps, and Dinners

Awbury’s Hearth and Horticulture program has made great strides in receiving grant funding, which allows us to offer more classes in 2017. While you may have missed the Zero Waste Lunch or Spring Pruning for Better Blooms, you still have the opportunity to attend our Pennsylvania Poets and Plants lecture with Denis Lucey (Thursday, April 6, 7-9pm). The Wild Edibles and Spring Tonics classes with Alyssa Schimmel (Sunday, April 2 and Saturday, April 15, 1-4pm) is currently sold out.

Camp 2017 Web Featured ImageSummer Adventure Camps are back with summer favorite Camp Katniss (emulate your favorite heroine and learn to survive the challenges that nature throws at you) and new offerings of Advanced Wilderness Survival Skills (for older kids looking for a tougher back-to-nature experience), a Harry Potter Week (for kids wishing to express their inner witch or wizard), and Cooking in the Cope House Kitchen (for budding chefs). Scholarships are available for children who live in the 19144 or 19138 zip codes and who qualify for financial assistance. Many sessions are close to selling out, so sign up soon!

paris - cover bNew to Awbury this year are Dinners at the Cope House. On the second Thursday of each month, local chefs will offer a delicious dinner in the parlors or, weather permitting, on the porch. Next month the theme is April in Paris with Chef Gail Hinson; in May we will have Seedling and Sage Caterers; in June, Fire and Ice—hot grilled food and cold wine; culminating in July with a farm-fresh feast prepared by our own Teen Leadership Corps.

Spaces are limited, so be sure to sign up in advance.

As the weather warms and our landscape comes alive we hope to see you soon and often at Awbury!

Click here for more information on upcoming programs and events.

Mardi Gras Mystery 2017 collage

On February 25th Awbury hosted its first ever Dinner Murder Mystery. The theme was Mardi Gras and the guests were fabulous. Look for more fun community-building events like this in the future.

Teen Leadership Corps (TLC) Notes

Hatching Chickens with TLC

by Christina Moresi, M.Ed., TLC Program Manager

Springtime in Germantown is a time of renewal, from the emergence of the first crocus to the return of migrating birds. On the farmfarm sign, that renewal ushers in an ever-lengthening To Do list. One such project, which began this past summer, was the care of our new flock of chickens.

Our team of teens began with a clutch of eggs last July. Twenty-one days later, four chicks hatched and the adventure began. Our youth stepped up to feed, clean, water, warm, and coddle the little balls of fluff. Soon it was time for the youth to return to school, and the chicks—two pullets (non-laying females) and two  cockerels (teenage roosters)—to move outside.

coop constructionIn building a coop and run, there were more lessons to be learned. We had to consider all of the life—wild and domesticated—that pass through the Agricultural Village, such as raccoons, foxes, rodents, opossums, snakes, cats, dogs, people, etc., who might find our precious chickens tempting to mess with. We also needed to consider sun, shade, ventilation, bedding, roosting, raised food and water. This project brought out the creative, research, and problem-solving skills of our teen builders, with the end result a safe home for our chickens.

As winter approached, we were faced with the most complicated challenge: how to keep our ceggshickens warm and their water liquid. With the youth on winter break, I was regretting my summer promise to be the winter chicken caretaker. But after months of freezing trips to thaw and change the water, bed the coop, bake treats, and add items like swinging apples to keep them occupied, I was greeted one cold spring day with an extra early surprise. Eggs! And so the adventure has come full circle: the teens have returned, and our very own eggs are in the incubator.kids coop

In this new chapter of our poultry adventure, we are excited to be able to add fresh eggs to our cooking, as well as introduce a new group of youth to raising chickens. But it doesn’t stop there: legalizing backyard chickens is a hot topic in Philadelphia, as is access to fresh, local foods. As our program evolves and our youth advance, we will be able to contribute our experiences and knowledge to the larger community conversation, and our youth will have the opportunity to use our chickens as a way to educate themselves and our neighbors. What’s next? Maybe quail, maybe even turkeys.

Click here to check out the TLC at Awbury Arboretum’s blog.

