The site at Ambler was founded as the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women in 1910. The first girls arrived as students in February 1911. It was quite a radical idea to be educating these young women for a new career in horticulture and agriculture.
Jane Bowne Haines, the founder of the school, was herself a Bryn Mawr graduate and had been exposed to women that were actively choosing to work rather than to get married, which was the other option available to women.
Jane never married, but poured her energy into the school and other similar pursuits. She was instrumental in founding the Woman’s National Farm and Garden Association here at Ambler. There was a preliminary meeting here in the red barn, that is now the gym, in 1913 and then the national organization was founded at Ambler the following year.
As an important women’s history site we celebrate the women that have been influential here.
Your tour of the site starts at the Pennsylvania State Historic Marker on Meetinghouse Road, opposite the free parking in the visitor lot. Your tour continues past the Haines House, the original house on campus that dates from the 1700’s. This building was the original dormitory and teaching area for the girls. There is a wonderful old Sycamore tree outside Haines House that can be seen as a young tree in the old photographs.
The building opposite is now the Administration Building and was built in the 1920s. Straight ahead is the Red Barn where the Woman’s National Farm and Garden Association was founded in 1914. As you walk up the hill to your left you will see the historic greenhouses that were built in the 1910’s with help from the girls. The current students now use a state-of-the-art new greenhouse further over on the campus. These old greenhouses are slated to be dismantled, and a frame saved as an arbor to be the centerpiece of a new garden. The head house (potting shed) will be saved as a meeting and display area.
Continue walking up the hill and you will see the historic cold frames still used today for the protection of potted plants. Here you will also see the annual display garden. Annuals have always been a popular display item on campus, especially when Viola Anders was a teacher here. She would have the students design annual gardens and the winner’s design was installed the following year. Through the efforts of the Alumni Association the Herb Garden is now named in Viola’s honor. Walk diagonally through the annual garden and you will see the Herb Garden, installed in the 1990s and designed by our distinguished alumna, Stephanie Cohen, the founding director of the Arboretum.
To the side of the herb garden is the Hilda Justice building named after a student of the school. This was the original library for the girls. To the other side is Dixon Hall. This building was built on the site of the dormitories that were built for the girls but burned down in the late 1950s. In the lobby of Dixon Hall there are the history panels from our 2005 Flower Show Exhibit – enjoy reading about some of the influential women.
Walk back outside and through the Bell Tower and turn right. You will see the Formal Perennial Gardens that were designed by James Bush-Brown and Beatrix Farrand, the only female founding member of the American Society of Landscape Architects. The drawings for the twin gazebos were found at Berkeley by another distinguished alumna, Donna Swansen. Donna is one of the co-founders of the APLD, the Association of Professional Landscape Designers.
In the center of the garden you will see a plaque to Louise Bush Brown, a graduate from 1916, and then the long time director of the school from the '20s to the '50s. She was responsible for much of the public horticultural outreach, and she started the program to install window boxes in urban blocks in Philadelphia.
The twin gazebos at the end of the formal garden are named in honor of Jane Linn Bright, another of our influential women. To your right the small garden of dwarf conifers and a wonderful Japanese Maple is named for Louise Stein Fisher, a teacher at the school for many years.
As you wander the grounds there are many other gardens tucked between the buildings. Many of the gardens have had student involvement over the years. Feel free to wander about. Explore out the wetland garden, the new dwarf conifer garden, the new winter garden, and the green roof on the athletics building amongst other gardens.
Make sure to check out the other history areas of this website. There is much useful information, especially in the Philadelphia Flower Show information from our "Progressive Women in Horticulture; 1904-1924" exhibit from March 2005.
If you have any other questions feel free to e-mail us at email@example.com.
Jenny Rose Carey
Ambler Arboretum of Temple University
Temple University Ambler's exhibit, "Progressive Women in Horticulture: A Driving Force in Philadelphia - 1904 through 1924," a comprehensive salute to a group of women that changed history, won Best of Show in the Academic Educational Category at the 2005 Philadelphia Flower Show with a perfect score of 100 from the judges.
Learn more about the award-winning exhibit here.