Arboretum History

A Century of Cultivation

In 2011, Temple University Ambler celebrated a century of academic excellence dating back to 1911 when Jane Bowne Haines first opened the doors to the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women, the students and faculty of which laid the groundwork for the student-centered learning that remains a core principal at Ambler to this day.

Providing a comprehensive vision of Ambler’s first 100 years is the companion book A Century of Cultivation 1911 to 2011 — 100 Years from the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women to Temple University Ambler, written by Jenny Rose Carey, former Director of the Ambler Arboretum of Temple University, and Mary Anne Blair Fry, a graduate of the Class of 1958. The book and artifacts collection were developed with the assistance of the Temple University Ambler “100-Year Club,” a group of dedicated alums and Sandi Thompson, Head of Suburban Campus Libraries.

To order A Century of Cultivation, contact the Ambler Arboretum at 267-468-8400 or arboretum@temple.edu. Learn more about A Century of Cultivation.

Hilda Justice Artifacts Collection

The rich history of Temple University Ambler received a permanent “home” with the opening of the Hilda Justice Artifacts Collection, a rich, tangible overview of the campus’ history displayed through yearbooks, photos, tools, award medallions from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, silver cups and bowls from the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women won at cattle shows and equestrian competitions, diaries, documents, and other memorabilia donated or loaned to the campus to celebrate Ambler’s 100th year, which is on display in the original library, the Hilda Justice Building. Learn more about the Hilda Justice Artifacts Collection.

A Century of Environmental Education

The seeds that would one day become Temple University Ambler were sown in the most unlikely setting back in 1905.

Jane Bowne Haines, a graduate from Bryn Mawr College, had taken a tour of Europe, visiting several colleges of gardening in England and Germany. When she returned to the states, she was determined to create a similar institution here.

It was in 1910 that Haines came across the 71-acre McAlonan farm in Ambler during a horse and buggy ride. With financial support from friends, in particular fellow graduates from Bryn Mawr, she purchased the property and founded the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women in 1911 — the only school of its type at the time in the United States. Go in depth with the foundation of the campus, how it became part of Temple University and how this rich history influences Temple University Ambler to this day.

History of Women in Horticulture and Design

One of the three key focus areas for the Ambler Arboretum is the history of women in horticulture and design.

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 location of original 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. The head house (potting shed) will soon become a welcome center with 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 and is now home to the Hilda Justice Artifacts Collection. 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 early 1960s. In the lobby of Dixon Hall there are the history panels from our 2005 Philadelphia 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 20's to the 50's. 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 Formal Perennial Garden has been officially dedicated in her name.

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 the wetland garden, the dwarf conifer garden, the winter garden, and the green roof on the athletics building amongst other gardens.

If you have any other questions feel free to e-mail us at arboretum@temple.edu.