Natural Lands Trust, eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey’s oldest and largest conservation organization, today announced that on December 17 it completed the transaction granting a conservation easement on the St. Martin’s golf course property acquired by The Philadelphia Cricket Club (PCC). Initially announced in November by Quita Woodward Horan, George Woodward III, and their family, the deal marks a historic transition for the Chestnut Hill area of Northwest Philadelphia whereby one of its founding families–the Woodward/Houston family–has granted to Natural Lands Trust a perpetual easement to protect as open space nearly 41 acres in the heart of the community.
As part of the transaction on December 17, PCC completed its purchase of the St. Martin’s golf course from the Woodward family for $600,000 subject to the conservation easement in favor of Natural Lands Trust. The land, which was owned by the Woodward/Houston family for nearly a century and a half, had been leased by them to PCC for its nine-hole golf course at the St. Martin’s campus since the 1880s. As previously announced, the Woodward family will donate proceeds of the sale to several local charities.
Charles Woodward, a great-great-grandson of Henry Houston and spokesman for the family, stated, “We are pleased and honored to have finalized this agreement with Natural Lands Trust and The Philadelphia Cricket Club. In conserving this acreage we are securing and promoting an important legacy of open space in our community. At the same time we are extremely pleased to support three local charities we care deeply about: Natural Lands Trust, the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, and the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.”
Natural Lands Trust President Molly Morrison said, “The fact that our organization originated in Chestnut Hill with a small group of advocates who wanted to protect open space from development gives this easement extra-special significance for us. We are honored to have earned the confidence of the Woodward family to protect their legacy and excited to join The Philadelphia Cricket Club in preserving this iconic property for generations to come. This is the second largest conservation easement that we now hold in Philadelphia.”
The transaction empowers Natural Lands Trust to prevent any use of the property inconsistent with the conservation purposes of the easement, which is designed not only to protect this scenic and historical treasure for use as a golf course but also to serve as an open space buffer for Fairmount Park.
PCC President, Michael J. Vergare, added, “We are very pleased to have been a part of this historic transaction, for both our Chestnut Hill community and for The Cricket Club. We look forward to working with Natural Lands Trust to preserve this open space, which has served as a historical venue for golf for more than a century. We are exceedingly grateful to the Woodward family for their extraordinary generosity in making this possible.”
The Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields was founded by Henry Howard Houston and dates from the first public service held in the church in 1889. Houston’s vision of community and a spirit of generosity live on through its parishioners and the Woodward family.
“On behalf of the Chestnut Hill Community Association and all of the residents of Chestnut Hill, I want to thank the Woodward family for this bold statement in conserving land that is important to landscape and open space in our community,” said Will Detweiler, President, Chestnut Hill Community Association.
The Historical Houston/Woodward & Philadelphia Cricket Club Relationship
The sale of the property to PCC culminates a long history of involvement and support by the Houston/Woodward family benefiting the Chestnut Hill community. In the 19th century, Henry Howard Houston gave The Club the property for its 18-hole course at the St. Martin’s campus. The course was repurchased by the Houston estate in 1922 to provide funding for The Club to develop a new golf course in Flourtown while the St. Martin’s course remained available to PCC under a lease arrangement. Later, during the depression years, the course was reduced to the nine holes in use today. When the land was about to be sold by the Houston estate in the 1950s, Houston’s grandson, Charles Henry Woodward, personally acquired the property and extended the lease to The Club. His descendants have maintained to the present the family’s long tradition of open space preservation for the community’s benefit.
About Natural Lands Trust
Natural Lands Trust, the region’s oldest and largest land conservation organization, 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, the organization 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 properties that Natural Land Trust preserves. For more information, visit natlands.org.