Volunteer Notes

by Leslie Cerf, Volunteer Coordinator


One of Awbury’s new bluebird houses

The winter’s main volunteer event was the 6-class series on birdhouse making and wood workshop, culminating in a bird walk and birdhouse installation.

Many things converged to suggest that it was time to hold this particular workshop. First, I had a regularly visiting group of volunteers who requested to fix the old birdhouses sitting on the edges of the Cope House. Second, I knew just the person I wanted to lure back to Awbury to lead this birdhouse endeavor: Larry Moyer, our sorely missed volunteer steward. Finally, there had been a recent bluebird house donation sitting, lonely, on Awbury’s workspace shelves just calling our names. Now was the time to give this a go!

Things did not move as quickly as expected. First I had to convince Larry, an excellent craftsman and retired high school history teacher, that we could do this. I showed him the 4-H pamphlet with blueprints I had discovered in a file drawer, left over from some past endeavor years ago. Larry and I went through piles of abandoned scrap wood behind the white barn only to come up empty handed. And I had had no clue about how to make or repair birdhouses. Moreover, where would we find the space to make them for several weeks in a row? And where would we get the tools and the materials to make them?


A volunteer learns woodworking skills

As luck would have it, beginning the workshop in January would lead to the ideal timing to install the bluebird houses in the meadow in mid-February, according to expert advice. This bought us a little time. With Larry’s tools and materials list in hand, I wrote to the manager and neighbor at Tague Lumber, who filled our order. Karen Flick, our operations manager, reserved space in the shed to hold the wood workshop. My husband loaned his propane heater to the project, and then all that was left was to find the volunteers. Program Director Heather Zimmerman, always looking for the community teaching aspect, suggested we could finish the workshop with a public event that would include a bird walk along with the birdhouse installation. And thus another community event was created.


Installation of nuthatch birdhouse by volunteer Steve Harris

The first day was marred by subfreezing temperatures, and we had to move the introduction inside, but the weather cooperated for the remainder of the workshop. On average, we had four to five volunteers at a time in the woodworking room, the most the shed could hold. Some couldn’t be there every session, but new ones arrived each week to work toward a single goal: to give birds at Awbury our support in their struggle to survive in Philadelphia’s urban jungle. Through it all, the volunteers worked with enthusiasm, calm, and teamwork as they learned the skills.

In the midst of all this, I came across an article in the Morris Arboretum winter newsletter about their successful bluebird monitoring program and contacted writer Jessica Slade, who offered to give us a tour of Morris’s bluebird monitoring program. On a beautiful warm winter day in January, Larry and I had the pleasure of Jessica’s undivided attention as she discussed the structural system and research that built their program, and she wouldn’t let us leave without peering into a bluebird house containing a perfect, bluebird-made nest.

After the workshop, another volunteer donated several personally and skillfully made birdhouses to the cause. Denis Lucey, our landscape manager, offered to lead the walk, and, on an unexpectedly balmy February 19th, twenty-four people showed up for the bird walk and birdhouse installation.

Now four of the eight lovingly crafted bluebird houses, as well as houses for northern flickers, robins, nuthatches, and screech owls, stand peacefully on the grounds of Awbury, awaiting their first tenants.

Philly Cleanup 17Also, coming up soon is Awbury’s annual spring cleanup on Saturday, April 8 from 9am-noon. Join the Arboretum staff and event partners La Salle University and Why Not Prosper for a day of cleaning and restoring the grounds and plantlife. Tools, breakfast snacks, and a hot dog cookout will be provided for volunteers!

Click here for more information about volunteer opportunities at Awbury.

Awbury Garden Tours

by Nancy Pasquier, Field Studies Director

Curious about the family that lived at Awbury last century? Appreciate the Victorian landscape design and want to learn more about it? Looking for ideas for good native plants to grow in your own yard? Consider taking a tour! The Arboretum now offers staff-led tours for groups. The experience begins with a PowerPoint presentation that introduces visitors to the Cope Family and English Picturesque landscape design, then continues with a walking tour of the property. More information and pricing can be found on our website at https://awbury.wpengine.com/historic-garden-tours/

If you prefer to go it alone, visitors are always welcome to walk the property free of charge and can pick up a walking tour in the Arboretum office in the Cope House Monday-Friday from 9am to 5pm. On Saturday and Sunday, you can visit the Arboretum but there is no access to the building. You can download a walking tour map from the website by clicking here.

