Awbury is a 55-acre arboretum in the Germantown section of northwest Philadelphia. Originally the 19th-century estate of the extended Cope Family it became a public arboretum in 1916 and is open to the public 365 days a year, free of charge. The Awbury Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001 and registered as a Philadelphia Historic Landscape District in 2010.
Germantown in the 19th-century was characterized by large country homes known for their gardens, greenhouses and natural beauty. It was also the epicenter of the growing nursery industry in America, with several important nurseries in the immediate area of Awbury. Though there are few if any extant design documents from the Cope era for the Awbury land, it is clear through many letters and descriptions that the grounds were extensively shaped and planted with the intent of creating a landscape in the English picturesque tradition.
The transition from a multi-generational family compound to a public park forced many changes in the landscape. The first planning efforts were the work of landscape architect Arthur Cowell, circa 1916, who proposed a didactic organization of the grounds grouping plants according to plant taxonomy.
In the early years, 2500 people might visit the Arboretum on a summer weekend; visitation today is much lower. The current challenge is to preserve and restore its historic characteristics while also designing for contemporary uses. Starting in 2009, LDCP has been assisting Awbury with planning and design.
Awbury Arboretum Projects: