The Morris Arboretum in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia is one of Penn’s most scenic treasures, with 92 acres of verdant gardens and picturesque views. Located about 13 miles northwest of campus, the Arboretum is open to the public and allows students of all ages and interest levels to use its resources to conduct botanical research and study horticulture.
Founded in 1887, the Arboretum was the private estate of Lydia Morris and her brother, John, whose father founded the I.P. Morris iron manufacturing company. The property on Northwestern Avenue, originally named “Compton,” was bequeathed to Lydia after John Morris died in 1915 with the intent that it would become a school for horticulture. The site’s name was later changed to Morris Arboretum, and in 1932 the University was entrusted with the administration of the estate and transforming the space into a public arboretum and educational center. The Arboretum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and was named in 1988 as the official arboretum of Pennsylvania.
The Arboretum is an interdisciplinary resource center for the University, and also provides research and outreach services to state agencies and community institutions.
This 1960 photo shows the iconic “Swan Pond,” which was home to a pair of swans purchased in 1923 for the grand total of $82.50.
The Arboretum’s collection of trees, plants and flowers reflect John Morris’ interest in plants from around the world and include some that were brought to the garden from China in the early 1900s. The diverse collection of plants changes seasonally, with flora such hollies and conifers flourishing in the winter, roses and azaleas in the spring and hydrangeas in the summer.
For more information about this and other historical events at Penn, visit the University Archives at www.archives.upenn.edu.
Originally published on June 9, 2011