For more information or to schedule a tour, please email npasquier@awbury.org .

Welcome New Staff

Aliyah Abraham—Marketing & Social Media Intern

Arcadia University senior Aliyah Abraham came to Awbury this past September to serve as an inFullSizeRendertern in marketing and to give the programs and events at Awbury exposure on various social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In the course of her work, she has developed a social media guide for the various events sponsored by the Arboretum. Aliyah grew up in the Logan neighborhood of Philadelphia, attended Central High School, and is now a Business Administration major with a concentration in Management and an Pan-African Studies minor.

She loves working at Awbury, coming in 2 to 3 times a week, but originally did not have much exposure to this environment: “To be honest, I didn’t have any clue about nature before. Everyone here helped me on the fly: they would give me a quick tutorial or I would do my own research.” She just received letters of incorporation for a non-profit she founded, Majestic Inception, which is an organization that mentors children to be well-rounded individuals, and will be attending graduate school in African-American studies at Temple next fall in addition to running her newly-incorporated business.

Capital Improvements Around the Property

by Branda O’Neil, Administrative and Facilities Manager

Visit Awbury this spring, and you’ll notice several changes to the Cope House and our landscape, some quite subtle and others on a much grander scale!

New paving and a bus turnaround

New paving and a bus turnaround

Turn into the Arboretum from Chew Avenue and you’ll be welcomed by a spruced-up entry area, and, coming soon, a dramatic new sign and light-pole banner to help guests locate the now somewhat unobtrusive entrance. As you wind up the driveway, you’ll spot the first of some improvements we are making with assistance from the William Penn Foundation:

several stretches of new paving, the most exciting of which will include new landscaping this spring at the junction of Awbury Road with Station Road, and a bus turnaround with new entry control bollards. And, just before you reach the Cope House, you’ll see that a realignment of the entrance to Cope Lane has enabled us to create an attractive new garden area that will direct Arboretum guests to the Cope House rather than to the neighbors’ driveways.

Bluestone waiting to be installed

Bluestone awaiting installation

The William Penn Foundation is further funding the construction of a new 40’x60’ bluestone patio/terrace behind the Cope House, which will serve as a more permanent venue for the many wedding receptions, camps, field trips, and other public events that Awbury already hosts. Our assistant landscape manager Karen Flick is busy finalizing garden bed plans to surround the new patio, which should be ready this April, just in time for the summer wedding season.


Picnic area and platform near pond

I also recommend a trip to the wetlands and pond down by the Washington Lane train station, and don’t forget to bring your picnic basket! With the help of our partners at the neighboring Wissahickon Charter School whose students often walk over for field studies and recess, we’ve installed several picnic tables and an observation platform there. We are also working with the City’s Water Department on a comprehensive plan to clean and restore the pond and its water course as an important educational feature and stormwater retention area.


Newly refurbished and painted front doors of Cope House

At the Cope House itself we have made several significant improvements. With a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission we have rebuilt all of the second- and third-floor windows, which not only spruce up our look but also improve the house’s weatherproof tightness, helping with utilities for our large house. With funds from the same grant we also replaced our heating system and installed air conditioning on the first and second floors. If you’re holding a summer event in the first floor parlors, I know you’ll especially love this new feature, and staff will not miss installing and removing window units on the second floor every year. With a grant from Historic Germantown’s Sustaining Our Sites fund we have refurbished the grand oaken front doors. Finally, look carefully throughout the Cope House and you’ll notice new lighting and paint in several areas; we continue to use our historic paint palette, so most of the colors you see are very similar to the ones used by the original Cope family.


Raised planter

Don’t forget to swing by the Agricultural Village, where you’ll see newly paved pathways with welcoming routes for our handicapped guests, including accessible raised planting beds, as well as expanded programming features like our Teen Leadership Corps’ chicken coop.

