Proposed by Wissahickon Garden Club, Zone V and Stenton
Seconded by The Weeders, Zone V
Perfectly Charming, the 2015 Founders Fund award winning project, will aide in the creation of an Urban Meadow at Stenton, a National Historic Landmark in Philadelphia which is administered by The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The meadow is part of a larger plan to rejuvenate Stenton’s historic landscape, launched during the GCA centennial. Support from the Founders Fund will ensure the design and construction of this project, including soil testing and preparation, selection of historically and environmentally appropriate plantings, installation of the meadow on approximately one acre of the three-acre property, and the development of new educational materials.
Stenton played a central role in our country’s rich horticultural history. Stenton’s builder, James Logan, was Secretary to William Penn and a gentleman scholar who conducted early experiments on the impregnation of plant seeds. Logan tutored America’s first great horticulturist John Bartram and mentored a young Benjamin Franklin. Logan’s grandson, George, a founder of the Pennsylvania Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, frequently exchanged ideas on plants and husbandry with Thomas Jefferson. Frederick Law Olmsted later described Stenton’s historic landscape as “perfectly charming.” In 1913, Stenton hosted the founding meeting of The Garden Club of America.
Today, Stenton is located in a densely populated and underserved neighborhood. The Urban Meadow project will provide many benefits to the surrounding community and help restore the historic landscape. One of the primary goals is to enhance the landscape through new vistas that further the experience of Stenton as an “urban oasis.” Specifically, the meadow will frame a newly restored entry drive and represent the expansive agricultural fields that historically surrounded the house.
The Urban Meadow will provide an outdoor learning laboratory for better understanding Stenton as a working 18th century plantation, experienced by more than 5,000 visitors each year. An important outcome is a curriculum addition to Stenton’s History Hunters Youth Reporter program, which targets at-risk youth in the Philadelphia school system. This national award-winning educational program serves nearly 3,000 students annually, most of whom have little access to green space and few opportunities to experience the natural environment. The meadow will be used to help students link the history of Stenton’s landscape to urban farming and land use in our community today, to achieve learning objectives of sustainability, healthier eating options, and environmentally friendly practices. Students will also learn about composting through hands-on activities and connect the practice to these objectives. We expect that the meadow will attract a new audience interested in garden and landscape history.
We anticipate many environmental benefits from the meadow, such as increased pollination, increasing biodiversity of plants and flowers, and new habitat for flora and fauna—all of which will create a diverse ecosystem in a dense urban neighborhood. Other benefits include improvement of local air quality, better storm water infiltration, reduction of run-off, and the reduction of chemical pesticide, fertilizer, and herbicide use.
This project, with a Founders Fund grant and already secured funding, is ready to move forward. The proposing and seconding garden clubs will work with staff gardeners and other volunteers to help install and maintain the meadow.