Albert C. Barnes’ Home & Arboretum Becoming New HQ of Lower Merion Conservancy, in Partnership with Saint Joseph’s University

albert barnes house
Images via Jose. F. Moreno, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Lower Merion Conservancy has moved its headquarters to the administration building/residence at the Barnes Arboretum at Saint Joseph’s University, writes Paul Jablow for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Barnes was a prominent businessman, art collector, and philanthropist in the Lower Merion area between the 19th and 20th centuries. He contracted a French architect to build the home in 1922 and lived in the residence until his death in 1951.

The administration building/residence was used as the administration offices for the Barnes Foundation (until 2012) and for Barnes’s education programs. Lower Merion Conservancy is leasing space in the building from Saint Joseph’s University. 

This building is home to the Arboretum staff and the University carries out a variety of educational and recreational programming there. Lower Merion Conservancy works closely with Saint Joseph’s Institute for Environmental Stewardship, regularly co-sponsoring events and programming.

This partnership enhances the university’s horticulture and environmental science offerings and we look forward to continuing this relationship.

Ornate ironwork in the former residence of Albert C. Barnes. Images via Jose. F. Moreno, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

According to conservatory director of historic preservation Kathleen Abplanalp, it’s rare to find a property that’s been so well preserved where no one has lived in it for a half-century.

“So little has been modified,” said Abplanalp.

The Barnes property has also recently been listed as a “Class I Resource” by the township, which is quite the mark of distinction in historic preservation circles.

Many of the original light fixtures still remained with the house, and much of the home furnishings were typical of items found in furniture catalogs of the 1920s and 30s, all still perfectly preserved.

“It’s just so unusual, so intact,” Abplanalp said.

The Conservancy started to move onto the Barnes property in June, but won’t be fully ready for some time. According to Abplanalp, the house is “still a bit of a shell.”

In 2018 Saint Joseph’s and the Barnes began an educational affiliation that enhances the missions of each institution. The affiliation strengthens the ongoing stewardship of the Barnes Arboretum and buildings, and the Barnes horticulture education program, which Saint Joseph’s has run without interruption.

Read more about the Albert C. Barnes property’s conservation with the Lower Merion Conservancy and Saint Joseph’s Univeristy in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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