Check out Karen’s article to read about the Scattergood Memorial Witch Hazel Garden, and stay tuned for a big 2017 update on the Secret Garden and the Native Materials playground we are building.

Current Blooms—Spring 2017

by Karen Flick, Operations Director, Awbury Arboretum Landscapes

Our recent winters have been nothing short of astonishing: wearing T-shirts and eating outside in February, then back to tree-toppling winds and icy gray mornings in March. For the past three years, Awbury has started tracking seasonal blooms through photos in hopes to have a better idea of what will be in bloom, not that nature is ever truly predictable. However, the more data that is gathered the better idea we can have of bloom successions. Right from the start of 2017, the plants have shown a consistent bloom about a week ahead of last year’s. Here is a list and some photos to compare. Maybe you can catch the next blooms just in time!

Plant2017 date of bloom (approx.)2016 date of bloom (approx.)2016
Chimonanthus praecox
January 25, 2017February 5, 2016Wintersweet 2016wintersweet 2017
Galanthus ssp.
February 1, 2017February 16, 2016snowdrops 3_16snowdrops
Eranthis hyemalis
Winter aconite
February 8, 2017February 26, 2016 FEB winter aconitesaconite
Crocus tommasinianus
Tommasini’s crocus
February 15, 2017February 22, 2016 crocusescrocus
Cornus officinalis
Japanese cornelian dogwood
March 1, 2017March 11, 2016Cornelian dogwood
Narcissus ssp.
March 1, 2017March 9, 2016daffodil 3_16daffodil
Prunus ‘Okame’

Okame Cherry

March 2, 2017March 11, 2016okame cherries2 3_16Okame cherry
Chionodoxa forbesii

Forbes’ Glory-of-the-snow

March 2, 2017March 16, 2016Forbes glory of the snow

Scattergood Memorial Witch Hazel Garden

by Karen Flick, Operations Director, Awbury Arboretum Landscapes

Chinese Witch Hazel ‘Wisley Supreme’                     Witch Hazel ‘Diane’                    Ozark Witch Hazel “Amethyst’

From left: Chinese witch hazel “Wisley Supreme,” witch hazel “Diane,” Ozark witch hazel “Amethyst”

Awbury’s new Scattergood Memorial Witch Hazel Garden now resides along the far top of the meadow beyond the pond, just behind the historic Scattergood house. Two years ago, the Scattergood family joined together with Awbury’s Landscape Committee and Chair Claudia Levy, and Landscape Manager Denis Lucey to reclaim the historic witch hazel walk in honor of Sara (known as Sally) and her husband Henry Scattergood.

The Scattergood and Cope families were joined in 1904 by the marriage of Alfred G. Scattergood to Mary Cope Emlen. They lived on the Awbury property amongst the other Cope families. Their son Henry lived in several of the historic Cope family houses throughout Awbury after his parents’ deaths, and he, along with his wife Sally and their five children, were a vital presence in Awbury’s past and influence on its future. Henry was among the original founders of the Awbury Arboretum Association, and Sally was an enthusiastic gardener and committed volunteer for the annual Greens Sale and other Awbury events from the 1950s to the 1980s. Community-minded Quakers, both were prominent educators and engaged in the Germantown community through their commitment to local schools, parenting education, and Friends’ organizations. In Sally and Henry’s memory, the extended Scattergood family and Awbury Arboretum Association worked together to create a garden which would melt into the existing landscape and adjoin the Scattergood home.

Work on the new garden began in October of 2015, exposing the area behind the original Scattergood family home. While cutting through the tangle of well-established honeysuckles, unable to glimpse the fence line, Awbury’s landscape manager and assistant began to catch the strong, distinctive scent of our native witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana. After steady clearing, they uncovered five original witch hazels and the macadam path installed in the early 1900s.  The centenarian witch hazels varied in condition from full blooming branches reaching out nearly 20 feet, to a single stem arching over in an attempt to re-root at the branch tips. The cleared memorial area inspired continued work on the fence line to re-establish the throughway from the meadow to Ardleigh Street.


