Today, Quita Woodward Horan and George Woodward III and their family announced that they will be placing nearly forty acres of land in the heart of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood into a conservation easement with Natural Lands Trust to protect it from development in perpetuity. The Woodward family has owned this land since the late 1800s, and the conservation purposes are to maintain the property almost entirely as it is now – grass covered and fringed with woodland. This conservation arrangement is one of the largest in northwest Philadelphia’s history.
The 37 acres of land is currently–and has been for over a century–used and leased by the Philadelphia Cricket Club for a large portion of their nine-hole golf course at the St. Martins campus. The Woodward family has given the Philadelphia Cricket Club–and the Club has accepted–the opportunity to purchase the land subject to this easement, at a price that reflects its value restricted to open space recreational use only. The Woodwards will in turn be donating the proceeds of the sale to Natural Lands Trust, the Chestnut Hill Historical Society and other area charities. Had these steps not been taken by both the Woodward family and the Philadelphia Cricket Club, this land would be available for development in 15 years.
Mrs. Horan’s son, Charles “Chuck” Woodward, an avid supporter of open space and historic preservation has played an integral role in the transaction. He states, “For over a century, my family has cared deeply for the preservation of both land and architecture in our Philadelphia neighborhood. By conserving this land we are thrilled to ensure that a valuable natural asset adjacent to the Wissahickon Valley is unharmed for generations to come.”
The transaction empowers Natural Lands Trust to block any use of the land that is inconsistent with the conservation purposes of the easement, which is designed not only to protect this scenic and historic treasure but also to serve as an open space buffer for Fairmount Park. Were it not conserved, the development and revenue generating possibilities for the Woodward family would be significant.
“Our communities are made up of many different kinds of open spaces, each of which contributes to our sense of place and quality of life. In Philadelphia, every acre of green space is particularly precious, which is why we are so delighted to have the opportunity to work with the Woodward family and the Philadelphia Cricket Club to ensure that this iconic landscape will be preserved forever,” said Molly Morrison, President of Natural Lands Trust.
The Chestnut Hill Historical Society, who is dedicated to preserving the historical, architectural, and cultural resources and the open spaces that define the character of Chestnut Hill, has been integral in offering support and guidance for the transaction. Lori Salganicoff, Executive Director said, “We are deeply grateful to the Woodward family for making this gift to Chestnut Hill’s future. Our community is fortunate that Henry Howard Houston cherished Chestnut Hill’s setting and its open space, and that his daughter Gertrude, her husband, Dr. George Woodward, and their heirs continue to carry forward this remarkable legacy. CHHS is proud to have been a part of making this happen.”
The Philadelphia Cricket Club President, Michael J Vergare added, “The St. Martins Golf Course has been an integral part of the Philadelphia Cricket Club and the history of golf in the United States. The original course was the site of the 1907 and 1910 United States Open. In recent years, the present 9-hole course hosted the Nation and the World Hickory Match Play Championship. The Houston/Woodward family have once again kindly partnered with our Club to insure that this treasured tract of land will remain preserved open space forever.”
About the History of the Houston/Woodward & Philadelphia Cricket Club Land Relationship
The sale of the land to the Cricket Club culminates a long history of generosity and support from the Houston/Woodward family. In the late 1800’s, Henry Howard Houston gave the Club land for an 18-hole course at the St. Martins campus. The course was repurchased by the Houston estate in 1922 to provide funding for the Club to acquire the Flourtown course but the land remained available to the Club under a lease arrangement. Later, during the depression years, the course was reduced to the nine holes in use today. When the land was going to be sold from the Houston estate, Charles Henry Woodward personally acquired it and his family has continued its long tradition of land preservation for the benefit of the community to the present.
About Natural Lands Trust
Natural Lands Trust is the region’s largest land conservation organization and is dedicated to protecting the forests, fields, streams, and wetlands that are essential to the sustainability of life in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Since its founding in 1953, Natural Lands Trust has preserved more than 100,000 acres, including 42 nature preserves totaling nearly 22,000 acres. Today, millions of people enjoy the healthy habitats, clean air and water, bountiful recreational opportunities, and scenic beauty provided by the lands the organization has preserved.