Memorial bench for new Scattergood Garden

In honor of Sally and Henry Scattergood’s lifelong impact on Awbury Arboretum’s members, landscape, and future, this historic walk is now a year-round delight for all who pass through. The Memorial Garden, full of various newly planted ornamental witch hazels, is now in its first season of bloom. The late winter blooms of the ornamental witch hazels are revealing a succession of purple, orange, red and yellow. The back line of native witch hazels will bloom again, fully exposed, in the fall of 2017 after the witch hazels’ vibrant fall leaf colors. An ornamental bench facing across the meadow toward the sunset provides seating for reflection, peace, and enjoyment. All that remains to be done is the installation of a memorial stone in front of the bench, etched with a quote by poet Mary Oliver, composed while idly watching a grasshopper in a meadow:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Awbury wins Wedding Wire Couples Choice Award Second Year running!

Couples' Choice

Check out our reviews and Pinterest page to see why.2016 Wedding at Awbury (credit: Jordan Baker Photography)

The Cope House is a unique venue that offers both indoor and outdoor party areas surrounded by nature and history.  Proceeds from our rental program support Awbury’s mission of providing our urban community free access to nature and history 365 days a year!

Questions? Contact Branda O’Neil at boneil@awbury.org or (215) 848-2855 x10.


Board Member Spotlight – Shanna Halpern

Tell us a bit about yourself: where are you from, and how did you end up in Philadelphia?
I am originally from the Philadelphia area and have lived in major cities up and down the East Coast from Boston to Washington, DC with several little towns to add spice to the urban experience. I moved back to the Philadelphia area in 2008 to be close to my elderly parents and currently live in West Mt. Airy with my partner and three-legged rescue terrier (who I have yet to bring to Awbury because I am a nervous new dog-mom, but know she will adore it).  We just bought an old Wissahickon schist house (like so many in Mt. Airy) with 1/3 of an acre and are attempting to create our own little arboretum in the back yard.

Were you aware of Awbury before you joined the Board?
I have known about Awbury for over 30 years, but I didn’t start coming to it and strolling the grounds until around 2010. Most recently, before I joined the Board, I went through almost the entire archives researching the Cope family and the historic landscape at Awbury. It was great fun reading old letters and diaries, looking at photos and tickets from one of the Cope’s pacquet ships, reading the lists of provisions brought on board the ships, and looking at various landscape plans and diagrams, most of which were never implemented, etc. I distilled my research into a self-guided walking tour of Awbury that is currently in use by the Arboretum. I have attended events at Awbury such at the edible plants walk, pruning workshops, talks, and other activities.

Can you tell us a bit about your work outside of Awbury?
I was an environmental lawyer with the EPA  and an environmental studies professor at Williams, Brown, and Rutgers and now am a freelance writer for the ECRI Institute in Plymouth Meeting on environmental, occupation safety,  and risk management  issues in healthcare. I also volunteer at the local elementary school in my neighborhood, the Houston School, helping to keep the library open for the kids (The City cut funding for all the libraries in the public schools so they are only open if there are volunteers to staff them).

Has your work benefited from and/or been influenced by your work at Awbury?
I guess it just makes me calmer, which makes my writing better….

What do you think makes Awbury a unique place in the City of Philadelphia?
Awbury is an oasis in a dense urban area, one that ought to be known throughout Philadelphia and beyond. So much of the community does not know what Awbury is and they can come to it for free! I also love that Awbury does weddings and events; it’s such a beautiful place to come.

What is your vision for Awbury 10, 20 years down the road?
I would like Awbury to be financially secure and, more than that, financially robust. I would like Awbury to continue to expand its educational offerings, including offering grants to artists and writers, and scholarships to young people, and also to reach out more to the local community.  I would love to see the neighborhood kids at Awbury, maybe at the summer camp or at the Teen Leadership Corps when they get older. I don’t believe most of them or their parents have any idea that Awbury even exists. As I am so new to the Board, I am still just getting ideas about what could be. I know all about Awbury’s past and want to determine what I would like to see as its future.


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